Sivut kuvina

a general, on whose welfare that of a whole army depends. When he beheld his cavalry give way, he ordered his infantry to advance, and immediately drew it up. Then giving his mantle and arms to Megacles, one of his friends, he put on those of the latter, and vigorously charged the Romans, who received him with great intrepidity. The battle was obstinately disputed on both sides, and the victory long continued doubtful. Authors say, that each army gave way seven times, and as often returned to the charge.

Pyrrhus, by changing his arms, took a proper method for the preservation of his life; though, in the event, it almost proved fatal to him, and was on the point of wresting the victory out of his hands. The enemies threw themselves in, throngs about Megacles, whom they took to be the king; and he was at last wounded by an horseman, who left him upon the spot, after he had torn off his arms and mantle, which he carried full speed to Levinus the consul; and as he shewed them to him, cried out aloud, that he had slain Pyrrhus. These spoils being borne in triumph through all the ranks, filled the whole Roman army with inexpressible joy. All the field resounded with acclamations of victory, while the Grecian troops were struck with universal consternation and discourage


Pyrrhus, who perceived the terrible effect of this mistake, flew bare headed through all the lines, holding out at the same time his hand to his soldiers, and making himself known to them by his voice and gestures. The battle was then renewed, and the elephants were chiefly instrumental in deciding the

[blocks in formation]

victory; for when Pyrrhus saw the Romans broken by those animals, and that the horses, instead of approaching them, were so terrified, that they ran away with their riders, he immediately led up the Thessalian cav alry against them, while they were in confusion, and put them to flight, after having made a great slaughter of them.

Dionysius Halicarnassus writes, that near fifteen thousand Romans were killed in this battle, and that Pyrrhus lost thirteen thousand of his men; but other historians make the loss less on both sides.

Pyrrhus immediately made himself master of the enemy's camp, which they had abandoned, brought over several cities from their alliance, ravaged all the country around him, and advanced within fifteen leagues of Rome.

The Lucanians and Samnites having joined him, after the battle, he severely reproached them for their delay; but his air and aspect made it evident, that he was exceedingly delighted at bottom, that his troops, in conjunction with the Tarentines alone, had defeated so well disciplined and numerous an army of the Romans, without the assistance of his allies.

The Romans, however, were not dejected at the great loss they had sustained; and, instead of recalling Levinus, were solely intent on preparations for a second battle. This exalted turn of soul, which manifested so much steadiness and intrepidity, surprised, and even terrified Pyrrhus. He therefore thought it prudent to dispatch a second embassy, in order to sound their dispositions, and to see if they would not incline to some expedient for an amicable accom

modation, and in the mean time returned to Tarentum. Cineas, therefore, being sent to Rome, had several conferences with the principal citizens, and sent presents, in the name of the king, to them and their wives; but not one Roman would receive them. They all replied, and even their wives, that when Rome had made a public treaty with the king, it would be time enough to express his satisfaction with regard to them.

When Cineas was introduced to the senate, he acquainted them with the proposals of his master, who offered to deliver up his prisoners to the Romans without any ransom, and to aid them in the conquest of all Italy; requiring, at the same time, no other return but their friendship, and a sufficient security for the Tarentines. Several of the senators seemed inclinable to a peace; and this was no unreasonable disposition. They had lately been defeated in a great battle, and were on the point of hazarding another of much more importance. They had likewise reason to be apprehensive of many fatal events; the forces of Pyrrhus having been considerably augmented by the junction of several of his Italian allies.

The Roman courage, in this conjuncture, seemed to want the animating spirit of the celebrated Appius Claudius, an illustrious senator, whose great age and loss of sight had obliged him to confine himself to his family, and retire from public affairs. But when he understood, by the confused report which was then dispersed through the city, that the senators were disposed to accept the offers of Pyrrhus, he caused himself to be carried into the assembly, which kept a profound silence the moment he appeared. There the

venerable old man, whose zeal for the honour of his country seemed to have inspired him with all his ancient vigor, made it evident, by reasons equally solid and affecting, that they were on the point of destroying, by an infamous treaty, all the glory which Rome had ever acquired. "Where," said he, with a warmth of noble indignation, "where is the spirit that suggested the bold language you once uttered, and whose accents rung through all the world; when you declared, that if the great Alexander himself had invaded Italy, when we were young, and our fathers in the vigor of their age, he would never have gained the reputation of being invincible, but have added new lustre to the glory of Rome, either by his flight or death! Is it possible, then, that you should now tremble at the mere name of a Pyrrhus, who has passed his days in cringing to one of the guards of that Alexander, and who now wanders, like a wretched adventurer, from country to country, to avoid the enemies he has at home, and who has the insolence to pron ise you the conquest of Italy, with those very troops who have not been able to secure him a small tract of Macedonia!" He added many other things of the same nature, which awakened the Roman bravery, and dispelled the apprehensions of the senators; who unanimously returned this answer to Cineas: "That Pyrrhus should first retire from Italy; after which, if he should find himself disposed for peace, he might send an embassy to solicit it; but that, as long as he continued in arms in their country, the Romans would maintain the war against him with all their forces, though he should even vanquish ten thousand such leaders as Levinus."

It is said, that Cineas, during his continuance at Rome, in order to negotiate a peace, took all the methods of a man of wisdom and address, to inform himself of the manners and customs of the Romans; their public as well as private conduct; with the form and constitution of their government; and that he was industrious to obtain as exact an account as possible of the forces and revenues of the republic. When he returned to Tarentum, he gave the king a faithful relation of all the discoveries he had made in his conferences with the principal men of Rome, and told him, among other particulars, "that the senate seemed to him an assembly of kings." A just and noble idea of that august body! And with respect to the numerous inhabitants who filled the streets, and all parts of the country, he added, "I greatly fear we are fighting with an hydra." Cineas, indeed, had some reason for this remark, for the consul Levinus had at that time. an army in the field, twice as numerous as the first, and Rome had still an infinite nun ber of men capable of bearing arms, and forming many armies as powerful as that which had been newly levied.

The return of Cineas to Tarentum was immediately succeeded by the arrival of ambassadors to Pyrrhus from the Romans, among whom was Fabricius, who, as Cineas informed the king, was highly esteemed at Rome, as a very virtuous man, and well experienced in military affairs, but that his fortune was extremely low. Pyrrhus received them with extraordinary marks of distinction, and treated them with all the honours possible. The ambassadors, at their audience, said every thing necessary in the present conjuncture; and as

« EdellinenJatka »