The Junior Classics
Part 1 out of 8
Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
The Junior Classics
A LIBRARY FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
[Illustration: CATHRINE DOUGLAS THRUST HER ARM THROUGH THE EMPTY
STAPLES _From the painting by J P Shelton_]
THE JUNIOR CLASSICS
SELECTED AND ARRANGED BY WILLIAM PATTEN
MANAGING EDITOR OF THE HARVARD CLASSICS
INTRODUCTION BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL. D.
PRESIDENT EMERITUS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY
WITH A READING GUIDE BY WILLIAM ALLAN NEILSON, Ph.D.
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
PRESIDENT SMITH COLLEGE, NORTHAMPTON, MASS., SINCE 1917[-1939]
Stories of Courage and Heroism
How Phidias Helped the Image-Maker _Beatrice Harraden_
The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylę _Charlotte M. Yonge_
The Bravery of Regulus _Charlotte M. Yonge_
The Rabbi Who Found the Diadem _Dr. A. S. Isaacs_
How Livia Won the Brooch _Beatrice Harraden_
Julius Cęsar Crossing the Rubicon _Jacob Abbott_
Fearless Saint Genevieve, Patron Saint of Paris _Charlotte M. Yonge_
The Boy Viking--Olaf II of Norway _E. S. Brooks_
The Boy-Heroes of Crecy and Poitiers _Treadwell Walden_
The Noble Burghers of Calais _Charlotte M. Yonge_
The Story of Joan of Arc, the Maid Who Saved France _Anonymous_
How Joan the Maid Took Largess from the English _Anonymous_
Death of Joan the Maid _Anonymous_
How Catherine Douglas Tried to Save King James of Scotland _Charlotte
The Brave Queen of Hungary _Charlotte M. Yonge_
The Story of Christopher Columbus for Little Children _Elizabeth
A Sea-Fight in the Time of Queen Bess _Charles Kingsley_
A Brave Scottish Chief _Anonymous_
The Adventure of Grizel Cochrane _Arthur Quiller-Couch_
The Sunken Treasure _Nathaniel Hawthorne_
The Lost Exiles of Texas _Arthur Oilman_
The Boy Conqueror--Charles XII of Sweden _E. S. Brooks_
The True Story of a Kidnapped Boy as Told by Himself _Peter
The Prisoner Who Would Not Stay in Prison _Anonymous_
A White Boy Among the Indians, as Told by Himself _John Tanner_
Evangeline of Acadia _Henry W. Longfellow_
Jabez Rockwell's Powder-Horn _Ralph D. Paine_
A Man Who Coveted Washington's Shoes _Frank R. Stockton._
A Famous Fight Between an English and a French Frigate _Rev. W. H.
The Trick of an Indian Spy _Arthur Quiller-Couch_
The Man in the "Auger Hole" _Frank R. Stockton._
The Remarkable Voyage of the _Bounty_ _Anonymous_
The Two Boy Hostages at the Siege of Seringapatam _Anonymous_
The Man Who Spoiled Napoleon's "Destiny" _Rev. W. H. Fitchett_
A Fire-Fighter's Rescue from the Flames _Arthur Quiller-Couch_
How Napoleon Rewarded His Men _Baron de Marbot_
A Rescue from Shipwreck _Arthur Quiller-Couch_
Rebecca the Drummer _Charles Barnard_
The Messenger _M. E. M. Davis_
Humphry Davy and the Safety-Lamp _George C. Towle_
Kit Carson's Duel _Emerson Hough_
The Story of Grace Darling _Anonymous_
The Struggles of Charles Goodyear _George C. Towle_
Old Johnny Appleseed _Elizabeth Harrison_
The Little Post-Boy _Bayard Taylor_
How June Found Massa Linkum _Elizabeth S. Phelps_
The Story of a Forest Fire _Raymond S. Spears_
CATHERINE DOUGLAS THRUST HER ARM THROUGH THE EMPTY STAPLES
How Catherine Douglas Tried to Save King James of Scotland
_Frontispiece illustration in color from the painting by J. R.
HE SHOOK HIS CLENCHED FIST AT THE OBSTRUCTED SEA-STRAIT
The Boy Viking--Olaf II of Norway
_From the drawing by Gertrude Demain Hammond_
"FIGHT ON!" CRIED THE MAID; "THE PLACE IS OURS"
The Story of Joan of Arc
_From the painting by William Rainey_
THEN HE OFFERED A FERVENT PRAYER OF THANKS
A Story of Christopher Columbus
The stories in this volume are true stories, and have been arranged
in chronological order, an arrangement that will aid the reader to
remember the times to which the stories relate.
Almost any encyclopedia can be consulted for general details of
the life stories of the interesting people whose names crowd the
volume except perhaps in the cases of Peter Williamson and John
Tanner, "The True Story of a Kidnapped Boy," and "A White Boy Among
the Indians." Peter Williamson was kidnapped in Glasgow, Scotland,
when he was eight years old, was captured by the Cherokee Indians
in 1745, and (though the story does not tell this) he returned to
England and became a prominent citizen. He first made the British
Government pay damages for his kidnapping, gave the first exhibition
in England of Indian war dances, and was the first Englishman to
publish a street directory. He was finally pensioned by the Government
for his services in establishing a penny post.
John Tanner, the son of a clergyman, was stolen by the Indians some
years later. His mother died when he was very young, his father
treated him harshly, and so when the Indians kidnapped him he made
no effort to escape. John remained among them until he was an old
man, and the story of his life, which he was obliged to dictate
to others as he could neither read nor write, was first published
about 1830. The stories of these boys are considered to be two
of the most reliable early accounts we possess of life among the
Acknowledgment for permission to include several stories included
in this volume is made in Volume X.
HOW PHIDIAS HELPED THE IMAGE-MAKER
By Beatrice Harraden
During the time when Pericles was at the head of the state at
Athens he spared no pains and no money to make the city beautiful.
He himself was a lover and patron of the arts, and he was determined
that Athens should become the very centre of art and refinement,
and that she should have splendid public buildings and splendid
sculptures and paintings. So he gathered round him all the great
sculptors and painters, and set them to work to carry out his
ambitious plans; and some of you know that the "Age of Pericles"
is still spoken of as an age in which art advanced towards and
attained to a marvellous perfection.
On the Acropolis, or Citadel of Athens, rose the magnificent
Temple of Athena, called the Parthenon, built under the direction
of Phidias, the most celebrated sculptor of that time, who adorned
it with many of his works, and especially with the huge statue of
Athena in ivory, forty-seven feet in height. The Acropolis was also
enriched with another figure of Athena in bronze--also the work of
The statue was called the "Athena Promachus"; that is "The Defender."
If you turn to your Grecian History you will find a full description
of the Parthenon and the other temples of the gods and heroes and
guardian deities of the city. But I want to tell you something
about Phidias himself, and little Iris, an image-maker's daughter.
It was in the year 450 B.C., in the early summer, and Phidias, who
had been working all the day, strolled quietly along the streets
As he passed by the Agora (or market-place), he chanced to look up,
and he saw a young girl of about thirteen years sitting near him.
Her face was of the purest beauty; her head was gracefully poised
on her shoulders; her expression was sadness itself. She looked
poor and in distress. She came forward and begged for help; and
there was something in her manner, as well as in her face, which
made Phidias pause and listen to her.
"My father lies ill," she said plaintively, "and he cannot do
his work, and so we can get no food: nothing to make him well and
strong again. If I could only do his work for him I should not mind;
and then I should not beg. He does not know I came out to beg--he
would never forgive me; but I could not bear to see him lying there
"And who is your father?" asked Phidias kindly.
"His name is Aristęus," she said, "and he is a maker of images--little
clay figures of gods and goddesses and heroes. Indeed, he is clever;
and I am sure you would praise the 'Hercules' he finished before
he was taken ill."
