Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

The Victorious General

There was excitement in the city of Rome. The Senate had decreed that Pompey was to be given a magnificent triumph. Though it was two years after his great victory which Gaius had announced to the boys, he was now about to return to the city.

It was hard for the boys of Rome to go to school during the days that followed, and harder still for them to give attention to their lessons. They listened to every noise outside, and when at last the messengers on horseback dashed into the city to announce Pompey's return, the whole populace of Rome poured into the streets, and school and all else was forgotten.

Such a triumphant procession had never before been seen by the boys. It was two days in entering the city.

Marcus and Tullius hastened early in the morning to the Arch of Triumph, through which a victorious general always passed into Rome.

"They are coming," shouted Marcus, for the noise of trumpets, of tramping horses, and of clanking armor could already be heard. And as the long procession passed through the great arch and into the city's streets, the boys watched with increasing wonder and amazement.

First there came a throng of people from all parts of the known world, followed by wagons piled with all the trophies of war. Some of the wagons were filled full of gold coins, others were piled with silver, and still others held the armor of the defeated army.

"What are those?" questioned the boys, as still more wagons came into view, loaded with strange looking objects.

"Those," answered a soldier who was standing near, "are the beaks of ships which were captured and destroyed."

"My!" exclaimed Tullius, "there must have been a whole fleet captured. Look at the wagons still coming! What curious figures they had on their ships. I should like to see such a fleet on the water."

When the wagons had all passed, there followed troops of captives that Pompey had taken in his battles. Some of these were pirates, some were soldiers, some were seamen, while among them were conquered generals and even kings, who walked among the captives in token of their submission to Rome.

"Look, look," exclaimed Marcus, when these had passed, for there now appeared a monstrous image of the conquered king, who had killed himself rather than surrender. The image was nearly twelve feet tall, and was made of solid gold.

[Illustration] from Our Little Roman Cousin by Julia D. Cowles


Then came figures representing battle scenes, with images of the enemies that had been slain, and last of all, in a magnificent chariot studded with flashing jewels, and attended by his generals, came Pompey himself.

It took two days for all this procession to pass through the Arch of Triumph, but, tired as they were when the first night came, the boys were too excited to sleep long, and early on the second morning they ran to the Forum, in order that they might see the last sights of all this wonderful triumph.

"I suppose the captives will all be slain," said Marcus, as they reached the Forum. For even the boys of Rome were so accustomed to violence and bloodshed, that they thought but little of having hundreds of captives put to death.

"No," answered Tullius, "Father says that Pompey has given orders that, after the celebration, the captives shall be returned to their homes, but the kings will, of course, be put to death."

"Of course," assented Marcus. And then he added, "I am glad the others are to be sent back, instead. Father says Pompey has proved himself a wise general. My!" he added, "what loads and loads there were of gold and silver. He must have conquered a rich country, and it will add greatly to the strength and glory of Rome."

"Yes," added Tullius, "and did you notice the throne and couch of the conquered king? I am glad we have no king in Rome."

"So am I," said Marcus. "I am glad that the conspiracy of Catiline was discovered, and the traitors put to death."

The Forum was crowded with people, but the boys managed to find places where they could view all the sights of the great celebration. Glaucon and Aulus accompanied them, as usual.

"The place is so full of people that they even stand in the Curtian Lake," said Marcus with a laugh.

"What gave that little pool of water its name?" asked Tullius. "You know all the old Roman stories. Can you tell me that?"

"Why, yes, indeed," replied Marcus. "It was named after a Roman warrior, Marcus Curtius. A terrible chasm opened in the Forum at one time, and the Romans did their best to fill it with earth; but the earth disappeared as fast as it was thrown in. Then they appealed to the gods to help them, and the oracle said that the chasm would never close until the dearest thing in Rome was thrown into it. After that the city would be secure forever.

"Then Marcus Curtius came forward, dressed in rich armor, and riding the horse which had carried him into many successful wars.' The warriors of Rome are her dearest possession,' he exclaimed, 'and I offer myself as a sacrifice for the city.' With that he rode his horse into the chasm, and disappeared from sight.

"The chasm closed, and the little pool which was left to mark the spot has been called the Curtian Lake ever since."

"Ah, that was fine," cried Tullius. "Such stories make one proud to be a Roman!"

At last the great procession was ended; the two captive kings were put to death; sacrifices were offered to the gods, and the tired people of Rome returned to their homes.

"Was there ever so great a triumph in Rome before?" Marcus asked his father the next morning at breakfast.

"Only once," replied Gaius, "and that was when Scipio conquered Carthage. That triumph lasted three days. Instead of there being a golden image of the conquered king, the great King Perseus himself walked in the procession, dressed all in black, and his children were among the captives, while the quantity of golden treasure was almost as great."

"What wonderful conquests Rome has made!" exclaimed Marcus.

"Yes," said his father, "it well deserves its name of 'Capital of The World.'"