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But if he cannot live, he can at least die, for his country. Do not deny him this supreme consolation. Consider I Every indignity, every torture which Carthage shall heap on his dying hours, will be better than a trumpet’s call to your armies. They will remember only Regulus, their fellow-soldier and their leader. They will forget his defeats. They will regard only his services to the Republic. Tunis, Sicily, Sardinia, every well-fought field, won by his blood and theirs, will flash on their remembrance and kindle their avenging wrath!
And so shall Regulus, though dead, fight as he never fought before against the foe.
Conscript Fathers, there is another theme, my family. Forgive the thought. To you and to Rome, I commit them, I leave no legacy but my name, no testament but my example.
And you, ambassadors of Carthage, now in this august presence, I have spoken, not as you expected. I am your captive. Lead me back to whatever fate may await me. Doubt not that you shall find that to Roman hearts country is dearer than life, and integrity more precious than freedom.
Epes Sargent, 1812-1880, was an American author and journalist. For a number of years he was editor of the “Boston Evening Transcript.”
Historical: Regulus was a celebrated Roman general. As consul he led the Roman forces against the Carthaginians and defeated them in a number of engagements, but finally was himself defeated and taken prisoner by the Carthaginians. After five years of captivity he was sent to Rome to negotiate for peace and an exchange of prisoners. Though he had been promised his liberty, if the Romans should accept the treaty, yet when he appeared before the Roman senate, he denounced the terms most emphatically. Accordingly he returned to Carthage, where he suffered a cruel death.
THE RETURN OF REGULUS
The beams of the rising sun had gilded the lofty domes of Carthage, and given, with its rich and mellow light, a tinge of beauty even to the frowning ramparts of the outer harbor. Sheltered by the verdant shores, a hundred triremes were riding 5 proudly at their anchors, their brazen beaks glittering in the sun, their streamers dancing in the morning breeze, while many a shattered plank and timber gave evidence of desperate conflict with the fleets of Rome. No murmur of business or of revelry arose from the city. The 10 artisan had forsaken his shop, the judge his tribunal, the priest the sanctuary, and even the stern stoic had come forth from his retirement to mingle with the crowd that, anxious and agitated, were rushing toward the senate-house, startled by the report that Regulus had returned to Carthage. 15 Onward, still onward, trampling each other under foot, they rushed, furious with anger, and eager for revenge. Fathers were there, whose sons were groaning in fetters; maidens, whose lovers, weak and wounded, were dying in the dungeons of Rome, and gray-haired men and matrons, whom the Roman sword had left 20 childless. But when the stern features of Regulus were seen, and his colossal form towering above the ambassadors who had returned with him from Rome; when the news passed from lip to lip that the dreaded warrior, so far from advising the Roman senate to 25 consent to an exchange of prisoners, had urged them to pursue, with exterminating vengeance, Carthage and Carthaginians,—the multitude swayed to and fro like a forest beneath a tempest, and the rage and hate of that tumultuous throng vented itself in groans, and curses, and yells of vengeance. 30 But calm, cold, and immovable as the marble walls around him, stood the Roman; and he stretched out his hand over that frenzied crowd, with gesture as proudly commanding as though he still stood at the head of the gleaming cohorts of Rome. The tumult ceased; the curse, half muttered, died upon the lip; and 35 so intense was the silence, that the clanking of the brazen manacles upon the wrists of the captive fell sharp and full upon every ear in that vast assembly, as he thus addressed them :— “Ye doubtless thought—for ye judge of Roman virtue by your own—that I would break my plighted oath, rather than, 40 returning, brook your vengeance. I might give reasons for this, in Punic comprehension, most foolish act of mine. I might speak of those eternal principles which make death for one’s country a pleasure, not a pain. But, by great Jupiter' methinks I should debase myself to talk of such high things to you; to 45 you, expert in womanly inventions; to you, well-skilled to drive a treacherous trade with simple Africans for ivory and gold ! “If the bright blood that fills my veins, transmitted free from godlike ancestry, were like that slimy ooze which stagnates in your arteries, I had remained at home, and broke my plighted 50 oath to save my life. I am a Roman citizen; therefore have I returned, that ye might work your will upon this mass of flesh and bones, that I esteem no higher than the rags that cover them. “Here, in your capital, do I defy you. Have I not conquered 55 your armies, fired your towns, and dragged your generals at my chariot wheels, since first my youthful arms could wield a spear? And do you think to see me crouch and cower before a tamed and shattered senate? The tearing of flesh and rending of sinews is but pastime compared with the mental agony that heaves my 60 frame. “The moon has scarce yet waned since the proudest of Rome's proud matrons, the mother upon whose breast I slept, and whose fair brow so oft had bent over me before the noise of battle had stirred my blood, or the fierce toil of war nerved my sinews, did, 65 with fondest memory of bygone hours, entreat me to remain.
