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Chapter 14

SECTION I.

FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST PUNIC WAR, TO THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND, WHEN THE ROMANS BEGAN TO GROW POWERFUL BY SEA.--U.C. 493.

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In every heart Are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war, Occasion needs but fan them, and they blaze.--Cowper.

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1. The Romans having destroyed all rival pretensions at home, began to pant after foreign conquests. 2. The Carthagin'ians were at that time in possession of the greatest part of Sicily, and, like the Romans, only wanted an opportunity of embroiling the natives, in order to become masters of the whole island. 3. This opportunity at length offered. Hi'ero, king of Sy'racuse, one of the states of that island, which was as yet unconquered, entreated their aid against the Mam'ertines, an insignificant people of the same country, and they sent him supplies both by sea and land. 4. The Mam'ertines, on the other hand, to shield off impending ruin, put themselves under the protection of Rome. 5. The Romans, not thinking the Mam'ertines worthy of the name of allies, instead of professing to assist them, boldly declared war against Carthage; alleging as a reason, the assistance which Carthage had lately sent to the southern parts of Italy against the Romans. In this manner a war was declared between two powerful states, both too great to continue patient spectators of each other's increase.

6. Carthage, a colony of the Phoeni'cians, was built on the coast of Africa, near the place where Tunis now stands, about a hundred and thirty-seven years before the foundation of Rome. 7. As it had been long growing into power, so it had extended its dominions all along the coasts: but its chief strength lay in its fleets and commerce. 8. Thus circumstanced, these two great powers began what is called the First Punic war. The Carthagin'ians were possessed of gold and silver, which might be exhausted; the Romans were famous for perseverance, patriotism, and poverty, which gathered strength by every defeat.

9. But there seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle to the ambitious views of Rome, as they had no fleet, or at least none that deserved the title; while the Carthagin'ians had the entire command at sea, and kept all the maritime towns in obedience.[1] 10. In such a situation, under disadvantages which nature seemed to have imposed, any people but the Romans would have rested; but nothing could conquer or intimidate them. 11. A Carthagin'ian vessel happened to be driven on shore, in a storm, and this was sufficient to serve as a model. They began to apply themselves to maritime affairs; and though without shipwrights to build, or seamen to navigate a fleet, they resolved to surmount every obstacle with inflexible perseverance. 12. The consul Duil'ius was the first who ventured to sea with his new-constructed armament; he proceeded in quest of the enemy, whom he met near the Lipari islands; and by means of grappling-irons, he so connected the ships of the Carthaginians with his own, that the combat became a sort of land-fight. By this manoeuvre, though his own force was far inferior to that of the enemy, he gained for Rome her first naval triumph, taking from the Carthaginians fifty ships, and what they valued still more, the undisturbed sovereignty of the sea. At Rome medals were struck and a column was erected in commemoration of the victory. This column, called Columna Rostrata, because adorned with the beaks of ships, was struck down by lightning in the interval between the second and third Punic wars. A new column was erected by the Emperor Claudius, and the inscription restored, though probably modernized. It still exists in a state of partial preservation.

13. The Romans soon invaded Sicily, and gained some signal successes, principally by the aid of their ally, king Hi'ero. On one occasion the consul Calati'nus was entrapped by the Carthaginians in a defile, and would certainly have been destroyed but for the bravery of the military tribune Calpur'nius Flem'ma, who, with three hundred resolute men, possessed himself of a neighbouring eminence, and so engaged the attention of the Carthaginians, that the Roman army escaped with very little opposition. This band of heroes was slaughtered to a man, and Calpur'nius himself fell dreadfully wounded, but afterwards recovered, and was rewarded with a corona graminis, or crown made of grass. But notwithstanding their repeated triumphs, the Romans discovered that the conquest of Sicily was only to be obtained by humbling the power of Carthage at home. For this reason the senate resolved to carry the war into Africa itself, and accordingly they sent Reg'ulus and Man'lius, with a fleet of three hundred sail, to make the invasion. 14. Reg'ulus was reckoned the most consummate warrior that Rome could then produce, and a professed example of frugal severity. His patriotism was still greater than his temperance: all private passions seemed extinguished in him; at least they were swallowed up in one great ruling affection, the love of his country. 15. The two generals set sail with their fleet, which was the greatest that had ever yet left an Italian port, carrying a hundred and forty thousand men. They were met by the Carthagin'ians with a fleet equally powerful, and men more used to the sea. 16. While the fight continued at a distance, the Carthagin'ians seemed successful; but when the Romans came to grapple with them, the difference between a mercenary army and one that fought for fame, was apparent. 17. The resolution of the Romans was crowned with success; the enemy's fleet was dispersed, and fifty-four of their vessels taken. 18. The consequence of this victory was an immediate descent upon the coast of Africa, and the capture of the city Clu'pea, together with twenty thousand men, who were made prisoners of war. While Reg'ulus lay encamped here, near the river Bagra'da, he is said to have slain a monstrous serpent by the help of his battering engines. Its skin, which was one hundred and twenty feet long, was sent to Rome and preserved for a long time with great care.

