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REGULUS IS TAKEN PRISONER
 XANTHIPPUS had fought in the wars of Greece, and he was a skilful
as well as an experienced soldier.
He had been but a short time in Carthage before he saw
that the Punic army had made a mistake in fighting
among the hills.
So wisely did he speak to the officers, showing them
how they could yet conquer the enemy, that he inspired
them with confidence.
Before long he was appointed, by the Senate, commander
of the entire Carthaginian army. Under the training of
the Spartan, the troops speedily regained their lost
courage, and soon they were clamouring to be led
against their cruel foe.
Xanthippus, secure in the enthusiasm of his troops, led
them to an open plain. Their number was not large, but
he could depend on his cavalry, which was four thousand
strong. A hundred elephants too, if carefully guided,
might well cause havoc among the enemy.
Regulus would perhaps have been glad to avoid a pitched
battle. But if the Punic army was now strong enough to
stop the raids of his followers, his food supply would
soon come to an end. So as a battle was inevitable,
the Consul marched to within a mile of the enemy.
When the Carthaginians saw the dreaded Roman legions so
near, they were well nigh panic-stricken. But
Xanthippus was at hand to allay their fears, and
confident in their leader, the men's courage was soon
 Then the Spartan gave the signal to advance. At the
same moment, the Romans, clasping their spears, rushed
to meet the enemy that they had grown used to conquer.
A line of elephants was ranged in front of the
Carthaginian army, but the left wing of the Romans
slipped past the animals and attacked the Punic
It was on the point of giving way when Xanthippus,
riding quickly up, rallied it. Then flinging himself
from his horse, the Spartan fought in the midst of his
infantry, as a common soldier.
The Carthaginian cavalry meanwhile had swept the Roman
horsemen from the field, and was now charging the
legions at the rear.
Then the elephants, already roused to fury by the noise
of battle, reached the main body of the Roman army and
trampled and crushed the bravest to the ground.
Those who succeeded in escaping from the elephants
found themselves in front of the unbroken ranks of the
Punic infantry, and were soon cut to pieces.
Only two thousand of the Roman army escaped. Regulus
himself fled from the field, followed by about five
hundred soldiers, but he was pursued and taken
In a short time after this great victory, which was
gained in 255 B.C., the Romans lost all that they had
formerly gained in Africa.
In Carthage, and throughout the land, joy and gratitude
were unbounded. People crowded into the temples with
offerings and thanksgiving, for the foe who had used
them so cruelly was crushed.
Xanthippus, to whom the glory of the victory belonged,
went back to Greece, loaded with gifts from the
The Consul was kept a prisoner for five years. During
these years the war between the Romans and
 was carried on in Sicily, the Romans in the end making
themselves masters of the island.
Then the Carthaginians, disheartened and tired of war,
determined to beg for peace.
Ambassadors were sent from Carthage to Rome, and with
them went Regulus, having first taken an oath that if
he did not prevail on the Senate to grant terms of
peace and an exchange of prisoners, he would return to
When the ambassadors reached the gates of Rome, Regulus
refused to enter the city, saying that he was no longer
worthy to be counted a citizen. Nor could he be
persuaded to see his wife or his children.
As Regulus would not enter Rome, the Senate agreed to
meet him without the walls. It believed that he had
come to ask that peace should be made with the
But the Roman had never meant to urge the Senate to
make peace. Although he knew that he must go back a
prisoner to Carthage if the war was continued, yet he
besought the Senate to fight until Africa was subdued,
for his pride in his country was greater even than his
love of liberty.
And so, the Senate having agreed to carry on the war,
Regulus, true to his oath, went back to Carthage,
knowing that torture and death awaited him.
The legends say that the Carthaginians were so angry
that Regulus had not even tried to make peace, that
they did indeed torture him.
So cruel were they that they shut their prisoner up
with an elephant, so that at any moment he might be
trampled or crushed to death. He was starved, his
eyelids were cut off, and he was laid in the scorching
sun, where no shade tempered the burning rays. At
length the unfortunate Roman was placed in a box, in
which he could not move without his body being torn by
the nails with which it was studded.
 It is also told that when the tale of what Regulus had
suffered reached Rome, two noble Carthaginian prisoners
were given to his widow and her sons, that they might
avenge on these the cruelty done to Regulus.
But these terrible stories of vengeance and torture are
now thought by many historians to be untrue.