|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
REGULUS AND THE SNAKE
 THE war against Carthage lasted many years, with sundry
interruptions. The Carthaginians made many promises
to the Romans, but broke them so often that "Punic
faith" (that is, Carthaginian faith) came to mean the
same as treachery or deceit.
When both parties were weary of the long struggle, the
Romans resolved to end it by carrying the war into
Africa. An army was therefore sent out under the
command of Regulus. The men landed in Africa, where
a new and terrible experience awaited them.
 One day, shortly after their arrival, the camp was
thrown into a panic by the appearance of one of the
monster snakes for which Africa is noted, but which the
Romans had never seen. The men fled in terror, and the
serpent might have routed the whole army, had it not
been for their leader's presence of mind.
Instead of fleeing with the rest, Regulus bravely stood
his ground, and called to his men to bring one of the
heavy machines with which they intended to throw stones
into Carthage. He saw at once that with a ballista, or
catapult, as these machines were called, they could
stone the snake to death without much risk to
Story of Regulus.
Reassured by his words and example, the men obeyed, and
went to work with such good will that the snake was
soon slain. Its skin was kept as a trophy of this
adventure, and sent to Rome, where the people gazed
upon it in wonder; for we are told that the monster was
one hundred and twenty feet long. Judging by this
account, the "snake story" is very old indeed, and the
Romans evidently knew how to exaggerate.
Having disposed of the snake, the Roman army now
proceeded to war against the Carthaginians. These had
the larger army, and many fighting elephants; so the
Romans were at last completely defeated, and Regulus
was made prisoner, and taken into Carthage in irons.
The Carthaginians had won this great victory under a
Greek general named Xanthippus to whom, of course,
the people were very grateful; but it is said that they
forgot his services, and ended by drowning him.
The rulers of Carthage soon had cause to regret the
loss of Xanthippus; for the Romans, having raised a new
 won several victories in Sicily, and drove the
Carthaginian commander, Hasdrubal, out of the island.
As you have already seen, the people in those days
rewarded their generals when successful; but when a
battle was lost, they were apt to consider the general
as a criminal, and to punish him for being unlucky, by
disgrace or death. So when Hasdrubal returned to
Carthage defeated, the people all felt indignant, and
condemned him to die.
Then the Carthaginians, weary of a war which had
already lasted about fifteen years, sent an embassy to
Rome to propose peace; but their offers were refused.
About this time Regulus was killed in Carthage, and in
later times the Romans told a story of him which you
will often hear.
They said that the Carthaginians sent Regulus along
with the embassy, after making him promise to come back
to Carthage if peace were not declared. They did this
thinking that, in order to secure his freedom, he would
advise the Romans to stop the war.
Regulus, however, was too good a patriot to seek his
own welfare in preference to that of his country. When
asked his advice by the Roman senate, he bade them
continue the fight, and then, although they tried to
detain him in Rome, he insisted upon keeping his
promise and returning to captivity.
When he arrived in Carthage with the embassy, and it
became known that he had advised the continuation of
the war, the people were furious, and put him to death
with frightful tortures.
The war went on for seven or eight years more, until
 even the Romans longed for peace. A truce was then made
between Rome and Carthage, which put an end to the
greatest war the Romans had yet waged,—the struggle
which is known in history as the First Punic War.
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