| 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 |
 BUT peace did not last long between Rome and Carthage. Some years after the
end of the first Punic War the Carthaginians attacked and took possession of
a town in Spain, the people of which were friends and allies of Rome. This
caused the second Punic War, which began B.C. 218.
One of the great soldiers of this war was Publius Cornelius Scipio. In
the latter part of his life he was called Scipio Africanus, on account of
the great victories which he won in Africa.
Scipio was a brave soldier from his youth. When only seventeen years old he
fought in a battle and saved his father's life. He was always gallant and
heroic in war, so he soon became noted in the Roman army and rose to high
rank. And although he was a member of a noble family, he was well liked by
the plebeians and they elected him "ædile."
The ædiles were magistrates or judges. They were also superintendents of
public buildings and of the
 games and shows of which the Roman people were so fond.
When Scipio was about twenty-seven years of age, he was appointed to command
the Roman army that was fighting the Carthaginians in Spain. Carthage had
conquered some parts of Spain, and Rome had conquered other parts, and the
two nations were often at war about places in that country.
When Scipio went to Spain many of the people there were against him, but
they soon became his friends. Whenever he took a city he allowed the chiefs
who were captured to go free, and he gave presents to many of them. He
always showed great respect to women and children who were taken prisoners.
In those times it was the cruel custom to make slaves of women who were
found in towns that had been taken in war. But Scipio never did this in
Spain. He always let the women go free.
One day a beautiful Spanish girl who had been taken prisoner was brought
before him. She seemed very much frightened, but Scipio spoke kindly to her
and told her that no one should harm her. While speaking with her he
learned that a young man who was her lover had also been taken prisoner by
the Roman soldiers. He sent for the young man and said to him:
 "Take your sweetheart and go. I set you both free. Go and be happy and in
future be friends of Rome."
And so by many acts of kindness Scipio gained the friendship of the
Spaniards. After a while they began to join the Romans and gave them great
help in their war against the Carthaginians.
WHEN his services were no longer needed in Spain, Scipio returned to Rome.
He got a great reception in the city. There was a grand parade in his
honor. He brought home an immense quantity of silver, which he obtained
from the rich Spanish mines and from the cities he had taken. The silver
was put into the Roman treasury to pay the expenses of the war.
Soon after he returned from Spain Scipio was elected consul. The
Carthaginian general, Hannibal, was then in Italy with a large army. This
Hannibal was one of the greatest generals of ancient times. When he was but
nine years old his father, who was also a great general, made him take an
oath that he would hate Rome and the Romans forever. Then he took the boy
with him to Spain and gave him a thorough training as a soldier.
 When his father died Hannibal became commander of the Carthaginian army in
Spain. He was then little more than twenty-one years old. He fought well
in Spain for some time and was well liked by his soldiers. Suddenly he
resolved to make war on the Romans in their own country and to go by land to
Italy. So he got ready an immense army and set out on his march. In
passing through France he had to cross the broad River Rhone. This was not
easy to do, for there was no bridge. He got his men over in boats, but he
had a number of elephants in his army and they were too big and heavy to be
taken across in that way. The boats were small and the elephants were
afraid to go into them. Hannibal therefore got rafts or floats, made of
trunks of trees tied together, and in these the elephants were carried over.
After crossing the Rhone Hannibal marched over the Alps into Italy. He and
his army suffered many hardships in making their way over those snow-covered
mountains. He had often to fight fierce tribes that came to oppose him, but
he defeated them all, and after being defeated many of them joined his army
and brought him provisions for his soldiers.
Very soon Roman armies were sent against Hannibal, but he defeated them in
many battles. Once
 his army got into a place near high hills where he could not march further
except through one narrow pass between the hills. The Roman general,
Quintus Fabius, sent four thousand of his troops to take possession of this
pass, and he posted the rest of his army on the hills close by.
HANNIBAL CROSSING THE ALPS
Hannibal saw that he was in a trap, but he found a way of escaping. He
caused vine branches to be tied to the horns of a large number of the oxen
that were with his army. Then he ordered his men to set the branches on
fire in the middle of the night and to drive the oxen up the hills.
As soon as the animals felt the pain they rushed madly about and set fire to
the shrubs and bushes they met on the way. The Romans at the pass thought
that the Carthaginians were escaping by torchlight. So they hastily quit
their posts and hurried towards the hills to help their comrades. Then
Hannibal, seeing the pass free, marched his army out and so escaped from the
Quintus Fabius was very slow and cautious in his movements. The Romans had
been defeated so often that he thought the best plan was to harass Hannibal
in every possible way, but not to venture to fight him in a great battle
until he should be sure of winning. For this reason the Romans gave Fabius
the name of Cunctator,
which means delayer,
 and so the plan of extreme delay or caution in any undertaking is often
called a Fabian policy.
But in spite of the caution of Fabius Hannibal gained many great victories.
His greatest victory was at the battle of Cannæ, in the south of Italy.
Here he defeated and destroyed a Roman army of seventy thousand men. And
for several years after this battle Hannibal remained in Italy doing the
Romans all the harm he could.
At last Scipio thought it was time to follow the plan of Regulus. So he
said to the Senate:
"We have acted too long as if we were afraid of Hannibal and Carthage. We
 bravely when we are attacked, and so far we have saved Rome from
destruction; but we do not make any attacks on our enemies. We certainly
ought to do this, for our armies are strong and fully ready to meet the
Scipio then proposed that an army led by himself should go to Africa and
carry on war there. He believed that if this were done Hannibal would have
to go to Africa to defend Carthage.
Perhaps on account of what had happened to Regulus, the Senate did not like
Scipio's plan. Nevertheless, it gave him permission to go to Africa, but
would not give him an army. Scipio then raised a splendid army of
volunteers and sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Africa.
SCIPIO tried for some time to obtain the aid of Syphax, a powerful king of
Numidia, in Africa. But Syphax decided to join the Carthaginians. So
Scipio found two great armies ready to fight him. One was the army of
Carthage, with thirty-three thousand men, commanded by
Hasdrubal Gisco, and the other was the army of Numidia, with sixty thousand men,
But Scipio found in Africa one strong friend, and that was a Numidian prince
named Masinissa.  This prince had a host of supporters among his countrymen and was therefore
able to bring a large force of good soldiers to the aid of the Romans. He
was of great service to Scipio in many ways.
When everything was ready the Roman army, with Masinissa's force, encamped
about six miles from the camps of the enemy. Scipio sent spies among the
Carthaginians and the soldiers of King Syphax, and from them he learned that
both armies were lodged in huts made of stakes and covered with reeds and
dried leaves. He resolved to set those huts on fire.
So one very dark night the Roman army left its camp and marched silently to
the plain occupied by the enemy. Then a division of the Romans went to the
encampment of the Numidians and a soldier crept cautiously from the Roman
lines and set one of the huts on fire. The fire spread rapidly, and in a
few minutes the whole camp was in flames.
The Numidian soldiers, suddenly awakened by the fire, fled from the burning
huts without their weapons and made frantic efforts to escape from the camp.
Hundreds of them were knocked down and trampled to death in the rush and
confusion; hundreds more lost their lives in the fire. Those who got to the
open country were attacked by the Romans and killed. The ground was covered
 the bodies of the slain. King Syphax and a few horsemen managed to escape,
but the rest of the vast Numidian army was destroyed.
In the meantime the Carthaginians had been aroused by the noise in the camp
of the Numidians. They thought that the fire had been caused by an
accident, and some of them ran forward to assist the Numidians. But the
greater number stood in a confused throng, without their arms, outside their
camp, looking at the fire with terror.
While they were in this helpless state the Carthaginians were suddenly
attacked by the Romans with Scipio at their head. Many were killed, and the
others were driven back into their camp, which was immediately set on fire
in a number of places. Then there was a frightful scene. Thousands of
Carthaginians, struggling to escape the fire, were slain by the Romans,
while thousands more perished in the flames. Hasdrubal Gisco, the
commander, and some of his officers escaped, but only a few of the others.
In less than an hour there was little left of the Carthaginian army.
SCIPIO now began to march towards the great, rich city of Carthage. He
captured a number of towns and a great deal of treasure. In a few
 weeks, however, the Carthaginians were able to form another army of thirty
thousand men, and then they came boldly forth to meet Scipio.
A fierce battle followed. The Romans were driven back for a time, but with
wonderful courage they charged the Carthaginians again and again and at last
totally defeated them.
The Carthaginians now sent a message to Italy requesting Hannibal to come to
the relief of his country. The renowned general did not want to leave
Italy, for he hoped to be able to take Rome; but he thought it best to obey
the call of Carthage, so he sailed for Africa with his army.
After arriving in Africa Hannibal led his army to a wide plain near Zama, a
town not far from Carthage. Here he awaited the Romans.
Hannibal had great admiration for Scipio, and he desired to see him before
engaging in battle. So he sent a messenger to Scipio requesting an
interview. The request was granted, and the two generals met.
They greeted each other cordially, and each complimented the other on his
victories and greatness as a soldier. Then Hannibal proposed terms of peace
"We will give Spain and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia to Rome. Then we
will divide the sea with you. What more would you have? Rome
 and Carthage would then be the two great nations of the world."
Scipio thought it was too late to make terms.
"We must fight it out," said he, "until one side or the other is
The generals then parted, and the next day the two armies were drawn up in
battle array. On each side there were about thirty thousand men, but
Hannibal had a herd of fighting elephants.
The battle was long and severe. Both armies fought heroically, and there
was terrible slaughter. But Hannibal's elephants were of little use to him,
as the Romans frightened them by blowing trumpets and hurling balls of fire
at them. At a moment when the lines of the Carthaginians were breaking, a
strong force of Roman horsemen came up suddenly in the rear and overpowered
all before it. This won the battle for the Romans. When Hannibal saw that
the battle was lost he fled from the field with a few friends (202 B.C.).
Scipio was now master of Carthage. He compelled the Carthaginians to pay
him a vast amount in gold and silver and to give up some of their towns and
lands. He also compelled them to destroy their great fleet of warships and
to promise not to make war in future upon any people without the permission
of the Romans.
 When Scipio returned to Rome he entered the city at the head of a grand
procession. The greatest honors were paid to him, and he was called Scipio
Some years afterwards Scipio met Hannibal at the court of the king of Syria.
The two generals had a friendly conversation and Scipio asked Hannibal who
he thought was the greatest general that ever lived. Hannibal answered:
"Alexander the Great."
"Who was the second?" asked Scipio.
"Pyrrhus," replied Hannibal.
"Who the third?"
"Myself," answered Hannibal.
"But what would you have said," asked Scipio, "if you had conquered me?"
"I should then have said," replied Hannibal, "that I was greater than
Alexander, greater than Pyrrhus, and greater than all other generals."
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