You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war. — Winston Churchill

Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber




The Elephants Routed

After such a murderous battle as that of Heraclea, Pyrrhus shrank from meeting the Romans again, in spite of all his bravery. He therefore sent the eloquent Cineas to Rome, to try and make peace. But the fine speeches of the orator had no effect, and when Pyrrhus tried to bribe the senators to do as he wished, he found that this, also, was in vain.

Fabricius, the Roman ambassador, came to his tent, and Pyrrhus tried to frighten him into submission by placing an elephant behind the drapery and making it trumpet all at once. Fabricius had never heard such a frightful sound in his life, and fancied that his last hour had come; but he remained firm in his refusal to make peace.

Eloquence, bribery, and intimidation having all three failed, Pyrrhus again made ready to fight. The Romans, in the mean while, had collected another army. They were now accustomed to the sight of the fighting elephants, and their trumpeting no longer inspired them with fear. They met Pyrrhus once more at Asculum, and were again defeated; but their loss was not so great as that of the enemy.

The Romans were not ready to despair, in spite of their defeat. Of course they one and all hated Pyrrhus, yet they knew that he was an honorable foe, and they would therefore meet him in fair fight. So, when a doctor wrote to Fabricius, offering to poison his master, Pyrrhus, the honest Roman was indignant.

Instead of answering this treacherous letter, Fabricius sent it to Pyrrhus, bidding him beware lest the dishonest doctor should take his life. This warning, sent by an enemy, filled Pyrrhus with admiration for the Roman general's virtue, and he warmly cried:

"It would be as easy to turn the sun from its course, as thee from the path of honor, most noble Fabricius!"

Instead of continuing the war, Pyrrhus now sent back all the prisoners he had made, and offered a truce. This was accepted, and Pyrrhus passed over to Sicily, which he hoped to conquer more easily. But he was soon forced to return to Italy, and when he left the fertile island he regretfully said:

"What a fine battlefield we are leaving here for Rome and Carthage!" And, as you will see in the course of this story, this was true.

On the return of Pyrrhus to Italy, a final encounter took place between him and the army of Rome. Here the Romans pelted the fighting elephants with balls of rosin and flax, which they had set afire. The elephants, terrified by these missiles, and maddened with pain, turned to flee, trampling to death the soldiers of their own army.

Then the Romans took advantage of the confusion, and, when the battle was over, Pyrrhus returned home to mourn the loss of twenty-three thousand brave fighting men.

His hopes of conquering Italy were ended; but, as he still wished to rival Alexander, he next tried to become master of Greece. While he was fighting in this country, however, his career was cut short. Once when he was forcing his way through a city street, an old woman, standing on the roof of her house, dropped a tile on his head with such force that he was killed.

The Tarentines, deserted by Pyrrhus, yet unwilling to submit to Rome, began to look for another ally. The most powerful one they could find was Carthage, the city founded by Dido, so they sent there for aid.

In spite of the Carthaginian vessels, however, the Romans soon became masters of Tarentum. The walls of the city were all torn down, but the inhabitants were spared, and were allowed to continue their commerce under the protection of Rome.

The war was ended, and the army returned to Rome, where a magnificent triumph was awarded to the victorious consul. In the procession there were four of the fighting elephants which the Romans had captured, and all the people gazed in awe and wonder at the huge creatures, which they then saw for the first time.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire