|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 |
THE DREAM OF THE TWO CONSULS
 THE Samnites were a rough and hardy race of warriors, whose
homes were among the mountains of the Apennines.
In 343 B.C. they determined to wrest
Campania, in the south of Italy, from the Romans.
The wars of the Samnites lasted for many long years,
and when at length Rome conquered, she was mistress of
Italy. But before she was victorious, the first,
second, and third Samnite wars had been fought and won.
Of the first Samnite war little is known, save that it
lasted for three years, and that the Romans won three
During this first war, however, the Latins, who had
allied themselves with Rome, revolted. They wished to
be given the full rights of Roman citizens, and they
demanded that one Consul, as well as half the members
of the Senate should be Latins. Nor was this all. For
they refused to be content unless Latium and Rome were
henceforth counted as one Republic.
The Romans did not for a moment dream of granting such
ambitious demands. Indeed, they resolved to punish the
Latins for their presumption in making such large
So they went to war and fought, until the Latins lost
their last stronghold and were forced again to submit
The Latins had gained little by provoking their former
allies, for while some Latin cities were granted the
 Roman citizens, all were forced to send soldiers to the
Two famous stories are told of the war with the Latins.
The armies had encamped near to each other on the plain
of Capua, in the south of Italy.
Manlius Torquatus was one of the Consuls, and he, with
his colleague, had given strict orders that no soldier
was to engage in single combat.
But the son of Torquatus chanced to be challenged by
one of the enemy, and the temptation to fight was more
than the young man could stand.
Was he victorious, what glory he would win! Was he
beaten, he could but die! So, despite the strict order
of the Consuls, young Manlius accepted the challenge.
Groups of Roman and Latin soldiers watched the combat
with the keenest interest, and when at length, after a
gallant fight, Manlius slew his opponent, a shout of
triumph arose from his comrades. But the Latins looked
on, sullen and ashamed, while their champion was
stripped of his arms.
Flushed with victory, and thinking that his father
would forgive his disobedience, the youth hastened to
the tent of Torquatus, and laid the arms he had taken
from his foe at this father's feet.
The youth laid the arms he had taken from his foe at his father's feet.
But discipline was dear to the Consul's heart, and he
did not greet his son as he entered the tent, but
turned coldly away from him. Had it been any other who
had disobeyed, punishment swift and sharp would have
descended on the culprit.
It made Torquatus angry to think that he should dream
even for a moment of being more merciful to his own son
than to another. He loved discipline, but he loved his
son as well. So it was with a mighty effort that he
resolved that, although it was his own son who had
transgressed, punishment swift and sharp should be
inflicted on him.
 Cold and stern, the Consul's voice rang out, bidding
the soldiers assemble in front of his tent, and there,
before them all, he ordered that his son should be
No one dared to dispute the order of the Consul, and
the soldiers looked on in horror while their brave
young comrade was put to death because of his
The soldiers hated Torquatus for his severity, and
never forgot it. But if they hated, they also feared,
and never again were his commands disobeyed.
The second story is about a terrible battle that was
fought close to Mount Vesuvius.
It was the night before the battle that the two
Consuls, Torquatus and Decius Mus, both dreamed the
A man taller than any mortal appeared to each of the
Consuls, and warned him that in the battle which was to
be fought, both sides must suffer, one losing its
leader, the other its whole army.
In the morning, when the Consuls found that each had
dreamed exactly the same dream, they determined to
appeal to the gods. Even as their dreams were alike,
so also was the answer each received.
"The gods of the dead, and earth, the mother of all,
claim as their victim the general of one party and the
army of the other."
At all costs the Roman army must be saved. Of that
neither Consul had any doubt. Nor did they shrink when
they realised that to save the army one of them must
So Manlius and Decius Mus agreed that the one whose
legions should first give way before the enemy should
give himself up to the gods of the dead.
When the battle was raging most fiercely, the right
wing of the Latins compelled one of the Roman divisions
to give way. The leader of the division was Decius
Without a murmur, the Consul prepared to fulfil the
agreement he had made with Torquatus. By doing so he
was sure that he would save the army from destruction.
 Turning to a priest who was on the battlefield, he
begged to be told how best to devote himself to the
Then the priest bade Decius Mus take the toga that he
wore as Consul, but which was not usually seen on the
battlefield, and wrap it round his head, holding it
close to his face with one of his hands. His feet the
Consul placed on a javelin, and then, as the priest
bade, he prayed to the god of the dead.
"God of the dead, I humbly beseech you, I crave and
doubt not to receive this grace from you, that you
prosper the people of Rome with all might and victory;
and that you visit the enemies of the people of
Rome . . . . with terror, with dismay, and with death.
"And, according to these words which I have spoken, so
do I now, on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Roman
people . . . . devote the legions and the foreign aids of our
enemies, along with myself, to the god of the dead and
to the grave."
When he had prayed, Decius Mus sent his lictors to tell
Manlius what he was about to do.
Then, with his toga wrapped across his face, the noble
Roman leaped upon his horse, and fully armed, plunged
into the midst of the Latin army and was slain.
Inspired by the courage of Decius Mus, and knowing that
the vengeance of the gods would now fall upon their
enemies, the Romans fought with fresh courage.
At first the Latins were dismayed and driven backward.
But they soon rallied, and fought so fiercely that it
seemed as though the sacrifice of the Consul had been
But just as the Romans were beginning to give way,
Manlius with a band of veterans rushed to their aid,
and with loud cheers dashed upon the enemy.
The Latins, already weary, were not able to withstand
this new shock. So the Romans were soon victorious,
and slaughtered or took prisoners nearly a fourth part
of the Latin army.
 Torquatus now returned to Rome, expecting to receive a
great triumph. But the citizens looked on his
procession in silence and dislike, for he had come back
from battle without his colleague.
In this the Romans were unjust to Torquatus, for had
his legions been the first to flinch before the enemy,
he would have faced death as bravely as did Decius Mus.
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