|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
SULLA BESIEGES ATHENS
 THE Peiræus could not, indeed, be starved into submission
as long as the king held the harbour, but Athens was
already suffering from famine.
Now the Athenians were a gay and careless people,
little accustomed to endure hardships, yet no one
grumbled at the lack of food, but each bore his hunger
manfully, or tried to stay its pangs as best he could.
Some fed on herbs, which they gathered painfully, for
they had grown feeble with long fasting. Others hunted
for old leather shoes or pieces of oilskin, and when
they found them, soaked them in oil, and so made a
But while the inhabitants of Athens starved, Aristion,
the orator and minister of war, who was largely
responsible for the misery of the people, lived at his
ease, and ate and drank as much as he pleased. Nor did
he feast in secret, but before the eyes of the famished
folk, for he was as careless of their sufferings as of
his own responsibilities.
At length the senators and priests went to the tyrant,
for such had Aristion proved, and begged him to make
terms with Sulla before the citizens died of hunger.
But Aristion did not wish his pleasures interrupted by
such solemn messengers. He drove them from his
presence, bidding his servants to send a flight of
arrows after the procession as it turned sadly away.
A little later, however, he appeared to yield to the
wishes of the senators, and sent two or three of his
gay companions to meet the Roman general.
 But they had no serious terms to propose, and were not
commissioned to accept any. All they seemed able to
do, was to talk eloquently about their ancient towns
and games, until at length Sulla grew impatient and
said: "My good friends . . . begone. I was sent by
the Romans to Athens, not to take lessons, but to
reduce rebels to obedience."
Soon after this, Sulla, by chance, found out how the
city might be taken.
Two old men were talking to each other of Aristion's
follies, and Sulla overheard them blame him for leaving
a certain weak part of the city walls unguarded.
The Romans at once set to work to find out the weak
spot in the defences, and when it was found an attack
was made at that point.
Only a few sentinels were on duty, and they fled at the
approach of the enemy, so a breach was soon made,
through which Sulla marched into the city at the head
of his troops.
In their triumph at having taken the city the soldiers
ran wild, plundering and slaying the wretched
inhabitants, many of whom killed themselves rather than
fall into the hands of their cruel conquerors.
Sulla looked on, heedless of the fate of the citizens,
careless, too, of the destruction of the beautiful
city. Only when two citizens, who had refused to give
up their friendship with Rome, flung themselves at his
feet and begged him to spare the city for the sake of
her ancient renown and her famous Athenians, did he
Even then it was with ungracious voice and sullen face
that he bade his soldiers desist from further plunder.
Then, turning to those who had pleaded with him to save
the city, he said: "I forgive the many for the sake
of the few, the living for the dead."
Soon after this the Peiræus also fell, and Sulla
ordered it to be destroyed, and the docks and magazines
to be burnt.
In the same year as Athens and the Peiræus fell, Sulla
met the troops of Mithridates at Chæronea, where a
 battle was fought. Archelaus was defeated, although he
had nearly four times as large a force as Sulla.
Greece now began to repent of her folly in having
rebelled against Rome. Mithridates seemed unable to
help them as much as Aristion and their own hopes had
led them to expect. So, many of the Greek cities in
Asia Minor left the king and submitted to the Romans.
But Mithridates determined to make one more great
effort to regain his power. He met the Romans at
Orchomenus, and here another great battle was fought in
the autumn of 86 B.C.
At first the Romans began to give way before the fierce
attack of the king's troops. But Sulla saw the danger,
and leaping from his horse he seized a standard and
rushed into the thick of the fight, shouting: "To
me, O Romans, it will be glorious to fall here. As for
you, when they ask you where you betrayed your general,
remember to say at Orchomenus."
Stung by their general's words his men rallied, and
after a desperate struggle the battle was won, and the
power of Mithridates broken.
In 84 B.C. the king was forced to make terms with the
Romans, while those cities which had fought by his side
had to pay enormous sums of money to Sulla.
The victorious general was now anxious to go back to
Rome, to punish those who had declared him a public
enemy. So, in the spring of 83 B.C., he set out for
Italy with his army.
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