[Illustration: ROMAN ORDER OF BATTLE.]
However, the Romans, after several disasters in Sicily, gained a great victory near Panormus, capturing one hundred elephants, which were brought to Rome to be hunted by the people that they might lose their fear of them. The Carthaginians were weakened enough to desire peace, and they sent Regulus to propose it, making him swear to return if he did not succeed. He came to the outskirts of the city, but would not enter. He said he was no Roman proconsul, but the slave of Carthage. However, the Senate came out to hear him, and he gave the message, but added that the Romans ought not to accept these terms, but to stand out for much better ones, giving such reasons that the whole people was persuaded. He was entreated to remain and not meet the angry men of Carthage; but nothing would persuade him to break his word, and he went back. The Romans told dreadful stories of the treatment he met with—how his eyelids were cut off and he was put in the sunshine, and at last he was nailed up in a barrel lined with spikes and rolled down hill. Some say that this was mere report, and that Carthaginian prisoners at Rome were as savagely treated; but at any rate the constancy of Regulus has always been a proverb.
The war went on, and one of the proud Claudius family was in command at Trepanum, in Sicily, when the enemy’s fleet came in sight. Before a battle the Romans always consulted the sacred fowls that were carried with the army. Claudius was told that their augury was against a battle—they would not eat. “Then let them drink,” he cried, and threw them into the sea. His impiety, as all felt it, was punished by an utter defeat, and he killed himself to avoid an enquiry. The war went on by land and sea all over and around Sicily, till at the end of twenty-four years peace was made, just after another great sea-fight, in which Rome had the victory. She made the Carthaginians give up all they held in Sicily, restore their prisoners, make a large payment, and altogether humble their claims; thus beginning a most bitter hatred towards the conquerors, who as greatly hated and despised them. Thus ended the First Punic War.
CONQUEST OF CISALPINE GAUL.
After the end of the Punic war, Carthage fell into trouble with her hired soldiers, and did not interfere with the Romans for a long time, while they went on to arrange the government of Sicily into what they called a province, which was ruled by a propraetor for a year after his magistracy at home. The Greek kingdom of Syracuse indeed still remained as an ally of Rome, and Messina and a few other cities were allowed to choose their own magistrates and govern themselves.