"Take me to your home," Phidias said to the girl; as they passed
on together he asked her many questions about the image-maker. She
was proud of her father; and Phidias smiled to himself when he heard
her speak of this father as though he were the greatest sculptor
in Athens. He liked to hear her speak so enthusiastically.
"Is it not wonderful," she said, "to take the clay and work in into
forms? Not everyone could do that--could you do it?"
"Perhaps not so well as your father," he answered kindly. "Still,
I can do it."
A sudden thought struck Iris.
"Perhaps you would help father?" she said eagerly. "Ah! but I ought
not to have said that."
"Perhaps I can help him," replied Phidias good-naturedly. "Anyway,
take me to him."
She led him through some side streets into the poorest parts of the
city, and stopped before a little window, where a few roughly-wrought
images and vases were exposed to view. She beckoned to him to follow
her, and opening the door, crept gently into a room which served
as their workshop and dwelling-place. Phidias saw a man stretched
out on a couch at the farther end of the room, near a bench where
many images and pots of all sorts lay unfinished.
"This is our home," whispered Iris proudly, "and that is my father
The image-maker looked up and called for Iris.
"I am so faint, child," he murmured. "If I could only become strong
again I could get back to my work. It is so hard to lie here and
Phidias bent over him.
"You shall not die," he said, "if money can do you any good. I met
your little daughter, and she told me that you were an image-maker;
and that interested me, because I, too, can make images, though
perhaps not as well as you. Still, I thought I should like to come
and see you and help you; and if you will let me, I will try and
make a few images for you, so that your daughter may go out and
sell them, and bring you home money. And meanwhile, she shall fetch
you some food to nourish you."
Then he turned to Iris, and putting some coins into her hands bade
her go out and bring what she thought fit. She did not know how to
thank him, but hurried away on her glad errand, and Phidias talked
kindly to his fellow-worker, and then, throwing aside his cloak,
sat down at the bench and busied himself with modelling the clay.
It was so different from his ordinary work that he could not help
"This is rather easier," he thought to himself, "than carving
from the marble a statue of Athena. What a strange occupation!"
Nevertheless, he was so interested in modelling the quaint little
images that he did not perceive that Iris had returned, until he
looked up, and saw her standing near him, watching him with wonder,
which she could not conceal.
"Oh, how clever!" she cried. "Father, if you could only see what
he is doing!"
"Nay, child," said the sculptor, laughing; "get your father his
food, and leave me to my work. I am going to model a little image
of the goddess Athena, for I think the folk will like to buy
that, since that rogue Phidias has set up his statue of her in the
"Phidias, the prince of sculptors!" said the image-maker. "May the
gods preserve his life; for he is the greatest glory of all Athens!"
"Ay," said Iris, as she prepared her father's food, "that is what
we all call him--the greatest glory of all Athens."
"We think of him," said Aristęus, feebly, "and that helps us in
our work. Yes, it helps even us poor image-makers. When I saw the
beautiful Athena I came home cheered and encouraged. May Phidias
be watched over and blessed all his life!"
The tears came into the eyes of Phidias as he bent over his work;
it was a pleasure to him to think that his fame gained for him a
resting-place of love and gratitude in the hearts of the poorest
citizens of Athens. He valued this tribute of the image-maker far
more than the praises of the rich and great. Before he left, he
saw that both father and daughter were much refreshed by the food
which his bounty had given to them, and he bade Aristęus be of good
cheer, because he would surely regain his health and strength.
"And because you love your art," he said, "I shall be a friend
to you and help you. And I shall come again to-morrow and do some
work for you--that is to say, if you approve of what I have already
done, and then Iris will be able to go out and sell the figures."
He hastened away before they were able to thank him, and he left
them wondering who this new friend could be. They talked of him
for a long time, of his kindness and his skill; and Aristęus dreamt
that night about the stranger who had come to work for him.
