| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 THE next great war the Romans engaged in was with Carthage. It was about
the possession of the island of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea. It began
not long after Pyrrhus left Italy and was the first of three wars called the
Punic Wars. Punic means Phœnician and the people who founded Carthage
came from Phœnicia, so Carthage was called a Punic or Phœnician colony.
When the first Punic War began both Rome and Carthage were very rich and
powerful. Rome had great armies and great generals. Its common soldiers,
too, were remarkably brave and patriotic. It was very successful in its
wars. Before it began to fight Carthage it had conquered nearly all Italy.
also, had fine armies, but its greatest strength was in its navy.
No other country in the world at that time had so many ships of war and
trading ships. The ships of the Carthaginians went everywhere in the
Mediterranean. Some of them
 even went past the Pillars of Hercules, as the rocky capes at the Strait of
Gibraltar were then called, and sailed for some distance on the Atlantic
The Carthaginian ships were small, but they were very strong. The warships
were built to carry a good many soldiers, as well as sailors and oarsmen.
They had great rounded iron prows, which could do much damage to an enemy's
ships when run up against them. Each ship had a mast and large sail, but it
was also rowed with oars by many oarsmen who sat on long benches, placed one
above the other. With the sail and the oars the ship could be made to go
very fast through the water.
Carthage was in North Africa, in the country now called Tunis. It stood at
the head of a beautiful bay of the Mediterranean. It was a large and
handsome city and had a great commerce.
MANY years before the beginning of the first Punic War Carthage conquered a
great part of Sicily and made it a Carthaginian colony. But the Romans
wanted the island, and so under the pretence of protecting an Italian tribe
that had settled there they sent an army into Sicily. This was how the
first Punic War began.
 Both Rome and Carthage fought fiercely, and for a long time neither had much
advantage over the other. At first the Romans had no warships. Up to that
time they did not need any, for all their fighting was on land. But when
they began war with the Carthaginians they found that they must have ships
to carry their soldiers to Sicily and to fight the Carthaginians at sea. So
the Romans set to work to build ships and to train men to row them, and in a
short time they had a great navy.
In the ninth year of the war the armies and fleets of Rome were put under
the command of a general named Marcus Atilius Regulus. He was a great
hero and patriot. He had been a general before the Punic War and had often
led the Romans to victory. After years of good service, fighting and
winning battles for his country, he went to live on his little farm and,
like Cincinnatus, he cultivated it with his own hands. A story is told of
him which well illustrates ancient Roman honor and patriotism.
Until Regulus took command the Punic War was carried on only in Sicily and
on the Mediterranean. But he thought that Rome should fight the
Carthaginians in their own country, and so he organized an immense army and
navy to invade Carthage. He had three hundred and thirty warships of the
largest size and about sixty thousand soldiers.
 In those times, in fights at sea, they had an engine called a boarding
bridge. One end of it was fixed to the deck of the ship. The other end,
which was free, could be swung round and on to an enemy's ship, and it had
a heavy iron spike underneath, so that when it fell on the deck it would
sink into it and thus hold the enemy's vessel for the attacking party to
When everything was ready Regulus set sail for Africa. Soon after starting
he met a large Carthaginian fleet, and in a short battle he destroyed it.
Then he sailed on and after landing in Africa began a march towards
Carthage. On his way he captured several towns, and he met and defeated a
 Carthaginian army. He then continued his march until he met another army of
Carthaginians. This army was commanded by Xanthippus, a famous general of
Sparta, in Greece, who happened to be in Carthage at that time. In the
battle that followed the Romans were defeated, and Regulus was made prisoner
and taken off to Carthage.
BUT the Romans had other generals and other armies, and they carried on the
war and defeated the Carthaginians in many battles.
At last the Carthaginians thought it better to try to make peace, and so
they sent ambassadors to Rome to propose that the war should be stopped on
certain terms, which they were ready to offer. They sent Regulus with the
ambassadors, but they made him swear that he would return to Carthage if the
Roman Senate should refuse to agree to their terms. They thought that in
order to gain his own freedom Regulus would try to get the Senate to accept
their proposals. Regulus agreed to go and made the promise required.
"I give you my word of honor," said he, "that I will return if your terms
are not accepted."
Then he set out for Rome with the ambassadors.
 As he approached the gates of the city, thousands of people came forth to
welcome him and to escort him through the streets. But he refused to enter.
"I cannot enter Rome," said he. "I am no longer a Roman officer, but a
prisoner of Carthage. Do not urge me to enter the gates. I am not even
worth exchanging for a Carthaginian prisoner."
The people, however, insisted that he should enter the city, and so amid
shouts and cheers he was escorted to the Senate house.
In a little while the Carthaginian ambassadors presented their proposals,
and the Senate began to consider them. After some discussion Regulus was
asked to give his opinion whether the terms ought to be accepted or not.
Regulus at first was unwilling to speak in the Senate. He said that by
becoming a prisoner he had lost the honor of being a senator.
"I am no longer a Roman senator," said he. "I am a prisoner of Carthage."
The Senate, however, insisted that he should speak. Then Regulus said that
the Senate ought not to accept the terms of peace offered by Carthage. He
thought that they were not good terms for Rome, and he advised the Senate
not to agree to them.
 But the Senate was inclined to accept the terms for the sake of Regulus
himself. If peace were not made he would have to go back and remain a
prisoner in Carthage, or perhaps he would be put to death. Therefore the
Senate was for agreeing to the Carthaginian terms. But Regulus again spoke
strongly against them, and at last the Senate decided to reject the
REGULUS now prepared to return to Carthage, but his family and friends clung
to him, saying:
"You must not go! You must not go!"
 To all their appeals he made but one answer:
"I have given my word of honor to return, and I cannot break it."
REGULUS DEPARTING FOR CARTHAGE
So Regulus returned to Carthage with the ambassadors. When the people of
that city heard that by his advice their terms had been rejected they were
very angry. They had wished very much to make peace with Rome, for the long
war had cost them a great many lives and a great deal of money, and they
wanted to stop it. Therefore they were enraged against Regulus and they put
him to death in a very cruel way.
The war between Rome and Carthage continued for some years more, but at last
the Carthaginians were defeated in a great sea battle near the coast of
Sicily. They were then obliged to give up Sicily and pay a large sum of
money to the Romans as a fine. This was the end of the first Punic War (241
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics