In Roman legend, a young Roman plebeian of great beauty, decoyed by Appius Claudius, one of the decemvirs, and claimed as his slave. Her father, Virginius, being told of it, hastened to the Forum, and arrived at the moment when Virginia was about to be delivered up to Appius. He seized a butcher's knife, stabbed his daughter to the heart, rushed from the Forum, and raised a revolt.
This legend has been the subject of a host of tragedies: In French, by Mairet ( 1628), by Leclerc ( 1645), by Campistron ( 1683), by La Beaumelle (1760), by Chabanon ( 1769), by Laharpe ( 1786), by Leblanc du Guillet ( 1786). by Guiraud ( 1827), by Latour St. Ybars ( 1845), etc.; in Italian, by Alfieri ( 1783); in German, by Ephraim Gotthold Lessing ( 18th century); in English, by John Webster, entitled Appius and Virginia ( 1654); by Miss Brooke ( 1760); J. S. Knowles ( 1820), Virginius. It is the subject of one of Macaulay's lays ( 1842), supposed to be sung in the forum on the day when Sextus and Licinus were elected tribunes for the fifth time, and it forms the subject of the Physician's (or Doctor of Physic's) Tale in Chaucer Canterbury Tales.