The next day Phidias came again, and took his place at the
image-maker's bench, just as if he were always accustomed to sit
there. Aristęus, who was better, watched him curiously, but asked
But Iris said to him: "My father and I talk of you, and wonder who
"Perhaps I shall tell you some day," he answered. "There, child,
what do you think of that little vase? When it is baked it will be
a pretty thing."
As the days went on, the image-maker recovered his strength; and
meanwhile Phidias had filled the little shop with dainty-wrought
images and graceful vases, such as had never been seen there before.
One evening, when Aristęus was leaning against Iris, and admiring
the stranger's work, the door opened and Phidias came in.
"What, friend," he said cheerily, "you are better to-night I see!"
"Last night," said Aristęus, "I dreamt that the friend who held out
a brother's hand to me and helped me in my trouble was the great
Phidias himself. It did not seem wonderful to me, for only the
great do such things as you have done for me. You must be great."
"I do not know about that," said the sculptor, smiling, "and
after all, I have not done so much for you. I have only helped
a brother-workman: for I am an image-maker too--and my name is
Then Aristęus bent down and reverently kissed the great sculptor's
"I cannot find words with which to thank you," he murmured, "but I
shall pray to the gods night and day that they will for ever bless
Phidias, and keep his fame pure, and his hands strong to fashion
forms of beauty. And this I know well: that he will always have
a resting-place of love and gratitude in the poor image-maker's
And Phidias went on his way, tenfold richer and happier for the
image-maker's words. For there is something lovelier than fame
and wealth, my children; it is the opportunity of giving the best
of one's self and the best of one's powers to aid those of our
fellow-workers who need our active help.
THE FIGHT AT THE PASS OF THERMOPYLĘ
By Charlotte M. Yonge
There was trembling in Greece. "The Great King," as the Greeks
called Xerxes, the chief ruler of the East, was marshaling his
forces against the little free states that nestled amid the rocks
and gulfs of the Eastern Mediterranean--the whole of which together
would hardly equal one province of the huge Asiatic realm! Moreover,
it was a war not only on the men but on their gods. The Persians
were zealous adorers of the sun and the fire, they abhorred the
idol-worship of the Greeks, and defiled and plundered every temple
that fell in their way. Death and desolation were almost the best
that could be looked for at such hands--slavery and torture from
cruelly barbarous masters would only too surely be the lot of
numbers, should their land fall a prey to the conquerors.
The muster place was at Sardis, and there Greek spies had seen the
multitudes assembling and the state and magnificence of the king's
attendants. Envoys had come from him to demand earth and water from
each state in Greece, as emblems that land and sea were his, but
each state was resolved to be free, and only Thessaly, that which
lay first in his path, consented to yield the token of subjugation. A
council was held at the Isthmus of Corinth, and attended by deputies
from all the states of Greece to consider of the best means of
defense. The ships of the enemy would coast round the shores of
the Ęgean Sea, the land army would cross the Hellespont on a bridge
of boats lashed together, and march southwards into Greece. The
only hope of averting the danger lay in defending such passages
as, from the nature of the ground, were so narrow that only a few
persons could fight hand to hand at once, so that courage would be
of more avail than numbers.
The first of these passes was called Tempe, and a body of troops
was sent to guard it; but they found that this was useless and
impossible, and came back again. The next was at Thermopylę. Look
in your map of the Archipelago, or Ęgean Sea, as it was then called,
for the great island of Negropont, or by its old name, Euboea. It
looks like a piece broken off from the coast, and to the north is
shaped like the head of a bird, with the beak running into a gulf,
that would fit over it, upon the main land, and between the island
and the coast is an exceedingly narrow strait. The Persian army
would have to march round the edge of the gulf. They could not cut
straight across the country, because the ridge of mountains called
Oeta rose up and barred their way. Indeed, the woods, rocks,
and precipices came down so near the seashore, that in two places
there was only room for one single wheel track between the steeps
and the impassable morass that formed the border of the gulf on
its south side. These two very narrow places were called the gates
of the pass, and were about a mile apart. There was a little more
width left in the intervening space; but in this there were a
number of springs of warm mineral water, salt and sulphurous, which
were used for the sick to bathe in, and thus the place was called
Thermopylę, or the Hot Gates. A wall had once been built across
the westernmost of these narrow places, when the Thessalians and
Phocians, who lived on either side of it, had been at war with one
another; but it had been allowed to go to decay, since the Phocians
had found out that there was a very steep narrow mountain path
along the bed of a torrent, by which it was possible to cross from
one territory to the other without going round this marshy coast
This was, therefore, an excellent place to defend. The Greek
ships were all drawn up on the further side of Euboea to prevent
the Persian vessels from getting into the strait and landing men
beyond the pass, and a division of the army was sent off to guard
the Hot Gates. The council at the Isthmus did not know of the
mountain pathway, and thought that all would be safe as long as
the Persians were kept out of the coast path.
