Basics on Coriolanus | Detailed Biography
Cnaeus Marcius' father died while he was still young, and so he was brought up by his mother. From an early age he was interested in war and physical training, believing a well-developed physique was among a man's best weapons. He first saw military service when Tarquinius Superbus attempted to regain his position as king by leading an army against Rome (499 BC). He was awarded an oak wreath, the civic crown, for saving another citizen's life in battle.
He had a close relationship with his mother, and considered her pleasure in his achievements the greatest reward he could have. When he got married his mother continued to live with him. Livy says Marcius' mother was called Veturia and his wife Volumnia, but Plutarch says the mother was called Volumnia and the wife Vergilia.
This was a time of frequent warfare between Rome and the neighbouring tribes, particularly the Sabines and the Volscians, and of internal political struggle between the aristocratic patricians and the common plebs. Many of the plebs suffered during the wars because after their land had been raided by the enemy they had no option but to borrow money and then, when they were unable to repay the debt, they were imprisoned or enslaved. One particularly sad case of an enslaved veteran caused a near riot (495).
Although that particular crisis was averted by a Volscian invasion, nothing was done to deal with the underlying problem. The next year (494) the plebs simply walked out and withdrew three miles across the river Anio to the Sacred Mount, leaving the patricians in command of an empty city. The patricians had no choice but to negotiate and the institution of the tribunes of the plebs was founded to protect the plebs against oppression.
To counter the Volscian invasion, the Romans attacked and besieged the city of Corioli (493). When the other Volscians attempted to relieve Corioli, the besieging Romans split their forces in two, one part to deal with the Volscian relief force and the other, much smaller part, to deal with a sortie from the city. Marcius managed to halt the Coriolian sortie and chased them back to the city, so hot on their heels that he managed to fight his way into the city amongst the fleeing Coriolians. Although the attention of most of the Romans who entered Corioli was focused on plunder, Marcius managed to persuade some to follow him to help the Roman forces who were fighting to prevent the Volscian relief force from coming up to Corioli. He joined them just as the battle was about to start, and despite having just fought one battle, played a distinguished part in the second.