HOW ARTHUR FOUGHT WITH ROME
N the time of the great Roman, Julius Caesar, about
five hundred years before King Arthur was born, the
people of Rome conquered Britain. They made many
improvements in the land, building roads and walls, the
remains of which may be seen to this day. But they also
forced the Britons to pay them much money. All the
kings did this up to the time of Arthur. He, however,
considered that England was his own. He had conquered
the lesser kings, and made one realm of all the land,
over which he ruled with wise government. So he refused
to send any money to Rome.
 Once King Arthur's knights were all together in the
great hall. It was a time of peace, and they spent the
days in riding and hunting. On this day, while the king
was sitting on his throne, twelve old men entered, each
bearing a branch of olive, as a sign that they came in
peace. They were the messengers of the emperor of Rome,
and, after bowing to the king, they said:
"Sir, our mighty emperor sends you greeting, and
commands you to acknowledge him as lord, and to send
him the money due him from your realm. Your father and
his predecessors did this, and so must you. If you
refuse, the emperor will make such war against you that
it will be an example to all the world."
At this the young knights laid their hands to their
swords, but the older knights, who had self-control
enough to hide their feelings, waited to see what the
king would do.
Arthur bowed courteously to the messengers, and told
them that he would soon give them an answer. He
commanded a knight to take them to a lodging, and to
 see that they had all they needed, and he ordered that
no harm should be done them. Then he called a council
of his great lords and asked their advice.
Sir Lancelot, Arthur's favorite lord, spoke first,
"My lord, we have rested for many weeks, and can make
sharp war now. In days gone by, we should not have
dared attack the Romans, and indeed, our attempt will
make the world wonder. But of a truth, we ought to
Then spoke King Angus of Scotland:
"My lord Arthur, you are the greatest lord on earth.
You have made all of us lesser kings your subjects, and
bound the kingdom together, and stopped our civil wars.
We love you and we will help you. We pray you to make
war on these Romans. When they ruled our elders, they
demanded much gold and made our people very poor. If
you will fight, I will furnish you with twenty thousand
men, and will bear all the cost of them myself."
Then all the other lords promised to furnish men and
arms. When Arthur heard this, he was glad of their
courage and good
 will. He called in the messengers and said to them:
"Return to your emperor. Tell him that I refuse his
command, for I owe him nothing. I have won this
kingdom by my own strength. Tell him that I shall come
with all my army to Rome and make him acknowledge me as
Then Arthur told his treasurer to give the messengers
gifts, and to take them safely out of the country. Sir
Lancelot conducted them to the sea, where they took
ship and sailed to France. On they journeyed over the
Alps and into Italy. When they told the emperor of Rome
their message, he said:
"I had thought Arthur would yield."
But the messengers said:
"Sir, his face would have told you, if you had seen it,
that he would never yield. In truth, there is need of
fear, for he is a great king and surrounded by great
"This is foolish talk," the emperor said. "Remember
that we are Romans. We have ruled the world for
centuries, and a little king of little England shall
 us fear. You say that he is coming to fight with us. We
will take a few troops and go forthwith to France to
The messengers begged the emperor to take many troops.
"My lord emperor," they said, "these men of Arthur are
very numerous and very brave."
So at last the emperor brought all his men to France,
and there, whenever he found people who were loyal to
Arthur, he killed and laid waste.
Meanwhile, Arthur had gathered together all his troops.
He bade farewell to Queen Guinevere, who was so grieved
that she fell in a swoon. Then he rode off at the head
of his men till they came to the sea, and there they
embarked in ten thousand boats and sailed to France.
They marched till they came near to the troops of the
emperor of Rome, where they rested for the night. In
the morning they rose at dawn and looked at the Roman
legions. These were encamped in a green field which
glittered with the gold on their tents and armor. The
emperor's tent was of purple silk and bore
 on the top a golden eagle, the emblem of Rome.
Two of Arthur's knights, Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain,
rode out to the emperor, and told him that their king
"That I see," said the emperor laughing, "and he shall
The two knights made no answer, but rode back to
Arthur. Soon all the soldiers on each side made ready
for fighting. The preparation was careful, for they
knew that the contest was to be great one. The emperor
of Rome addressed his soldiers:
"Romans, remember that Rome is the chief city of the
world. I do not say fight as men; I say to you, fight
as Romans. Then you will surely conquer these
King Arthur galloped up and down before the front rank
of his men, looking at them carefully. He was on a
beautiful white horse whose mane rose and fell in the
wind like a wave of the sea. His soldiers cheered
lustily for their beloved commander. Then King Arthur
 raised his hand for silence, and spoke in a loud clear
"My knights and men whom I love, remember that you are
fighting to-day for your rights and for the
independence of Britain. Strike well, and do not forget
that great courage is as powerful as great numbers."
RAISING HIS HAND FOR SILENCE
With that, he gave the signal for attack. The Romans
stood in full battle array with their emperor in front.
Beside him were sixteen kings with gold helmets and
silver armor. The English approached, shouting a
Then the Romans, at the call of the trumpet, rushed
forward, and in a moment the two great armies clashed
together. Clouds of dust arose through which could be
seen at intervals the heads of horses and the helmets
of men. The few poor shepherds and women who stood on
the outside did not know that the greatest battle of
the time was going on under that cloud of dust.
Inside the cloud there was great confusion. Britains
and Romans were fighting side by side, so closely
 sometimes it was hard to strike. All fought bravely,
but no one did so well as Arthur and Sir Lancelot. The
battle did not cease until it was dark. Each side had
lost many men. King Arthur wept as he rode over the
field and counted his dead knights, and even his
beautiful horse drooped its head as if it, also,
But the next day the two armies began to fight again,
and when the emperor finally saw that his men were
losing and that most of the kings who were helping him
were dead, he said:
"This Arthur is a demon and not a man. I will fight
with him myself and end this battle." And before any
one could stop him, he spurred up to King Arthur and
"You on the white horse who refuse to pay me tribute,
come out that I may kill you."
Then Arthur rode quickly towards the emperor. The two
men began to fight and Arthur soon saw that he was
contending with a powerful man. He gave the emperor
many a stroke with Excalibur,
 but he himself received deep blows. At last the emperor
pierced Arthur's helmet, and wounded him deeply in the
King Arthur raised his good Excalibur with a last
effort and struck his enemy with it so fiercely on the
head that the blow cleft the helmet and pierced to the
emperor's chin. He fell from his horse without a moan.
When the Romans near by saw that their ruler was dead,
they gave a great cry of grief and rushed upon Arthur,
but his good knights protected him.
At last, seeing themselves conquered, the Romans
surrendered. Arthur found among his prisoners three
senators, and among the dead, sixty senators, the
sixteen kings, and the emperor.
He was sorrowful, for he knew that they were great men.
So he had them embalmed and laid in chests of lead.
Around each chest flags were wound, and the shields of
the dead warriors placed on top. Then he said to the
three surviving senators:
"Take these noble dead bodies back to Rome. When the
Romans see them they will never again dare ask tax or
tribute of me. I shall not go to Rome and take the city
from you, but if ever you send to me for gold, I shall
invade your land and never rest till all Italy is
The senators bowed their head. Then they laid the body
of the emperor on a car, all alone, with the gold eagle
above him. They laid the bodies of the kings and the
senators two by two on chariots, and so went slowly
towards Rome. And never again did the kings of Britain
have to pay a tax to the Romans.