The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities,
and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two
millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become
one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece
trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely
less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the
expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy
had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved
by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was
allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most
carefully, not merely for their strength and courage, but selecting
those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed.
These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share
of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is
even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before
they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy,
since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the
spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been
performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas
and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted
or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a
word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous
message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred
up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come
home from battle "with the shield or on it"--either carrying it
victoriously or borne upon it as a corpse.
When Leonidas came to Thermopylę, the Phocians told him of the
mountain path through the chestnut woods of Mount ta, and begged
to have the privilege of guarding it on a spot high up on the
mountain side, assuring him that it was very hard to find at the
other end, and that there was every probability that the enemy
would never discover it. He consented, and encamping around the warm
springs, caused the broken wall to be repaired, and made ready to
meet the foe.
The Persian army were seen covering the whole country like locusts,
and the hearts of some of the southern Greeks in the pass began to
sink. Their homes in the Peloponnesus were comparatively secure--had
they not better fall back and reserve themselves to defend the
Isthmus of Corinth? But Leonidas, though Sparta was safe below the
Isthmus, had no intention of abandoning his northern allies, and
kept the other Peloponnesians to their posts, only sending messengers
for further help.
Presently a Persian on horseback rode up to reconnoiter the pass. He
could not see over the wall, but in front of it and on the ramparts,
he saw the Spartans, some of them engaged in active sports, and
others in combing their long hair. He rode back to the king, and
told him what he had seen. Now Xerxes had in his camp an exiled
Spartan prince, named Demaratus, who had become a traitor to his
country, and was serving as counselor to the enemy. Xerxes sent for
him, and asked whether his countrymen were mad to be thus employed
instead of fleeing away; but Demaratus made answer that a hard fight
was no doubt in preparation, and that it was the custom of the
Spartans to array their hair with especial care when they were about
to enter upon any great peril. Xerxes would, however, not believe
that so petty a force could intend to resist him, and waited four
days, probably expecting his fleet to assist him, but as it did
not appear, the attack was made.
The Greeks, stronger men and more heavily armed, were far better
able to fight to advantage than the Persians with their short spears
and wicker shields, and beat them off with great ease. It is said
that Xerxes three times leapt off his throne in despair at the
sight of his troops being driven backwards; and thus for two days
it seemed as easy to force a way through the Spartans as through
the rocks themselves. Nay, how could slavish troops, dragged from
home to spread the victories of an ambitious king, fight like freemen
who felt that their strokes were to defend their homes and children?
That evening a wretched man, named Ephialtes, crept into the Persian
camp, and offered, for a great sum of money, to show the mountain
path that would enable the enemy to take the brave defenders in the
rear! A Persian general, named Hydarnes, was sent off at nightfall
with a detachment to secure this passage, and was guided through
the thick forests that clothed the hill-side. In the stillness of
the air, at daybreak, the Phocian guards of the path were startled
by the crackling of the chestnut leaves under the tread of many
feet. They started up, but a shower of arrows was discharged on them,
and forgetting all save the present alarm, they fled to a higher
part of the mountain, and the enemy, without waiting to pursue
them, began to descend.