I have seen her, who, when my country called me to the field, did buckle on my harness with trembling hands, while the tears fell thick and fast down the hard corselet scales—I have seen her tear her gray locks and beat her aged breast, as on her knees 70 she begged me not to return to Carthage! and all the assembled senate of Rome, grave and reverend men, proffered the same request. The puny torments which ye have in store to welcome me withal, shall be, to what I have endured, even as the murmur of a summer's brook to the fierce roar of angry surges on a rocky 75 beach. “Last night, as I lay fettered in my dungeon, I heard a strange, ominous sound; it seemed like the distant march of some vast army, their harness clanging as they marched, when suddenly there stood by me Xanthippus, the Spartan general, by whose 80 aid you conquered me, and, with a voice as low as when the solemn wind moans through the leafless forest, he thus addressed Ine – “‘Roman, I come to bid thee curse, with thy dying breath, this fated city: know that in an evil moment, the Carthaginian 85 generals, furious with rage that I had conquered thee, their conqueror, did basely murder me. And then they thought to stain my brightest honor. But, for this foul deed, the wrath of Jove shall rest upon them here and hereafter.” And then he vanished. go “And now, go bring your sharpest torments. The woes I see impending over this guilty realm shall be enough to sweeten death, though every nerve and artery were a shooting pang. I die! but my death shall prove a proud triumph; and, for every drop of blood ye from my veins do draw, your own shall flow in rivers. “Woe to thee, Carthage! Woe to the proud city of the waters! I see thy nobles wailing at the feet of Roman senators! thy citizens in terror! thy ships in flames! I hear the victorious shouts of Rome! I see her eagles glittering on thy ramparts. Proud city, thou art doomed ! The curse of God is on thee—a clinging,
100 wasting curse. It shall not leave thy gates till hungry flames
shall lick the fretted gold from off thy proud palaces, and every brook runs crimson to the sea.”
SPARTACUS TO THE GLADIATORS
It had been a day of triumph in Capua. Lentulus, returning with victorious eagles, had amused the populace with the sports of the amphitheatre to an extent hitherto unknown even in that luxurious city. The shouts of revelry had died away; the roar of the lion had ceased; the last loiterer had retired from the banquet, and the lights in the palace of the victor were extinguished. The moon, piercing the tissue of fleecy clouds, silvered the dewdrop on the corselet of the Roman sentinel, and tipped the dark waters of Volturnus with wavy, tremulous light. It was a night of holy calm, when the zephyr sways the young spring leaves, and whispers among the hollow reeds its dreamy music. No sound was heard but the last sob of some weary wave, telling its story to the smooth pebbles of the beach, and then all was still as the breast when the spirit has departed.
In the deep recesses of the amphitheatre a band of gladiators were crowded together, their muscles still knotted with the agony of conflict, the foam upon their lips, and the scowl of battle yet lingering upon their brows, when Spartacus, rising in the midst of that grim assemblage, thus addressed them:
“Ye call me chief, and ye do well to call him chief who, for twelve long years, has met upon the arena every shape of man or beast that the broad Empire of Rome could furnish, and yet never has lowered his arm. And if there be one among you who can say that, ever, in public fight or private brawl, my actions did belie my tongue, let him step forth and say it. If there be three