Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

Pyrrhus Tries to Frighten Fabricius

After the great victory of Heraclea, Pyrrhus sent his minister Cineas to Rome to offer terms of peace.

Cineas was an orator. By the magic of his word he could sway men's minds and wills, and it was said that he, by his tongue, had won more cities than Pyrrhus by his sword.

Between the eloquence of Cineas and the fear of another defeat, the Senate wavered—almost it was tempted to accept the terms offered by the conqueror of Heraclea.

As the Senate hesitated, Appius Claudius, who was now old and blind, appeared before the Assembly, leaning upon the arms of his sons. He had heard that the Senate thought of accepting the terms of the conqueror, and old and feeble as he was, he had come to protest against so disloyal a deed.

'Hitherto, Fathers,' said the old man, 'I used to mourn that I was deprived of the light of the eye; now, however, I should consider myself happy, if, in addition to that, I had lost the sense of hearing, that I might not hear the disgraceful counsels which are here openly proposed to the shame of the Roman name. . . . Whither have your pride and your courage flown?'

Weak as the old man was, he spoke with such passion and such wisdom, that when he ended, there was not a single member of the Senate who was not prepared to vote that war should continue until Pyrrhus had been forced to withdraw from Italy.

Cineas, as he listened to the passionate words of Appius Claudius, knew that his cause was lost. He was indeed bidden to hasten back to his master and say that the Romans would never make peace with him, no, not if he 'should have defeated a thousand such as the Consul Valerius.'

Meanwhile Pyrrhus had marched north, to Capua, hoping to seize the town, only, however, to find that Valerius had already taken possession of it.

Disappointed as he was, the king continued his march until he was within twenty-three miles of Rome. And as he marched Valerius followed, harassing his rear on every possible occasion.

Then Pyrrhus, hearing that a Dictator had been appointed and was ready to oppose him, retreated to Tarentum, where he spent the winter months.

The victory of Heraclea had been followed only by a useless march.

During the winter an embassy, led by Fabricius, came from Rome to Tarentum, to offer an exchange of prisoners.

Cineas advised the King to try to bribe the Roman. So Pyrrhus offered Fabricius splendid gifts, but he answered proudly, 'If I am base how can I be worth a bribe, if honest how can you expect me to take one? Poverty with honesty is more to be desired than wealth.'

Then Pyrrhus, finding that the advice of Cineas had been useless, determined to try a plan of his own. Perhaps he would be able to frighten Fabricius into doing as he wished, and this is the strange way he chose.

He ordered his largest elephant to be placed in the room in which he and the Roman were to meet. The elephant was to be hidden by a curtain, which at a signal from the king was to be drawn aside.

So the next day when Pyrrhus and the ambassador met, their conversation was suddenly interrupted, and the Roman to his astonishment found himself standing close to a huge beast, whose trunk and tusks would have looked formidable enough even to a strong soldier, while Fabricius was an old man.

But when the elephant began to trumpet, the Roman only laughed, and without stirring he said, 'The beast cannot move me to-day more than your gold yesterday.'

Fabricius had easily guessed the meaning of the strange interruption, and of the appearance of the huge animal in the king's sitting-room.

Pyrrhus saw that it was hopeless to try to come to terms with the Roman, and he again prepared for war.

Early in 279 B.C. he marched into Apulia, and there, near the town of Asculum, another great battle was fought.

The Romans had learned to dread the terrible war-elephants which accompanied Pyrrhus on the battlefield. To cope with them, they had wagons built, with spikes fixed to the wheels. These wagons were filled with soldiers, who carried javelins, ready to throw at the dread beasts.

But Pyrrhus made these precautions of little use, for he sent the elephants to a part of the field where no wagons had been placed.

Long and terrible was the struggle between the two armies.

The elephants, with archers scattered among them, advanced in a closely-formed body upon the Romans, while the Greeks, using their swords, seemed heedless of their wounds, so only they might get to close quarters with the enemy. But here, as at Heraclea, the elephants dashed upon the Romans before they were aware, and they were forced to flee.

Pyrrhus and many of his officers were wounded, and although the day was theirs, they were soon glad to retire to Tarentum, until their wounds were healed.

The victory of Asculum seemed of as little use as that of Heraclea, for when his wound was healed, Pyrrhus found that so many of his men had perished, that he could not again take the field until reinforcements arrived from Epirus.

So in the spring of 278 B.C. the king once again tried to make terms with Rome.

But the Senate still heard the brave words of Appius Claudius ringing in its ears, and it refused even to discuss terms of peace with the victor.

Meanwhile the people of Tarentum showed their dislike to the discipline of the king more and more plainly. Their ingratitude and the approach of the hostile armies of Rome made Pyrrhus glad to leave Tarentum.

So he sailed to Sicily, where the Greek colonies were in danger from the Carthaginians, who had come from Africa in hope of new conquests.

He spent two years in the island, where at first he won great victories. But here, as in Italy, he seemed unable to reap good from his conquests.

Moreover his officers, although they began by behaving well to the Sicilians, soon showed themselves to be both greedy and cruel. In 276 B.C. the people resolved to endure these foreign soldiers no longer, and they hounded them out of the island.

Pyrrhus then went back to Italy, where both the Tarentines and the Samnites were becoming alarmed at the growing power of Rome.


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