Page images
PDF
EPUB

Darius grants thee the life of one of thy kinsmen; choose which thou wilt of the prisoners.' Then she pondered a while before she answered, 'If the king grants me the life of one alone, I choose my brother.'

V. MICHAELMAS TERM, 1902. And he laid waste the lands of the plebeians, but those of the patricians he spared; so that the Romans knew not what to do, and sent ten of the chief men in the Senate to entreat him. But he hardened his heart. And they sent again the pontifices, the augurs, and the flamens, with the rest of the priests, and they came in their robes and entreated him; yet he hearkened not. Then at the last the Roman women saved the city. For Valeria, the sister of Publicola, took Volumnia, the mother of Coriolanus, and Virgilia his wife, and his little children, and all the chief women, and came and besought him with tears that he would not destroy his own city. And when he would have kissed his mother, Volumnia said to him, •Answer me this first. Am I the mother of Caius Marcius, or a prisoner in the hand of the leader of the Volscians ? If I had not been a mother, my country had still been free.' Then Coriolanus was moved, and he turned himself with tears to his mother and said, “Mother, thou hast saved Rome, but thou hast lost thy son.'

VI. HILARY TERM, 1903. When Brutus was dead, Publius ruled over the people himself; and he began to build a great and strong house on the top of the hill Velia, which looks down upon the forum. This made the people say, 'Publius wants to become a king, and is building a house in a strong place, as if for a citadel where he may live with his guards and oppress us. But he called the people together, and when he went down to them, the lictors who walked before him lowered the rods and axes which they bore, to show that he owned the people to be greater than himself. He complained that they had mistrusted him, and he said that he would not build his house on the top of the hill Velia, but at the bottom of it, and his house should be no stronghold. And he called on them to make a law that whoever should try to make himself king should be accursed, and whosoever would might slay him. When the law was passed, all men said, " Publius is a lover of the people, and seeks their good’: and he was called Poplicola, which means 'the people's friend', from that day forward.

VII. TRINITY TERM, 1903. When Hannibal set out on his march into Campania, Fabius was still at Rome; but the two new legions, which were to form his army, were already assembled at Cales ; and Fabius, on hearing of Hannibal's approach, set out instantly to take the command. His old army, which had wintered in the camp above Suessula, had been transferred to his colleague, Marcellus; and a con. siderable force had been left at the close of the last campaign to guard Nola. Fabius however wished to have three Roman armies co-operating with each other ; and be sent orders to Gracchus to move forward from Apulia, and to occupy Beneventum; while his son, Q. Fabius, the praetor, with a fourth army was to supply the place of Gracchus at Luceria. It seemed as if Hannibal, having once entered Campania, was to be hemmed in on every side, and not permitted to escape : but these movements of the Roman armies induced him to call Hanno to his aid.

VIII. SEPTEMBER, 1903. A dreadful slaughter of the Romans ensued, fifteen thousand mon being killed on the spot, and eighteen hundred taken prisoners. Nor were the conquerors in a much better state than the vanquished, Pyrrhus himself being wounded and thirteen thousand of his forces slain. Night coming on put an end to the slaughter on both sides, and Pyrrhus was heard to exclaim that one more such victory would ruin his whole army. The next day as he walked to view the field of battle he could not help regarding with admiration the bodies of the Romans who were slain. Upon seeing them all with their wounds in front he was heard to cry out, With what ease could I conquer the world, had I the Romans for soldiers, or had they me for their king !

IX. MICHAELMAS TERM, 1903. After compelling the Greeks of Asia to pay tribute, Croesus made great preparations to build ships with which to conquer the Greek islands. While he was thus engaged, Bias, one of the famous seven sages of Greece, came to his court. After the king had eagerly inquired What news from Greece ?' the wily Greek replied, with the greatest gravity, that the islanders were collecting a large cavalry force for the invasion of Lydia. Croesus thought his Lydians the finest horsemen in the world, and therefore cried out for joy, thanking the gods who had put such madness into his enemies' minds. Bias then explained that the islanders were just as glad to hear that Croesus would attack them by sea, where their hope was to chastise the Lydians for all the sufferings of the Asiatic Greeks. Convinced by this argument, the king sent envoys to conclude a peace with the islands.

X. HILARY TERM, 1904. The early kings of the Egyptians had given the soldiers great estates; but when the priest Sethon became king, he took away these lands to bestow them on the temples. Presently, when the Arabs prepared to invade Egypt, the soldiers refused to take up arms for the defence of their country. The king, they said, had declared that they were of no use : let him now find out whether he had spoken truth or falsehood. Sethon

entered a temple to lament his evil fortune, and fell asleep at the very feet of the statue. In his sleep, he thought that a calm voice bade him have no fear of the enemy, for the gods would help the king who had honoured them. Trusting to this promise, Sethon collected an army of farm-labourers and marched against the invaders. During the night thousands of mice entered the camp of the Arabs and bit through their bowstrings. Next day, the Egyptians easily put to flight their disarmed and disheartened adversaries.

XI. TRINITY TERM, 1904. Caesar had seen the white cliffs of Britain the year before in his expedition against the Morini. He had been hearing of the island ever since he came to Gaul, and knew it to be a refuge for his enemies and a secret source of their strength. He had now a fleet which could navigate the ocean ; and as he failed to obtain any satisfactory information about the nature and inhabitants of the country from the sailors and merchants who alone were acquainted with it, he determined to go and find out about the country for himself. Every precaution was taken, for the enterprise was perhaps the most hazardous ever yet undertaken by a Roman general. Volusenus, an officer whose command of the Gallic cavalry made him a fit person to land on a strange Celtic shore, had been sent with a ship of war to discover a suitable harbour, and to make inquiries as to the strength and warlike capacity of the natives.

XII. SEPTEMBER, 1904. The people of Cremona amidst the horrors that covered the face of the country had strewed the way with roses and laurels, and even raised altars, where victims were slain as if a nation of slaves had been employed to adorn the triumph of a despotic prince. Meanwhile Valens and Caecina with a large number of their officers visited the field. They pointed to the particular spots where the fighting had been fiercest : * Here the legions rushed to the attack; there the cavalry bore down all before them: from that quarter the auxiliaries wheeled about and surrounded the enemy.' The centurions talked of their own exploits, while the common soldiers quitted the road to mark the places where they had fought and to survey the arms and dead bodies of the vanquished piled up in heaps. Some wondered at the destruction they had wrought; others recognized the common lot of humanity and shed tears of sorrow and pity.

XIII. MICHAELMAS TERM, 1904. And now a quarrel which had taken its rise a few days before between those who had been ordered ashore for the attack and those who had continued on board grew to such a height, that the Commander thought it necessary to interpose his authority to appease it. The ground of this dissension was the plunder taken in the town, which those who had acted on shore had seized for themselves and considered as a reward of the risks they had run. Those who had remained on board considered this very unjust, urging that had it been left to their choice they should have preferred to fight on shore; and that their duty, while their comrades were absent, was extremely fatiguing, for besides the labour of the day they were under arms all night. The Commander, observing with what bitterness the subject was debated on both sides, summoned all hands to his presence, and decided that whether he had fought on shore or remained on board, each man should receive a share of the plunder, in proportion to his rank.

XIV. HILARY TERM, 1905. Nevertheless it was a hotly contested day. On the right wing of the Romans, where Rullianus with his two legions contended with the Samnite army, the conflict remained long undecided. On the left, which Publius

« PreviousContinue »