F Heritage History | Story of Rome by Mary Macgregor
Contents 
Front Matter The Lady Roma The She-Wolf The Twin Boys Numitor's Grandson The Sacred Birds The Founding of Rome The Sabine Maidens The Tarpeian Rock The Mysterious Gate The King Disappears The Peace-Loving King Horatius Slays His Sister Pride of Tullus Hostilius King Who Fought and Prayed The Faithless Friend A Slave Becomes a King Cruel Deed of Tullia Fate of the Town of Gabii Books of the Sibyl Industry of Lucretia Death of Lucretia Sons of Brutus Horatius Cocles Mucius Burns Right Hand The Divine Twins The Tribunes Coriolanus and His Mother The Roman Army in a Trap The Hated Decemvirs The Death of Verginia The Friend of the People Camillus Captures Veii The Statue of the Goddess Schoolmaster Traitor Battle of Allia The Sacred Geese The City Is Rebuilt Volscians on Fire Battle on the Anio The Curtian Lake Dream of the Two Consuls The Caudine Forks Caudine Forks Avenged Fabius among the Hills Battle of Sentinum Son of Fabius Loses Battle Pyrrhus King of the Epirots Elephants at Heraclea Pyrrthus and Fabricius Pyrrhus is Defeated Romans Build a Fleet Battle of Ecnomus Roman Legions in Africa Regulus Taken Prisoner Romans Conquer the Gauls The Boy Hannibal Hannibal Invades Italy Hannibal Crosses the Alps Battle of Trebia Battle of Lake Trasimenus Hannibal Outwits Fabius Fabius Wins Two Victories Battle of Cannae Despair of Rome Defeat of Hasdrubal Claudius Enjoy a Triumph Capture of New Carthage Scipio Sails to Africa Romans Set Fire to Camp Hannibal Leaves Italy The Battle of Zama Scipio Receives a Triumph Flamininus in Garlands Death of Hannibal Hatred of Cato for Carthage The Stern Decree Carthaginians Defend City Destruction of Carthage Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi Tiberius and Octavius Death of Tiberius Gracchus Death of Gaius Gracchus The Gold of Jugurtha Marius Wins Notice of Scipio Marius Becomes Commander Capture of Treasure Towns Capture of Jugurtha Jugurtha Brought to Rome Marius Conquers Teutones Marius Mocks the Ambassadors Metellus Driven from Rome Sulla Enters Rome The Flight of Marius Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius Marius Returns to Rome The Orator Aristion Sulla Besieges Athens Sulla Fights the Samnites The Proscriptions of Sulla The Gladiators' Revolt The Pirates Pompey Defeats Mithridates Cicero Discovers Conspiracy Death of the Conspirators Caesar Captured by Pirates Caesar Gives up Triumph Caesar Praises Tenth Legion Caesar Wins a Great Victory Caesar Invades Britain Caesar Crosses Rubicon Caesar and the Pilot The Flight of Pompey Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr Caesar is Loaded with Honours Nobles Plot against Caesar The Assassination of Caesar Brutus Speaks to Citizens Antony Speaks to Citizens The Second Triumvirate Battle of Philippi Death of Brutus Antony and Cleopatra Battle of Actium Antony and Cleopatra Die Emperor Augustus

Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor




The Despair of Rome

After the victory of Cannæ, Hannibal was deemed more than a mere man. Surely he must be endowed with the power of the gods, or he would never be able to sweep eight legions from his path, as he had done on this last dread battlefield.

Even a number of young Roman knights, of the best patrician families, were so sure that nothing could now save their country, that they determined to fly to the coast and thus escape to another land, where they might yet win honour by their arms.

But Cornelius Scipio, although but a lad like themselves, drew his sword and boldly declared that he would kill any one of them who refused to swear never to forsake his country. His courage made the young knights so ashamed that they gave up their selfish plan.

In Rome itself the people had been more confident than of late years, for was not Varro at the head of their army, and had he not been heard to say that he would conquer Hannibal in a day?

Tidings of the disaster at Cannæ reached the city first as a mere rumour, but even so it filled the hearts of the people with dread forebodings. Rumour said that the whole army was annihilated, that both Consuls were slain—the citizens in despair watched and waited for certain news of the battle.

At length a horseman was seen riding in hot haste toward the city. The people's hopes rose at the sight. For a moment they forgot the rumours that had made them so uneasy, forgot all, save that their favourite Varro had been fighting for them. So they rushed toward the messenger, shouting with expectant voices: 'Is it victory of which you have to tell—victory?'

But even as they spoke the people knew how foolish were their hopes. For the face of the rider was pale and stricken with pain, and the folk shrank back, fearful now to hear the truth. And the messenger seemed in no haste to tell his tidings.

But Fabius the Delayer came to him and bade him speak, saying that if he had bad news, they were prepared to listen.

So, amid a sudden silence, the terrible tale was told, nor when it was ended was there a house to be found in Rome that was not filled with mourning. Henceforth the people trembled at the very sound of the conqueror's name.

After the first shock of the tidings, the people awoke to fresh fears. Suppose Hannibal was already marching upon Rome?

In a panic they flocked to the gates, longing to escape from the city that they believed was doomed.

Again it was Fabius who came and talked to the terrified folk, and by his calmness allayed their fears. In these troublous days the Delayer proved indeed so strong and wise that, before long, even those who had been used to mock at his slowness were glad to turn to him for counsel.

It was Fabius who ordered guards to be placed at the gates, that the frightened inhabitants might not desert their city. It was he who ordered the women not to wail and sob in the streets, but to go quietly to their homes to mourn there for their dead.

Meanwhile messengers were sent along the Appian and Latin roads to gather tidings of Hannibal's movements. And soon they returned to tell that the conqueror was not on his way to Rome, but was still in Apulia, dividing the spoil of the battle.

Varro, who was in Venusia, had with much difficulty gathered together the remnant of the army. He was now bidden by the Senate to bring it back to Rome.

It was a command he had dreaded. He had left Rome in joy, proud of the confidence of the people, he was going back shamed and, in his own eyes, disgraced. How would he be received by the Senate, by the people?

When he reached the gates of the city he would not enter, but awaited without the judgment of his fellows.

Then the Senate, knowing that the Consul loved his country and mourned for the humiliation he had brought upon her, went down to the gates to welcome him, followed by many of the people.

Fabius was among the senators, and from none of their lips did Varro hear a word of blame for the disaster of Cannæ. But they praised him for gathering together the remnant of the army, and thanked him, too, that after so great a loss 'he had not despaired of the safety of the Commonwealth, but had come back to Rome to help them in their plans to deliver their country from the Carthaginians.'

Meanwhile Hannibal had marched to Campania, and been gladly welcomed to its chief city Capua. Here, after their many hardships, he and his army enjoyed through the winter months comfort and ease. It is even said that the great general relaxed the severity of his discipline for a time.

But Capua was punished for opening its gates to Hannibal, for two Roman armies, under Fabius and Marcellus, were sent to besiege the town. The siege lasted during 212 and 211 B.C.

In the latter year Hannibal determined to march to Rome, for by doing so he thought he would force the Roman armies to leave Capua.

So at length what the citizens had often feared actually came to pass. The dreaded Carthaginian was on his way to Rome, and the people were sure that their city would be razed to the ground, while they themselves would be carried away as slaves.

But although Hannibal encamped three miles from the city, and rode round part of her walls, he did not attempt to lay siege to her. He knew that he had not the materials needed to reduce so strong a fortress as Rome.

Hannibal did not achieve all that he had hoped from his march. The siege of Capua was not raised, although Fabius, it is true, was recalled from before her walls.

So the Punic general, having accomplished little, set out, meaning to return to Capua. He was followed by a Roman army, of which he took no notice until five days later.

Then, hearing that Capua was still besieged, he was angry, and vented his wrath upon the army at his rear. Waiting until it was dark and their camp was set up, Hannibal stormed it, and drove the Romans away in utter confusion. As he knew he was not strong enough to relieve Capua, he did not return to the city, and she, thus deserted, was forced to surrender to the Romans.

But thirty of the noblest senators of Capua resolved to die rather than fall into the hands of those they had betrayed, for they feared their vengeance. So they met together for a last solemn feast, after which they each took poison, and so escaped from their enemy.

The senators who had chosen to trust to Roman justice were loaded with chains and sent as prisoners to two different towns.

Fulvius, who longed for a sterner punishment, determined to inflict it himself. He followed the prisoners with a body of cavalry, and reached the first town early one morning. Twenty-eight of the wretched prisoners were at once ordered to be brought before him, that they might be scourged and put to death. Then, hastening to the other town, he ordered twenty-five senators to be put to death, without the trial they had a right to expect.

It is told that before his vengeance was complete Fulvius received a letter from Rome, ordering the punishment of the senators of Capua to be delayed until she herself was able to judge them. But Fulvius, suspecting what was in the letter, left it unread until his horrible work was done.

Meantime, Hannibal was looking for reinforcements from Africa, and he wished to secure a good harbour where they might land in safety. So in 210 B.C. he attacked the citadel of Tarentum, and took it, only, however, to lose it the following year, when it was retaken by Fabius. Hannibal had now no port at which troops might land.

If he was yet further to subdue Italy he must wait until his brother Hasdrubal could bring him fresh troops from Spain.