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Charlotte Mary Yonge was born in Otterbourne, England, in 1823. She is the author of a number of novels of considerable merit and popularity, the best known of which is “The Heir of Redcliffe.” In addition to these she has also written several historical works.
The Romans were at war with the Carthaginians. This war began about the year 237 B.C. Both claimed the island of Sicily, and as neither would yield, they went to
After the war had lasted eight years, the Romans 5 decided to send an army to Carthage to fight the enemy on their own shores.
The two consuls, Lucius Manlius and Marcus Attilius Regulus, were given command of the whole army. On
the way there was a sea-fight with the Carthaginian fleet 10 and the Romans, won. This was the first naval battle
that the Romans ever gained. It made the way to Africa free; but the soldiers, who had never been so far from home before, murmured, for they expected to meet not
only human enemies, but monstrous serpents, lions, ele15 phants, asses with horns, and dog-headed monsters, to
have a scorching sun over head, and a noisome marsh under their feet. However, Regulus sternly put a stop to all murmurs, by making it known that disaffection would be
punished be death, and the army safely landed and set 20 up a fortification at Clypea, and plundered the whole
country round. Orders came here from Rome that Manlius should return, but that Regulus should remain to carry on the war.
This was a great grief to Regulus. He was a very poor man, with nothing of his own but a little farm of seven acres, and the person whom he had employed to cultivate
it had died in his absence. A hired laborer had under5 taken the care of it, but had been unfaithful, and had run away with his tools and his cattle, so that he was afraid that, unless he could return quickly, his wife and children would starve. However, the Senate engaged to provide
for his family, and he remained, making expeditions into 10 the country round where they were encamped.
The country was most beautiful, covered with fertile cornfields and full of rich fruit trees, and all the rich Carthaginians had country houses and gardens, which were made
attractive with fountains, trees, and flowers. The Roman 15 soldiers, plain, hardy, fierce, and pitiless, did, it must be
feared, cruel damage among those peaceful scenes; they boasted of having sacked three hundred villages, and mercy was not known to them. The Carthaginian army, though
strong in horsemen and in elephants, kept upon the hills 20 and did nothing to save the country, and the wild desert
tribes of Numidians came rushing in to plunder what the Romans had left. The Carthaginians sent to offer terms of peace; but Regulus, who had become uplifted by his
conquests, made such demands that the messengers re25 monstrated. He answered: “Men who are good for
anything should either conquer or submit to their betters”; and he sent them rudely away, like a stern old Roman as he was. His merit was that he had no more mercy on himself than on others.
The Carthaginians were driven to extremity, and made horrible offerings to Moloch, giving the little children of the noblest families to be dropped into the fire between the brazen hands of his statue, and grown up people of the
noblest families rushed in of their own accord, hoping thus 35 to propitiate their gods, and obtain safety for their country.
Their time was not yet fully come, and a respite was granted to them. They had sent, in their distress, to hire soldiers in Greece, and among these came a Spartan, named Xan
thippus, who at once took the command and led the army 5 out to battle, with a long line of elephants ranged in front
of them, and with clouds of horsemen hovering on the wings. The Romans had not yet learned the best mode of fighting with elephants, namely, to leave lanes in their
columns where these huge beasts might advance harm10 lessly; instead of which, the ranks were thrust and trampled
down by the creatures' bulk, and they suffered a terrible defeat. Regulus himself was seized by the horsemen, and dragged into Carthage, where the victors feasted and re
joiced through half the night, and testified their thanks to 15 Moloch by offering in his fires the bravest of their captives.
Regulus himself was not, however, one of these victims. He was kept a close prisoner for two years, pining and sickening in his loneliness, while in the meantime the war
continued, and at last a victory so decisive was gained by 20 the Romans, that the people of Carthage were discouraged,
and resolved to ask terms of peace. They thought that no one would be so readily listened to at Rome as Regulus, and they therefore sent him there with their envoys, having
first made him swear that he would come back to his 25 prison if there should neither be peace nor an exchange
of prisoners. They little knew how much more a truehearted Roman cared for his city than for himself — for his word than for his life.
Worn and dejected, the captive warrior came to the 30 outside of the gates of his own city, and there paused,
refusing to enter. "I am no longer a Roman citizen," he said; “I am but the barbarians' slave, and the Senate may not give audience to strangers within the walls."
His wife, Marcia, ran out to greet him, with his two 35 sons, but he did not look up, and received their caresses
as one beneath their notice, as a mere slave; and he continued, in spite of all entreaty, to remain outside the city, and would not even go to the little farm he had loved so well.
The Roman Senate, as he would not come to them, came out to hold their meeting in the Campagna.
The ambassadors spoke first; then Regulus, standing up, said as one repeating a task, “Conscript fathers, being
a slave to the Carthaginians, I come on the part of my 10 masters to treat with you concerning peace and an exchange
of prisoners." He then turned to go away with the ambassadors, as a stranger might not be present at the deliberations of the Senate. His old friends pressed him to
stay and give his opinion as a senator who had twice been 15 consul; but he refused to degrade that dignity by claiming
it, slave as he was. But, at the command of his Carthaginian masters, he remained, though not taking his seat. Then he spoke. He told the senators to persevere in
He said he had seen the distress in Carthage, 20 and that a peace would be only to her advantage, not to
that of Rome, and therefore he strongly advised that the war should continue. Then as to the exchange of prisoners, the Carthaginian generals, who were in the hands of the
Romans, were in full health and strength, whilst he himself 25 was too much broken down to be fit for service again,
and indeed he believed that his enemies had given him slow poison, and that he could not live long. Thus he insisted that no exchange of prisoners should be made.
It was wonderful even to the Romans, to hear a man 30 thus pleading against himself, and their chief priest came
forward and declared that, as his oath had been wrested from him by force, he was not bound by it to return to his captivity. But Regulus was too noble to listen to
this for a moment. “Have you resolved to dishonor me?" 35 he said; “I am not ignorant that death and the extremest
tortures are preparing for me. But what are these to the shame of an infamous action or the wounds of a guilty mind? Slave as I am to Carthage, I have still the spirit of a Roman. I have sworn to return. It is my duty 5 to go; let the gods take care of the rest.”
The Senate decided to follow the advice of Regulus, though they bitterly regretted his sacrifice. His wife wept and entreated in vain that they would detain him. They
could merely repeat their permission to him to remain; 10 but nothing could prevail with him to break his word,
and he turned back to the chains and the death he expected as calmly as if he had been returning to his home. This was in the year 249 B. C.
HELPS FOR STUDY
Who were the Carthaginians?
Why was Regulus grieved when orders came from Rome for him to remain?
Who were the Numidians?