[Illustration: ANCIENT ROME.]
Revenge was all that was thought of, but the difficulty was the peace to which the consuls had sworn. Posthumius said that if it was disavowed by the Senate, he, who had been driven to make it, must be given back to the Samnites. So, with his hands tied, he was taken back to the Samnite camp by a herald and delivered over; but at that moment Posthumius gave the herald a kick, crying out, “I am now a Samnite, and have insulted you, a Roman herald. This is a just cause of war.” Pontius and the Samnites were very angry, and they said it was an unworthy trick; but they did not prevent Posthumius from going safely back to the Romans, who considered him to have quite retrieved his honor.
A battle was fought, in which Pontius and 7000 men were forced to lay down their arms and pass under the yoke in their turn. The struggle between these two fierce nations lasted altogether seventy years, and the Romans had many defeats. They had other wars at the same time. They never subdued Etruria, and in the battle of Sentinum, fought with the Gauls, the consul Decius Mus, devoted himself exactly as his father had done at Vesuvius, and by his death won the victory.
The Samnite wars may be considered as ending in 290, when the chief general of Samnium, Pontius Telesimus, was made prisoner and put to death at Rome. The lands in the open country were quite subdued, but many Samnites still lived in the fastnesses of the Apennines in the south, which have ever since been the haunt of wild untamed men.
THE WAR WITH PYRRHUS.
In the Grecian History you remember that Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, the townsman of Alexander the Great, made an expedition to Italy. This was the way it came about. The city of Tarentum was a Spartan colony at the head of the gulf that bears its name. It was as proud as its parent, but had lost all the grave sternness of manners, and was as idle and fickle as the other places in that languid climate. The Tarentines first maltreated some Roman ships which put into their gulf, and then insulted the ambassador who was sent to complain. Then when the terrible Romans were found to be really coming to revenge their honor, the Tarentines took fright, and sent to beg Pyrrhus to come to their aid.
He readily accepted the invitation, and coming to Italy with 28,000 men and twenty elephants, hoped to conquer the whole country; but he found the Tarentines not to be trusted, and soon weary of entertaining him, while they could not keep their promises of aid from the other Greeks of Italy.
The Romans marched against him, and there was a great battle on the banks of the river Siris, where the fighting was very hard, but when the elephants charged the Romans broke and fled, and were only saved by nightfall from being entirely destroyed. So great, however, had been Pyrrhus’ loss that he said, “Such another victory, and I shall have to go back alone to Epirus.”