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

Going to School

"Come, Marcus; come Lucius; no more sleep this morning, or the cocks will be crowing before you are in school."

Marcus turned, and bounded quickly from his couch to the floor.

"I wish the cocks did not crow so early in the morning," yawned Lucius, sleepily.

"Come, come," said his mother, "a boy that is old enough to go to school, is old enough to waken early."

Lucius sat up quickly. The great regret of Lucius' life was that he had not been born on the same day as his brother Marcus, instead of six years afterward. Marcus could do so many fine things that he could not. But this year he had entered the school to which Marcus went, and he was very proud of the fact.

Slipping over the edge of the high couch upon which he had been sleeping, Lucius dropped to his feet with a thud. Marcus never used the stool—which stood beside each high Roman bed—and Lucius did not intend to either, now that he was big enough to go to school.

The two boys were quickly dressed, for they had only to slip into their tunics, which were like extra long sweaters without sleeves.

They were soon in the atrium, or main living-room, of the home. There they found Glaucon, the tall Greek slave who always accompanied them upon the street.

"Be sure, Marcus, to stop at the little bakeshop and buy some cakes for your breakfast," said Gaia, their mother, as they started off.

It was still dark, and the boys carried lanterns to light them along the way.

All up and down the streets of Rome, bobbing, sputtering little lights showed that many other boys were on their way to school.

"Good, here is Tullius!" cried Marcus, as he met, at a corner, the boy friend whom he liked best of all.

Behind Tullius was Aulus, the slave, or pedagogue, who always accompanied him upon the streets, as Glaucon did Marcus.

The three boys went on together and the two slaves followed. When they reached the bakeshop the boys bought a light breakfast, to eat at school.

Glaucon and Aulus were glad to be together. Although slaves, they were both educated men who had once been free citizens of Greece.

After a battle with the Greeks, Glaucon and Aulus were taken captive and brought to Rome. There they were sold in the slave market of the city.

Gaius, the father of Marcus and Lucius, paid a large sum of money for Glaucon, for he learned that he was an educated man, and a man of good character. Quintus, the father of Tullius, bought Aulus for the same reason.

Every Roman boy of good birth had a special slave who went with him to and from school, and to all public places of the city. If well educated, this slave also helped him with his lessons outside of school. For this reason he was called the boy's pedagogue.

The pedagogue held a very important place in a Roman household. Marcus and Lucius were fond of Glaucon, and Tullius was fond, too, of Aulus.

As the boys hurried along the streets with their lanterns, Marcus saw a big notice posted upon the wall of a house.

He held up his lantern to read.

"It is a notice of the chariot races that are to be held in the Circus Maximus," he said. "There will be six drivers, and each will drive four horses. It will be a fine race."

Tullius was now reading the notice, too. "One of the drivers has won more than two thousand victories!" he exclaimed. "My, what a lot!"

"I wish I could see a chariot race," said Lucius. "You have seen more than one, haven't you, Marcus?"

"Yes," answered Marcus, "and you will see one some of these days, too."

"We had better hurry on," cried Tullius suddenly, "or we shall be late for school."

"And the master may flog us," said Lucius.

"But, even at that," said Marcus laughingly, "we do not have so hard a master as the school boys of Falerii."

"Is it a story, Marcus? Oh, do tell it to us," begged Lucius, for Marcus was a famous story-teller among the boys.

"Well," said Marcus, as they started on, "there was a great battle many, many years ago between the Romans and the Etruscans. The Romans had taken many towns belonging to the Etruscans, but the town of Falerii stood upon a high cliff with great ravines on each side.

"Camillus was the general in charge of the Roman army. His soldiers had gone into camp and were wondering day after day how they ever were to conquer a city built upon such a site as that.

"But one morning, while the officers were planning and the soldiers were talking, they saw a strange company making its way down the cliff and straight to the door of Camillus' tent. The company was made up of a group of boys with one man apparently in charge of them.

"When Camillus came out to greet them, the man stated that he was a schoolmaster in Falerii, and that the boys were his pupils.

"'They are sons of the foremost men of the town,' he said, 'and I have come to deliver them into your hands. For you may be sure,' he added, 'that when their fathers learn what has become of these boys, they will surrender their city to you, rather than let their sons be carried away as slaves.'"

"Oh, what a horrible schoolmaster!" exclaimed Lucius.

"Yes," said Marcus, "he thought that he would be given a great prize for his act. But Camillus was a true Roman general, and he would not stoop to anything so low as that.

"'Here,' he cried, turning to a soldier who stood near, 'tie this traitor's hands behind his back, and give every boy a rod.' Then, turning to the frightened boys, he said, 'Take the rods and drive him back to your city, and tell your fathers that I do not fight with boys. If I cannot win bravely, I will not win at all.'

"The boys did as Camillus told them, and when the men of Falerii heard Camillus' message they said, 'We are willing to surrender to so just a man as that.' And they became subjects of Rome."

"That is a fine story, Marcus," said Tullius. "I wish I had as good a memory as you. But here we are at school, and just in time, at that."