As day dawned, morning light showed the watchers of the Grecian
camp below a glittering and shimmering in the torrent bed where
the shaggy forests opened; but it was not the sparkle of water, but
the shine of gilded helmets and the gleaming of silvered spears.
Moreover, a man crept over to the wall from the Persian camp
with tidings that the path had been betrayed, that the enemy were
climbing it, and would come down beyond the Eastern Gate. Still,
the way was rugged and circuitous, the Persians would hardly descend
before midday, and there was ample time for the Greeks to escape
before they could thus be shut in by the enemy.
There was a short council held over the morning sacrifice. Megistias,
the seer, on inspecting the entrails of the slain victim, declared
that their appearance boded disaster. Leonidas ordered him to
retire, but he refused, though he sent home his only son.
There was no disgrace in leaving a post that could not be held,
and Leonidas recommended all the allied troops under his command
to march away while yet the way was open. As to himself and his
Spartans, they had made up their minds to die at their post, and
there could be no doubt that the example of such a resolution would
do more to save Greece than their best efforts could ever do if
they were careful to reserve themselves for another occasion.
All the allies consented to retreat, except the eighty men who came
from Mycenę and the 700 Thespians, who declared that they would
not desert Leonidas. There were also 400 Thebans who remained; and
thus the whole number that stayed with Leonidas to confront two
million of enemies were fourteen hundred warriors, besides the helots
or attendants on the 300 Spartans, whose number is not known, but
there was probably at least one to each.
Leonidas had two kinsmen in the camp, like himself, claiming the
blood of Hercules, and he tried to save them by giving them letters
and messages to Sparta; but one answered that "he had come to fight,
not to carry letters;" and the other, that "his deeds would tell
all that Sparta wished to know." Another Spartan, named Dienices,
when told that the enemy's archers were so numerous that their arrows
darkened the sun, replied, "So much the better, we shall fight in
the shade." Two of the 300 had been sent to a neighboring village,
suffering severely from a complaint in the eyes. One of them
called Eurytus, put on his armor, and commanded his helot to lead
him to his place in the ranks; the other, called Aristodemus, was
so overpowered with illness that he allowed himself to be carried
away with the retreating allies. It was still early in the day
when all were gone, and Leonidas gave the word to his men to take
their last meal. "Tonight," he said, "we shall sup with Pluto."
Hitherto, he had stood on the defensive, and had husbanded the
lives of his men; but he now desired to make as great a slaughter
as possible, so as to inspire the enemy with dread of the Grecian
name. He therefore marched out beyond the wall, without waiting
to be attacked, and the battle began. The Persian captains went
behind their wretched troops and scourged them on to the fight
with whips! Poor wretches, they were driven on to be slaughtered,
pierced with the Greek spears, hurled into the sea, or trampled
into the mud of the morass; but their inexhaustible numbers told
at length. The spears of the Greeks broke under hard service,
and their swords alone remained; they began to fall, and Leonidas
himself was among the first of the slain. Hotter than ever was the
fight over his body, and two Persian princes, brothers of Xerxes,
were there killed; but at length word was brought that Hydarnes was
over the pass, and that the few remaining men were thus enclosed
on all sides. The Spartans and Thespians made their way to a little
hillock within the wall, resolved to let this be the place of their
last stand; but the hearts of the Thebans failed them, and they
came towards the Persians holding out their hands in entreaty for
mercy. Quarter was given to them, but they were all branded with
the king's mark as untrustworthy deserters. The helots probably
at this time escaped into the mountains; while the small desperate
band stood side by side on the hill still fighting to the last,
some with swords, others with daggers, others even with their hands
and teeth, till not one living man remained amongst them when the
sun went down. There was only a mound of slain, bristled over with
Twenty thousand Persians had died before that handful of men! Xerxes
asked Demaratus if there were many more at Sparta like these, and
was told there were 8,000. The body of the brave king was buried
where he fell, as were those of the other dead. Much envied were
they by the unhappy Aristodemus, who found himself called by no
name but the "Coward," and was shunned by all his fellow-citizens.
