Page images
PDF
EPUB

On entering the presence, they would have testified their gratitude by throwing themselves at the feet of the sovereigns; but the latter, raising them up and mingling their tears with those of the liberated captives, caused their fetters to be removed, and after administrating to their necessities dismissed them with liberal presents. Responsions, 1865.

55. They advised them to remain at peace, but added that Athens had no fear of war. All then retired, and the Lacedæmonians proceeded to deliberate. King Archidamus, a man of age and experience, having shown the advantages which a naval power like Athens possessed, advised peace at least for the present; but to prepare for war, by collecting funds and forming alliances; meantime as the Athenians had offered to submit to law, to send an embassy to Athens. But the Ephor Sthenelaidas cried for war without delay; and a great majority of the assembly having voted with him, the decision was communicated to the allies, and they were desired to come again to deliberate on the mode of conducting the war. As usual, the Lacedæmonians sent to consult the god at Delphi, and it was said that he assured them of success if they acted with vigour, and that called or uncalled he would himself be with them. Responsions, 1872.

56. This demand was rejected by Hamilcar with indignation. Never, he replied, would he surrender to the Romans the arms which his country had given him to use against them; and he declared that, sooner than submit to such terms, he would defend Eryx to the last extremity. Lutatius thought of Regulus and of the vengeance which had punished his abuse of victory, and he withdrew his demand. It was then agreed that the Carthaginians should evacuate Sicily, and make no war upon Hiero or his allies, that they should release all Roman prisoners without ransom, and pay to the Romans in twenty years 2200 talents. These were the preliminaries, which were subject to the approval of the Roman government; the senate and the people would not, however, ratify them, but sent over ten commissioners with full powers to conclude a treaty. Responsions, 1874.

57. If after so great a victory the Gauls had immediately pursued the fugitives, nothing could have hindered the entire destruction of Rome, and of all that remained in it; so astonished were the citizens at the return of those who had escaped from the battle, and so confused and panic-stricken. The Gauls, however, not imagining the victory to be so great as it was, in the excess of their joy, gave way to feasting and plundering the camp; so that numbers who wished to leave the city, had leisure to escape, while they who remained, had time to recover their spirits and prepare for defence. Accordingly, quitting the rest of the city, they retired to the Capitol, which they fortified by strong ramparts, and provided well with arms. But their first care was for their holy things : these, and the sacred fire, the Vestal Virgins took, and fled away along the side of the river. Responsions, 1878.

58.

Stephen would have been regarded by all men to have been most worthy of a crown, nisi imperasset. Of a kindly disposition, courteous to his equals, affable to his inferiors, he was popular and beloved ; but he often wanted the ability to fulfil the promises which his inconsiderate good-nature was lavish in making; and his friends, disappointed, denounced him as insincere, and were frequently converted into enemies. His courage was indisputable, but it often amounted to rashness; and his chivalrous generosity, while, at one time, it rendered his conduct impolitic, was not sufficient on some occasions to prevent him from becoming cruel and unjust. Weakminded and easy-tempered, he would sometimes become perversely obstinate; and, though he could be ruled, it was only by those who never showed they ruled, or permitted him to perceive their dominion over his mind. Moderations, 1868.

59. Although the emperor believed himself beyond the reach of any danger from the enemy, he was suddenly exposed to a more dreadful calamity, and one against which human prudence and human efforts availed nothing. On the second day after his landing, and before he had time for anything but to disperse some light-armed Arabs, who molested his troops on their march, the clouds began to gather and the heavens to wear a fierce and threatening aspect. Towards evening, rain began to fall, accompanied with a violent wind; and the rage of the tempest increasing during the night, the soldiers, who had brought nothing ashore but their arms, remained exposed to all its fury, without tents or shelter or cover of any kind. The ground was soon so wet, that they could not lie down on it; their camp being in a low situation was overflowed with water, and they sank at every step to the ankles in mud. Moderations, 1871.

60. Immediately after the defeat of the Samnites the Senate resolved to punish the Sabines for listening to the overtures of the Samnite chiefs at the beginning of the late war. The commander entrusted with the invasion of the country was Manius Curius Dentatus, a name which may be counted among the most illustrious in Roman history. He is said himself to have been of Sabine origin,--sprung from the Sabines of the lower country, no doubt, who had long been closely united with Rome. He lived, like the old plebeians, on his own farm, and himself shared with his men the labours of the field. It is said that on one occasion the Samnites sent messengers to tempt him with costly presents of gold; the messengers found him preparing his own dinner at the fire ; and when he had heard their business, he pointed to his rude meal and said, ' Leave me my earthen pans, and let those who use gold be my subjects.' Home Civil Service, 1880.