19. The senate being informed of these great successes, and applied to for fresh instructions, commanded Man'lius back to Italy, in order to superintend the Sicilian war, and directed that Reg'ulus should continue in Africa to prosecute his victories there.

20. A battle ensued, in which Carthage was once more defeated, and 17,000 of its best troops were cut off. This fresh victory contributed to throw them into the utmost despair; for more than eighty of their towns submitted to the Romans. 21. In this distress, the Carthagin'ians, destitute of generals at home, were obliged to send to Lacedæ'mon, offering the command of their armies to Xantip'pus, a general of great experience, who undertook to conduct them.

22. This general began by giving the magistrates proper instructions for levying their men; he assured them that their armies were hitherto overthrown, not by the strength of the enemy, but by the ignorance of their own commanders; he, therefore, required a ready obedience to his orders, and assured them of an easy victory. 23. The whole city seemed once more revived from despondence by the exhortations of a single stranger, and soon from hope grew into confidence. 24. This was the spirit the Grecian general wished to excite in them; so that when he saw them thus ripe for the engagement, he joyfully took the field. 25. The Lacedæmo'nian made the most skilful disposition of his forces; he placed his cavalry in the wings; he disposed the elephants at proper intervals, behind the line of the heavy-armed infantry, and bringing up the light-armed troops before, he ordered them to retire through the line of infantry, after they had discharged their weapons. 26. At length both armies engaged; after a long and obstinate resistance the Romans were overthrown with dreadful slaughter, the greatest part of their army destroyed, and Reg'ulus himself taken prisoner. 27. Several other distresses of the Romans followed soon after. They lost their fleet in a storm, and Agrigen'tum, their principal town in Sicily, was taken by Karth'alo, the Carthagin'ian general. They built a new fleet, which shared the fate of the former; for the mariners, as yet unacquainted with the Mediterranean shores, drove upon quicksands, and soon after the greater part perished in a storm.[2]

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Questions for Examination.

1. What did the Romans now desire?

2. What state afforded them an opportunity for this purpose?

3. Were their wishes gratified, and how?

4. What measures did the Mamertines adopt?

5. Did the Romans afford them the assistance they requested?

6. Where was Carthage situated, and when was it built?

7. Was it a powerful state?

8. Had the Romans or the Carthaginians the means most likely to insure success?

9. Were Rome and Carthage on an equal footing in other respects?

10. Did the Romans attempt to overcome this obstacle?

11. What assisted their endeavours?

12. Who was their first naval commander, and what was his success?

13. What were the means adopted to conquer Sicily?

14. What was the character of Regulus?

15. What was the amount of the force on both sides?

16. On what side did the advantage lie?

17. With whom did the victory remain?

18. What was the consequence of this victory?

19. What were the orders of the senate?

20. What was the next event deserving notice, and its consequences?

21. To what expedient were the Carthaginians obliged to have recourse?

22. What were the first acts of this general?

23. What were the effects his arrival produced?

24. What was the consequence?

25. In what way was the Carthaginian army drawn up?

26. What was the event of the battle?

27. What other disasters did the Romans encounter?

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SECTION II.

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Who has not heard the Fulvian heroes sung Dentatus' scars, or Mutius' flaming hand? How Manlius saved the capitol? the choice Of steady Regulus?--Dyer.

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1. The Carthagin'ians being thus successful, were desirous of a new treaty for peace, hoping to have better terms than those insisted upon by Reg'ulus. They supposed that he, whom they had now for four years kept in a dungeon, confined and chained, would be a proper solicitor. It was expected that, being wearied with imprisonment and bondage, he would gladly endeavour to persuade his countrymen to a discontinuance of the war which prolonged his captivity. 2. He was accordingly sent with their ambassadors to Rome, under a promise, previously exacted from him, to return in case of being unsuccessful. He was even given to understand that his life depended upon the success of his negociation.

