| On the Shores of the Great Sea|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related. Ages 9-18 |
A GREAT CONFLICT
"The Greek shall come against thee,
The conqueror of the East."
AS the years rolled on, the power of Rome grew greater. While King Alexander was conquering in the East, she was
subduing tribe after tribe in Italy. But still on the sea-coasts of the south, there were many towns built by
the Greeks, who had sailed over the sea and settled there. Now there was a quarrel between the Greeks of a city
called Tarentum and the Romans. The people of Tarentum, unable to defend themselves against so powerful a foe
as Rome, sent to the mother country for help.
One winter's night, in the midst of a boisterous storm, the waves of the Mediterranean washed upon the shores
of Southern Italy a brave man. He was more dead than alive, for he had thrown himself overboard, from the prow
of a royal Greek ship, and had been sorely buffeted by the wind and the waves. They had no respect for a royal
 crown; they knew not, that he was a king ruling over a strong people, and that he had left his kingdom, with
thousands of archers and footmen
and knights, together with a quantity of huge elephants.
It was no less a person than Pyrrhus, king of a part of Greece. He had taken Alexander the Great as his model,
and already conquered Macedonia. Hearing that his fellow-countrymen were in trouble with the Romans, he made up
his mind to go and help them. And this is how he came to be voyaging in haste to Italy, and how he came to be
shipwrecked on this winter's night.
Before he started one of his counsellors asked the king, what he should do, if he beat the Romans, who were
reputed great warriors.
"The Romans overcome," answered the king, "no city would dare to oppose me, and I should be master of all
"And Italy conquered, what next?" asked the counsellor.
"Sicily next holds out her arms to receive us," he answered. "She is a wealthy and populous island and easy to
"And what next?" asked the counsellor again.
"There is Africa and Carthage," said the king. "Then I should be able to master all Greece."
"And then?" continued the counsellor.
"Then I would live at ease, eat and drink all day, and enjoy pleasant conversation."
 "And what hinders you now, from taking the ease, that you are planning to take, after so much risk and
Pyrrhus could not answer this question. His ambition to be like the great king, Alexander, led him on.
Once landed on the shores of Italy, he marched to Tarentum. There he found an idle colony of Greeks, given up
to pleasure. Pyrrhus soon shut up their places of amusement and trained the young men as soldiers.
A great battle took place. The Romans could easily see, which was the Greek king, by his splendid armour and
scarlet mantle. So marked was he, that presently he gave his glittering arms and mantle to one of his officers,
knowing well that if he were killed, the Romans would easily win the day. The battle was long and fierce. The
officer wearing the king's scarlet mantle was suddenly killed. The Greeks thought that Pyrrhus was killed and
began to retreat. But the king threw off his helmet, rode bareheaded through the ranks, and rallied his
Then he ordered a charge of the elephants. The Romans had never seen these monsters in battle before; their
horses were terrified in the same way that Alexander's had been in the battle with Porus, the Indian king, and
they turned and fled in confusion. When Pyrrhus looked at the field of battle, and saw the Romans lying dead,
with their faces to
 the foe, he cried out, "Oh, how easy would it be for me to conquer the world, if I had the Romans for my
The following year another great battle was fought between the Greeks and Romans; but the Romans no longer
feared the elephants in battle, for they had learnt that these animals are afraid of fire. They got ready
bundles of sticks, dipped in pitch, which they lighted and threw among them. The elephants were terrified of
the fire; they turned round and ran wildly about among the Greeks, trampling down a great many and killing
more. So the battle ended; Pyrrhus fled at once from Italy and sailed away to Greece.
And Rome gloried in her victory. The houses were decked with flowers; every window was filled with faces; the
streets were crowded to see the great procession wending its way to the Capitol. First in the procession,
walked the senators; then, guarded by Roman soldiers, came the spoils taken from the Greeks, piled high on
waggons—beautiful pictures and statues, robes and armour, were there; together with all sorts of things, made
by the skilful Greeks and never even seen by the simple Romans. Here, too, were the great elephants, seen for
the first time in the streets of Rome.
There were soldiers of Greece too, the finest foot-soldiers in the world; and at last came a triumphal car, in
which sat the Roman general, who
 had gained this victory for his country. He wore a splendid mantle, embroidered with gold, he was crowned with
a laurel wreath, and in his right hand, he carried a laurel bough. Behind him rode his officers, with laurel
garlands, twisted round their spears, singing the praises of their successful general.
So the Romans mounted the steep way to the Capitol, to give thanks to their god, for the victory and
deliverance from the Greeks.
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