61.

Polybius praises the heroic spirit of Hasdrubal, saying that he knew when it was time for him to die ; that having been careful of his life, so long as there was any hope of accomplishing his grand enterprise, when all was lost, he gave his country, what Pericles calls the greatest and noblest gift of a true citizen, the sacrifice of his own life. And doubtless none can blame a spirit of devotion to the highest duty: Hasdrubal was true to his country in his death as in his life. Yet the life of a son of Hamilcar was to Carthage of a value beyond all estimate : Hasdrubal's death outweighed the loss of many armies ; and had he deigned to survive his defeat, he might again.have served his country, not only in peace as Hannibal did after his defeat at Zama, but as the leader of a fresh army of Gauls and Ligurians, of Etruscans and Umbrians, co-operating with his brother in marching upon Rome. Responsions, 1863.

62.

Petronius, like so many others, resolved at once to anticipate trial and sentence by suicide. The manner indeed in which he proceeded to yield his life was at least singular. Summoning his friends to his presence, he opened his veins in the course of their conversation, bound them, and opened them again, as its interest warmed or languished. But their talk was not of matters of philosophy, or the question of the soul's immortality; they only recited trifling compositions, and improvised verses of society. To some of his slaves he made presents, others he caused to be punished. He lay down to supper, composed himself to sleep, and sought to give his death the appearance, and if possible the sensations of a natural end. In his will he refused to follow the mode of flattering the emperor or his creatures, and filled a last codicil with the indignant recital of their enormities. This document he signed and sealed, and transmitted to the tyrant. Responsions, 1867.

63. Among the number who came to thank their deliverer on this occasion, there appeared a majestic old man, who, falling at the Emperor's feet, addressed him as follows, 'Great father of China, behold a wretch now 85 years old, who was shut up in prison at the age of 22. I have now lived in solitude and darkness for more than 50 years, and am grown familiar with distress. As yet, dazzled with the splendour of that sun, to which you have restored me, I have been wandering the streets to find out some friend that would assist or relieve or remember me; but my friends, my family, and my relations are all dead, and I am forgotten. Permit me then to wear out the wretched remains of my life in my former prison; the walls of my dungeon are to me more pleasing than the most splendid palace ; I have not long to live, and shall be unhappy except I spend the rest of my days where my youth was passed, --in that prison from whence you were pleased to release me.' Responsions, 1875.

64. Having assembled the whole body of the people in the court before his palace, Doria assured them that the happiness of seeing them once more in possession of freedom was to him a full reward for all his services : that more delighted with the name of citizen than of sovereign, he claimed no pre-eminence of power above his equals, but remitted to them entirely the right of settling what form of government they would now choose to be established among them. The people listened to him with tears of admiration and of joy. Twelve persons were elected to new model the constitution of the republic. The influence of Doria's virtue and example communicated itself to his countrymen; the factions which had long torn and ruined the state seemed to be forgotten ; prudent precautions were taken to prevent them rising; and a form of government which long subsisted at Genoa was established with universal applause. Moderations, 1870.

65. Meanwhile Charles, satisfied with the easy and almost bloodless victory which he had gained, and advancing slowly with the precaution necessary in an enemy's country, did not yet know the whole extent of his own good fortune. But at last a messenger despatched by the slaves acquainted him with the success of their noble effort for the recovery of their liberty; and at the same time deputies arrived from the town, in order to present him the keys of their gates, and to implore his protection from military violence. While he was deliberating concerning the proper measures for this purpose, the soldiers, fearing that they should be deprived of the booty which they had expected, rushed suddenly and without orders into the town, and began to kill and plunder without distinction. It was then too late to restrain their cruelty, their avarice, or licentiousness. Above thirty thousand of the innocent inhabitants perished on that unhappy day, and ten thousand were carried away as slaves. Responsions, 1866.

66.

After the battle of Panormus, the hopes of the Romans rose again, and the Senate gave orders to build a third fleet of 200 sail. But the Carthaginians, weary of the war, thought that a fair opportunity of making peace was now offered : and that the Romans had not so entirely recovered from their late disasters, but that they would gladly listen to equitable terms. Accordingly an embassy was despatched to offer an exchange of prisoners, and to propose terms on which a peace might be concluded. Regulus (according to the well-known story) accompanied this embassy, under promise to return to Carthage if the purposes of the embassy should fail. On his arrival at Rome he refused to enter the walls, and take his place in the Senate, as being no longer a citizen or a senator. Then the Senate sent certain of their own body to confer with him, in presence of the ambassadors, and the counsel which he gave confirmed the wavering minds of the fathers. Responsions, 1880.

« PreviousContinue »