| Thirty More Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|This volume was written by the author in answer to the requests of hundreds of children for more stories like the ones they had enjoyed in Fifty Famous Stories Retold. This volume includes stories of historical events, scientific discoveries, and legendary heroes. The richer vocabulary and more complicated plot elements in these stories gradually accustom children to following a longer narrative. Ages 7-10 |
HOW DECIUS MUS SAVED ROME
 IT was early morning in Italy two thousand, two
hundred, and forty years ago. The first faint streaks
of daylight were just beginning to appear on the top of
a hill where the Roman army was resting and waiting for
the dawn. It was not a large army, for Rome had not yet
grown to be great and powerful; but every man in it
was ready to lay down his life for his country.
Not far away, on one of the lower slopes of Mount
Vesuvius, the Latin hosts were encamped. They
outnumbered the Romans three to one, and the Latin
soldiers were already boasting of the victory they
expected to win.
Two men were walking in front of the Roman encampment
and anxiously waiting for the dawn. They were Decius
Mus and Manlius Torquatus, the consuls of Rome and
generals of the Roman army.
"I had a dream last night," said Decius.
"And so had I," said Manlius. "I dreamed of the battle
that is soon to begin."
"And I dreamed of the way in which it is to
 end," said Decius. "There are to be great losses on
both sides.—But tell me your dream."
"In truth it was rather a vision than a dream,"
answered Manlius. "As I lay on the ground with all my
faithful men around me, a gray-eyed maiden, clad in
shining armor and carrying a shield and, spear, came
and stood beside me. 'Manlius,' she said, 'to-morrow's
battle will decide the destiny of Rome, whether she
shall be the mistress of the world, or whether she
shall perish by the hands of her Latin foes. If you
will save her, you must heed what I say. That army
which loses its general in the fight shall be
victorious and shall utterly overcome the other.' And
with this, the vision disappeared and I awoke."
"My dream was much the same," said Decius. "The same
maiden with the shield and spear and piercing gray eye
appeared to me. 'Do you want to know how to-morrow's
battle will end?' she asked. 'The side that does not
lose its leader will surely lose its army.' And then
"We have each had a message from the gods," cried
Manlius, "and we must heed it. I understand it means
that if a Roman general perish in the battle, then Rome
will be saved."
"That is the way I understand it," said Decius; "and I
am ready to be sacrificed for Rome."
 The two consuls finally agreed that each would lead, as
usual, a wing of the Roman army against the enemy, and
that the one whose wing first began to waver should
give his life for his country.
The sound of busy preparation was already heard in both
camps. The Roman soldiers were impatient to begin the
fray. The sun was scarcely above the mountain tops
before the battle was raging.
Furiously the Romans fought, contesting every foot of
ground. The left wing, commanded by Decius Mus, was the
first to waver.
Then Decius, with great dignity, like that of a
conqueror, strode alone to the summit of a little hill
where both armies could see him. Standing with a
javelin beneath his feet, and raising his hands and
eyes toward heaven, he cried, "Rome! I give the victory
With these words he rushed into the midst of the enemy.
A dozen spears were thrust at him, and he died with the
name of his country on his lips.
With a cry of vengeance the Romans followed their
leader, striking and grappling and slaying, and heeding
nothing but to destroy their foes. The Latins were
thrown into confusion; then a panic seized them and the
whole army fled.
Decius had saved Rome.
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