Cornelia and Fate

Cornelia was the daughter of Scipio Africanus or Scipio the Great. Africanus won his fame as a Roman General in the Second Punic War in which he defeated Hannibal. Hannibal was one of the great enemies of Rome and Africanus became a hero for defeating the Carthaginian.

Cornelia gave birth to 12 children including two brothers nine years apart. These brothers were Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. Both would champion the cause of the public to the Roman Senate. Both were murdered as a result of their challenges to the Senate.

Tiberius along with three hundred of his followers were beaten to death by the Senators. Plutarch reports that Gaius fled the forum until “he reached a grove which was sacred to the Furies, an these his slave Philocrates first killed his master and then himself.”

Cornelia survived her two sons and lived her days in a villa in the bay of Naples.

Cornelia is said to have borne her misfortunes in a noble and magnanimous spirit, and to have said of the sacred places where her sons had been murdered that these tombs were worthy of the dead who occupied them. She went to live… in her normal mode of life. She had many friends and kept a good table which was always thronged with guests; Greeks and other learned men frequently visited her, and all the reigning kings exchanged presents with her. Her visitors and intimate friends would listen with pleasure as she recalled the life and habits of her father, the great Scipio Africanus, but what they admired most of all was to hear her speak of her sons without showing sorrow or shedding a tear, and recall their achievements and their fate to any inquirer, as though she were relating the history of the early days of Rome. This made some some people think that old age or the weight of her misfortunes had affected her mind, and so far dulled her feelings as to make her incapable of suffering. Yet the truth is that such people are themselves too dull to understand how far a noble nature, an honourable ancestry and a virtuous upbringing can fortify men against grief, and that although fate may defeat the efforts of virtue to avert misfortune, it cannot deprive us of the power to endure it with equanimity.

Plutarch – “Gaius Gracchus”

To learn more check out: Plutarch’s Maker’s of Rome on Amazon.