|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 |
PYRRHUS TRIES TO FRIGHTEN FABRICIUS
 AFTER the great victory of Heraclea, Pyrrhus sent his
minister Cineas to Rome to offer terms of peace.
Cineas was an orator. By the magic of his word he
could sway men's minds and wills, and it was said that
he, by his tongue, had won more cities than Pyrrhus by his
Between the eloquence of Cineas and the fear of another
defeat, the Senate wavered—almost it was tempted to
accept the terms offered by the conqueror of Heraclea.
As the Senate hesitated, Appius Claudius, who was now
old and blind, appeared before the Assembly, leaning
upon the arms of his sons. He had heard that the
Senate thought of accepting the terms of the conqueror,
and old and feeble as he was, he had come to protest
against so disloyal a deed.
"Hitherto, Fathers," said the old man, "I used to
mourn that I was deprived of the light of the eye;
now, however, I should consider myself happy, if, in
addition to that, I had lost the sense of hearing, that
I might not hear the disgraceful counsels which are
here openly proposed to the shame of the Roman
name. . . . Whither have your pride
and your courage flown?"
Weak as the old man was, he spoke with such passion and
such wisdom, that when he ended, there was not a single
member of the Senate who was not prepared to vote that
war should continue until Pyrrhus had been forced to
withdraw from Italy.
 Cineas, as he listened to the passionate words of
Appius Claudius, knew that his cause was lost. He was
indeed bidden to hasten back to his master and say that
the Romans would never make peace with him, no, not if
he "should have defeated a thousand such as the Consul
Meanwhile Pyrrhus had marched north, to Capua, hoping
to seize the town, only, however, to find that Valerius
had already taken possession of it.
Disappointed as he was, the king continued his march
until he was within twenty-three miles of Rome. And as
he marched Valerius followed, harassing his rear on
every possible occasion.
Then Pyrrhus, hearing that a Dictator had been
appointed and was ready to oppose him, retreated to
Tarentum, where he spent the winter months.
The victory of Heraclea had been followed only by a
During the winter an embassy, led by Fabricius, came
from Rome to Tarentum, to offer an exchange of
Cineas advised the King to try to bribe the Roman. So
Pyrrhus offered Fabricius splendid gifts, but he
answered proudly, "If I am base how can I be worth a
bribe, if honest how can you expect me to take one?
Poverty with honesty is more to be desired than
Then Pyrrhus, finding that the advice of Cineas had
been useless, determined to try a plan of his own.
Perhaps he would be able to frighten Fabricius into
doing as he wished, and this is the strange way he
He ordered his largest elephant to be placed in the
room in which he and the Roman were to meet. The
elephant was to be hidden by a curtain, which at a
signal from the king was to be drawn aside.
So the next day when Pyrrhus and the ambassador met,
their conversation was suddenly interrupted, and the
Roman to his astonishment found himself standing close
to a huge beast, whose trunk and tusks would have
 formidable enough even to a strong soldier, while
Fabricius was an old man.
But when the elephant began to trumpet, the Roman only
laughed, and without stirring he said, "The beast
cannot move me to-day more than your gold yesterday."
Fabricius had easily guessed the meaning of the strange
interruption, and of the appearance of the huge animal
in the king's sitting-room.
Pyrrhus saw that it was hopeless to try to come to
terms with the Roman, and he again prepared for war.
Early in 279 B.C. he marched into Apulia, and there,
near the town of Asculum, another great battle was
The Romans had learned to dread the terrible
war-elephants which accompanied Pyrrhus on the
battlefield. To cope with them, they had wagons built,
with spikes fixed to the wheels. These wagons were
filled with soldiers, who carried javelins, ready to
throw at the dread beasts.
But Pyrrhus made these precautions of little use, for
he sent the elephants to a part of the field where no
wagons had been placed.
Long and terrible was the struggle between the two
The elephants, with archers scattered among them,
advanced in a closely-formed body upon the Romans,
while the Greeks, using their swords, seemed heedless
of their wounds, so only they might get to
close quarters with the enemy.
But here, as at Heraclea, the
elephants dashed upon the Romans before they were
aware, and they were forced to flee.
Pyrrhus and many of his officers were wounded, and
although the day was theirs, they were soon glad to
retire to Tarentum, until their wounds were healed.
The victory of Asculum seemed of as little use as that
of Heraclea, for when his wound was healed, Pyrrhus
found that so many of his men had perished, that he
 again take the field until reinforcements arrived from
So in the spring of 278 B.C. the king once again tried
to make terms with Rome.
But the Senate still heard the brave words of Appius
Claudius ringing in its ears, and it refused even to
discuss terms of peace with the victor.
Meanwhile the people of Tarentum showed their dislike
to the discipline of the king more and more plainly.
Their ingratitude and the approach of the hostile
armies of Rome made Pyrrhus glad to leave Tarentum.
So he sailed to Sicily, where the Greek colonies were
in danger from the Carthaginians, who had come from
Africa in hope of new conquests.
He spent two years in the island, where at first he won
great victories. But here, as in Italy, he seemed
unable to reap good from his conquests.
Moreover his officers, although they began by behaving
well to the Sicilians, soon showed themselves to be
both greedy and cruel. In 276 B.C. the people resolved
to endure these foreign soldiers no longer, and they
hounded them out of the island.
Pyrrhus then went back to Italy, where both the
Tarentines and the Samnites were becoming alarmed at
the growing power of Rome.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics