Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

GREAT AFRICAN SERPENT, KILLED BY REGULUS THE RO

MAN GENERAL.

Happy in the approbation of his country, Regulus continued his successes, and led his forces along the banks of the river Bagrada. There, while he was waiting for the approach of the Carthaginians, a serpent of enormous size attacked his men as they went for water, and took a position as if it intended to guard the banks of the river. It was a hundred and twenty feet long, with scales impenetrable to any weapon. Some of the boldest troops at first went up to oppose its fury, but they soon fell victims to their rashness, being either killed by its devouring jaws, or crushed to pieces by the volumes of its tail. The poisonous vapour that issued from it is represented as still more formidable ; and the men were so much terrified at its appearance, that they asserted, they would much more joyfully have faced the whole Carthaginian army. For some time it seemed uncertain which should remain masters of the river. At last, Regulus was obliged to make use of the machines employed in battering down the walls of cities : and, notwithstanding this, the serpent, for a long time, withstood all his efforts, and destroyed numbers of his men; but at length, a very large stone, which was flung from an engine, happened to break its spine, and weakened its motion, when the soldiers surrounded and killed it. Regulus, not less pleased with his victory than if he had gained a battle, ordered its skin to be sent to Rome, and for this the senate decreed him an ovation.*

ROMAN DISCIPLINE AND PATRIOTISM.

As the war with the Samnites had been for some time carried on with various success, and the balance seemed to vi. brate in uncertainty, it was thought advisable to conclude a peace, the terms of which were so offensive to the Latins and the Campanians, that it induced them to revolt. The former carried their demands so far as to insist, that one of the consuls, and half the senate, should be chosen out of their body, before they would submit to think of accommodation. The Romans at first tried by gentle means to divert them from their purpose; but they insisted upon it still more resolutely, ascribing the lenity of Rome to its fears. In order, therefore, to chastise them into reason, the two consuls, Manlius Torquatus, and his colleague, Decius Mus, were sent by the senate to invade their country. The Latins were not remiss in their preparations for a defence; so that the two armies met with equal animosity, and a bloody and obstinate battle ensued. In this battle, the strict discipline of the Romans, and their amazing patriotism were displayed in a manner that has ex. cited rather the wonder than the applause of posterity. As the Latins and Romans were a neighbouring people, and their habits, arms, and languages, were the same, the most exact discipline was necessary to prevent confusion in the engagement. Orders, therefore, were issued by Manlius, the consul, that no soldier should leave his ranks upon whatever provocation; and that he should be certainly put to death, who should offer to violate this injunction. Both armies were drawn into array, and ready to begin, when Metius, the general of the enemies' cavalry, pushed forward from his lines, and challenged any knight in the Roman army to single combat. For some time, there was a general pause, no soldier offering to disobey his orders, till Titus Manlius, the consul's son, burning with shame to see the whole body of the Romans intimidated, boldly singled out against Metius. The soldiers, on both sides, for a while suspended the general engagement, to be spectators of this fierce encounter. The two champions drove their horses against each other with the utmost spirit and impetuosity ; Metius wounded his adversary's horse in the neck; but Manlius, with better fortune, killed that of Metius. The Latin being ihus prostrate on the ground, for a while attempt. ed to support himself upon his shield ; but the Roman followed his blows with so much force, that he laid him dead as he was endeavouring to rise : and then despoiling him of his armour, returned in triumph to the consul his father's tent, where he was preparing and giving orders relative to the engagement.

* Incredible as the Roman accounts of this monster may appear, its skin was to be seen in the capitol till the time of Pliny, and, therefore, the parration is not unworthy of a place in history.

Loudly as the acclamations of his fellow-soldiers followed the deed, the generous youth approached his father with a modest hesitation. “ My father," said he, “ I have followed your heroic example. A Latin warrior challenged me to single combat, and I bring his spoils and lay them at your feet"

Unhappy boy," cried the father, with a stern look and an inflexible resolution, “ as thou hast regarded neither the dignity of the consulship, nor the commands of thy father : as thou hast destroyed military discipline, and set a pattern of disobedience by thy example : thou hast reduced me to the deplorable extremity of sacrificing my son or my country. But let us not hesitate in this dreadful alternative: a thousand lives were well lost in such a case; nor do I think that shou

thyself will refuse to die, when thy country is to reap the advantage of thy sufferings. Go, lictor, bind him, and let his death be your future example." As he uttered these words, he crowned him in the sight of his whole army, and then caused his head to be cut off. The whole army was struck with horror at this unnatural decree; sear, for a while, kept them in suspense; but when they saw their young champion's head struck off, and his blood streaming upon the ground, they could no longer contain their execrations and their groans. The dead body was carried forth without the camp, and, being adorned with the spoils of the vanquished enemy, was buried with all the pomp of military distress, and all the commiseration which was due to such ill-requited heroism.

Meanwhile, the battle began with mutual fury; and as the two armies had often fought under the same leaders, they combated with all the animosity of a civil war. The Latins chiefly depended on their bodily strengtb ; the Romans on their invincible courage and conduct. Forces so nearly matched, seemed only to require the protection of their deities, to turn the scale of victory: and in fact, the augurs had foretold, that whatever part of the Roman army should be distressed, the eommander of that part should devote himself for his country, and die as a sacrifice to the infernal gods. Manlius commanded the right wing, and Decius led on the left. Both sides fought, for some time, with doubtful success, as their courage was equal; and it is natural to wish that if one general must be sacrificed in the event, the lot should have fallen on the unrelenting Manlius; but the fortune of war decided otherwise. The wing commanded by Decius being repulsed, the general resolved to devote himself to his country, and to offer his own life, as an atonement to save his army.

The awful peculiarity of this ceremony, calculated to make an impression on the multitude, merits a place in history. The consul, with a loud voice, called on the Pontiff Valerius to fulfil the rites, and dictate to him the words of the sacrifice. His soldiers, in profound attention, surrounded him. The pontiff commanded him to lay aside his military habit, and to put on the robe, bordered with purple, which he wore in the senate. Then, covering his head with a veil, he ordered him to raise his hand under his robe to his chin, and, standing on a javelin, to pronounce these words': 60 Janus, Jupiter, Mars, Romulus, Bellona, ye domestic' gods ! ye heroes who dwell in Heaven; and all ye gods who preside over us and over our enemies: more particularly, ye infernal deities ! I invoke you all; I earnestly intreat you to grant victory to us, and spread terror amidst our enemies! I devote myself for the people of Rome, for the army, the legions, and the allies of the Romans; and I devote, at the same time, to the earth and infernal deities, the army and auxiliaries of our enemies." After pronouncing these words, he vaulted on his horse, and rushed like lightning into the midst of the enemy.

The strange appearance of a man unarmed, and in a robe of office, surprising the enemy, he easily broke their lines, and penetrated to the centre ; but as it was observed that he struck on all sides, like a mad man, covering the ground near him with dead, a flight of arrows pierced him on every side, and he fell on a heap of slain.

In the meantime, the Roman army considered his devoting himself in this manner as an assurance of success; nor was the superstition of the Latins less powerfully influenced by his resolution : in consequence, a total rout began to ensue; the Romans pressed them on every side, and so great was the carnage, that scarce a fourth part of the enemy survived the defeat.

PASSAGE OF THE ALPS BY ANNIBAL. Annibal had been made the sworn foe of Rome, almost from his infancy; for while only nine years of age, his father, having performed a sacrifice, brought him before the altar, and obliged him to take an oath, that he never would be in friendship with the Romans, nor desist from opposing their power, while life and opportunity allowed, until he or they should be no more.

In those terms he swore, and he was faithful to his engagement. On his first appearance in the field, he united in his own person the most 'masterly method of commanding, with the most perfect obedience to his superiors. Thus he was equally beloved by his generals and by the troops he was appointed to lead. He was possessed of the greatest courage in opposing danger, and the greatest presence of mind in obviating it. No fatigue was able to subdue his body, nor any misfortune to break his spirit: equally patient of heat and cold, he only took sustenance to content nature, and not to gratify his appetite. His seasons for repose or labour were never regular or fixed : he was always ready when difficulties or his country demanded his aid. He was frequently found stretched on the ground among his sentinels covered only with a watch coat. His dress differed in nothing from the most ordinary men of his army, except that he affected peculiar.elegance in his horses and armour. He was the best horseman and the swiftest runner of his time. He was ever the foremost to engage, and the last to retreat ; he was prudent in his designs, which were extensive; and ever fertile in expedients to perplex his enemies, or to rescue himself from danger. He was experienced, sagacious, provident, and bold. Such were the valuable qualities of this illustrious soldier, who is universally allowed to be the greatest general of antiquity. On the other hand, he was cruel and faithless; without honour, with. oui religion; and yet possessed the art of simulation to such a degree, that he assumed the appearance of them all. Erom such a soldier and politician, the Carthaginians justly formed the greatest expectations; and his taking Saguntum shortly after, confirmed their original opinion of his abilities. But he soon gave proofs of a much more extensive genius than they had ever given him credit for. Having overrun all Spain, and levied a large army of various languages and nations, he resolved to carry the war into Italy, as the Romans had before carried it into the dominions of Carthage. For this purpose,

leav. ing Hanno wiih a sufficient force to guard his conquests in Spain, he crossed the Pyrenean mountains in Gaul, with an army of fifty thousand foot and nine thousand horse. He quickly traversed that country, thoigh filled with nations that were his declared enemies. In vain its forests and rivers interposed difficulties in his way; in vain the Rhone, with its rapid current, and its banks covered with enemies, or the Dura, branched out into numberless channels, opposed his march; he passed them all with undaunted spirit, and, in ten days, arrived at the foot of the Alps, over which he determined to explore a new passage into Italy. It was in tbe midst of winter, when this astonishing project was formed. The season added new horror to a scene, which nature had already crowded with objects of dismay. The prodigious height and tremendous steepness of the mountains, capped with snow; the rude cottages that seemed to hang opon the sides of the precipices; the cattle, and even the wild beasts, stiff with cold, or enraged with famine; the people, barbarous and fierce, dressed in skins, with long shaggy hair; presented a picture that would have im pressed ordinary spectators wiih astonishment and terror. But nothing was capable of subduing the courage of the Carthaginian general; after having barangued his army, he undertook to lead them up the sides of the mountain, animating his soldiers by the assurance that they were now scaling, not the walls of Italy, but of Rome.

The Carthaginians, however, in this march, had numberless and unforeseen calamities to encounter : the intenseness of the cold, tie height of the precipices, the smoothness of the ice, but above all, the opposition of the inhabitants, who assailed them from above, and rolled down huge rocks upon

« ElőzőTovább »