3. When this old general, together with the ambassadors of Carthage, approached Rome, numbers of his friends came out to meet him, and congratulate him on his return. 4. Their acclamations resounded through the city; but Reg'ulus refused, with settled melancholy, to enter the gates. In vain he was entreated on every side to visit once more his little dwelling, and share in that joy which his return had inspired. He persisted in saying that he was now a slave belonging to the Carthagin'ians, and unfit to partake in the liberal honours of his country. 5. The senate assembling without the walls, as usual, to give audience to the ambassadors, Reg'ulus opened his commission as he had been directed by the Carthagin'ian council, and their ambassadors seconded his proposals. 6. The senate themselves, who were weary of a war which had been protracted above fourteen years, were no way disinclinable to a peace. It only remained for Reg'ulus himself to give his opinion. 7. When it came to his turn to speak, to the surprise of the whole, he gave his voice for continuing the war. 8. So unexpected an advice not a little disturbed the senate: they pitied as well as admired a man who had used such eloquence against his private interest, and could conclude upon a measure which was to terminate in his own ruin. 9. But he soon relieved their embarrassment by breaking off the treaty, and by rising, in order to return to his bonds and his confinement. 10. In vain did the senate and his dearest friends entreat his stay; he still repressed their solicitations. Marcia, his wife, with her children, vainly entreated to be permitted to see him: he still obstinately persisted in keeping his promise; and though sufficiently apprised of the tortures that awaited his return, without embracing his family, or taking leave of his friends, he departed with the ambassadors for Carthage.

11. Nothing could equal the fury and the disappointment of the Carthagin'ians, when they, were informed by their ambassadors that Regulus, instead of hastening a peace, had given his opinion for continuing the war. 12. They accordingly prepared to punish his conduct with the most studied tortures. His eye-lids were cut off, and he was remanded to prison. After some days, he was again brought out from his dark and dismal dungeon, and exposed with, his face opposite the burning sun. At last, when malice was fatigued studying all the arts of torture, he was put into a sort of barrel, stuck full of spikes, and in this painful position he continued till he died.

13. Both sides now took up arms with more than former animosity. At length, Roman perseverance was crowned with success; and one victory followed on the back of another. Fa'bius Bu'teo, the consul, once more showed them the way to naval victory, by defeating a large squadron of the enemy's ships; but Luta'tius Cat'ulus gained a victory still more complete, in which the power of Carthage seemed totally destroyed at sea, by the loss of a hundred and twenty ships. 14. This loss compelled the Carthagin'ians again to sue for peace, which Rome thought proper to grant; but still inflexible in its demands, exacted the same conditions which Reg'ulus had formerly offered at the gates of Carthage. 15. These were, that they should lay down a thousand talents of silver, to defray the charge of the war, and should pay two thousand two hundred more within ten years; that they should quit Sicily, with all such islands as they possessed near it; that they should never make war against the allies of Rome, nor come with any vessels of war within the Roman dominions; and lastly, that all their prisoners and deserters should be delivered up without ransom.

[Sidenote: U.C. 513.]

16. To these hard conditions, the Carthagin'ians, now exhausted, readily subscribed; and thus ended the first Punic war, which had lasted twenty-four years; and, in some measure, had drained both nations of their resources.

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Questions for Examination.

1. What were the Carthaginians now desirous of obtaining?

2. Was Regulus employed for this purpose?

3. How was Regulus received by the Romans?

4. What was the conduct of Regulus on this occasion?

5. How did the negociation commence?

6. Were the Romans inclined for peace?

7. What was the opinion of Regulus?

8. What was the effect of this advice?

9. How did Regulus put an end to their embarrassment?

10. Could he not be prevailed on to remain at Rome?

11. How did the Carthaginians receive an account of his conduct?

12. In what way did they punish him?

13. With what success was the war continued?

14. What was the consequence of this loss?

15. What were these terms?

16. Were they agreed to? What was the duration of the first Punic war?

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] The vessels in which they had hitherto transported their troops, were principally hired from their neighbours the Locrians, Tarentines, &c. It is certain that the Romans had ships of war before this period; but from the little attention they had hitherto paid to naval affairs, they were, probably, badly constructed and ill managed.

[2] The Romans considering these two disasters as indications of the will of the gods that they should not contend by sea, made a decree that no more than fifty galleys should, for the future, be equipped. This decree, however, did not continue long in force.

Oliver Goldsmith