Monday, February 16, 2015

The Story Of Regulus

Marcus Atilius Regulus was a Roman consul and general, who was taken prisoner by Carthaginians in 255 B.C. and charged by them with negotiating peace, but instead he pointed out their weakness to the Roman Senate and urged for war.  He had sworn to return back to Carthage, and this he did, knowing full well what it meant for him.

He was subsequently tortured to death (crucified by this account ) and has been remembered since that time as an example of Roman virtue (later historians claimed his wife avenged his death by killing two Carthaginian prisoners in the same manner).

Regulus served as an inspiration to the Roman poet Horace (Q. Horatius Flaccus), who dedicated one of his odes to him:

...'Twas this that Regulus foresaw,
What time he spurn'd the foul disgrace
Of peace, whose precedent would draw
Destruction on an unborn race,
Should aught but death the prisoner's chain
Unrivet. “I have seen,” he said,
Rome's eagle in a Punic fane,
And armour, ne'er a blood-drop shed,
Stripp'd from the soldier; I have seen
Free sons of Rome with arms fast tied;
The fields we spoil'd with corn are green,
And Carthage opes her portals wide...

...His wife's pure kiss he waved aside,
And prattling boys, as one disgraced,
They tell us, and with manly pride
Stern on the ground his visage placed.
With counsel thus ne'er else aread
He nerved the fathers' weak intent,
And, girt by friends that mourn'd him, sped
Into illustrious banishment.
Well witting what the torturer's art
Design'd him, with like unconcern
The press of kin he push'd apart
And crowds encumbering his return...

(Quoted from here) You can also watch in on YouTube where it's read aloud in the original language:
Horace, Ode III.5, Regulus. 

Regulus has inspired Kipling to write a story with the same name, about a boys' boarding school. He is also mentioned in one of Laura Ingalls' "Little House On The Prairie" books, as she and Mary learn his speech by heart. Those two are probably the most famous examples, however, there seemed to be an 18th century English tragedy dedicated to him, which can be read over here.

Below is an excerpt, featuring the farewell speech of Regulus to his son (I changed the spelling slightly):

If Rome should raise thee to her highest Service
(As thou hast Merit  to expect her Honours)
Serve her for Love of Rome, and not of Interest;
Let Glory be thy second Motive only,
Thy Country´s Love be ever first, and dearest;
In Liberty´s Defence fight constant, single
Die with her - ´tis no Life if you survive her;
The greatest Glory of a free-born People,
Is to transmit that Freedom to their Children.

Search out for hidden Worth - and then reward it:
The noblest Prospect to a Roman Eye,
Is Greatness, lifting Merit up to Fame.

Let Falsehood be a Stranger to thy lips;
Shame on the Policy that first began
To temper with the Heart to hide its Thoughts!
And double Shame on that Inglorious Tongue,
That sold its Honesty, and told a Lie!

And that is the story of Regulus.

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