No one would give him fire or water, and after a year of misery,
he redeemed his honor by perishing in the forefront of the battle
of Plataea, which was the last blow that drove the Persians
ingloriously from Greece.
The Greeks then united in doing honor to the brave warriors who,
had they been better supported, might have saved the whole country
from invasion. The poet Simonides wrote the inscriptions that were
engraved upon the pillars that were set up in the pass to commemorate
this great action. One was outside the wall, where most of the
fighting had been. It seems to have been in honor of the whole
number who had for two days resisted--
"Here did four thousand men from Pelops' land
Against three hundred myriads [Footnote: A myriad consisted of ten
thousand.] bravely stand."
In honor of the Spartans was another column--
"Go, traveler, to Sparta tell
That here, obeying her, we fell."
On the little hillock of the last resistance was placed the figure
of a stone lion, in memory of Leonidas, so fitly named the lion-like,
and the names of the 300 were likewise engraven on a pillar at
Lion, pillars, and inscriptions have all long since passed away,
even the very spot itself has changed; new soil has been formed,
and there are miles of solid ground between Mount ta and the gulf,
so that the Hot Gates no longer exist. But more enduring than stone
or brass--nay, than the very battle-field itself--has been the name
of Leonidas. Two thousand three hundred years have sped since he
braced himself to perish for his country's sake in that narrow,
marshy coast road, under the brow of the wooded crags, with the
sea by his side. Since that time how many hearts have glowed, how
many arms have been nerved at the remembrance of the Pass of Thermopylę,
and the defeat that was worth so much more than a victory!
THE BRAVERY OF REGULUS
By Charlotte M. Yonge
The first wars that the Romans engaged in beyond the bounds of
Italy, were with the Carthaginians.
The first dispute between Rome and Carthage was about their
possession in the island of Sicily; and the war thus begun had
lasted eight years, when it was resolved to send an army to fight
the Carthaginians on their own shores. The army and fleet were
placed under the command of the two consuls, Lucius Manlius and
Marcus Attilius Regulus. On the way, there was a great sea-fight
with the Carthaginian fleet, and this was the first naval battle
that the Romans ever gained. It made the way to Africa free; but
the soldiers, who had never been so far from home before, murmured,
for they expected to meet not only human enemies, but monstrous
serpents, lions, elephants, asses with horns, and dog-headed monsters,
to have a scorching sun overhead, and a noisome marsh under their
feet. However, Regulus sternly put a stop to all murmurs, by
making it known that disaffection would be punished by death, and
the army safely landed, and set up a fortification at Clypea, and
plundered the whole country round. Orders here came from Rome that
Manlius should return thither, but that Regulus should remain to
carry on the war. This was a great grief to him. He was a very poor
man, with nothing of his own but a little farm of seven acres, and
the person whom he had employed to cultivate it had died in his
absence; a hired laborer had undertaken the care of it, but had
been unfaithful, and had run away with his tools and his cattle, so
that he was afraid that, unless he could return quickly, his wife
and children would starve. However, the Senate engaged to provide
for his family, and he remained, making expeditions into the country
round, in the course of which the Romans really did fall in with
a serpent, as monstrous as their imagination had depicted. It was
said to be 120 feet long, and dwelt upon the banks of the river
Bagrada, where it used to devour the Roman soldiers as they went
to fetch water. It had such tough scales that they were obliged to
attack it with their engines meant for battering city walls; and
only succeeded with much difficulty in destroying it.
The country was most beautiful, covered with fertile corn-fields
and full of rich fruit-trees, and all the rich Carthaginians had
country-houses and gardens, which were made delicious with fountains,
trees, land flowers. The Roman soldiers, plain, hardy, fierce, and
pitiless, did, it must be feared, cruel damage among these peaceful
scenes; they boasted of having sacked 300 villages, and mercy
was not yet known to them. The Carthaginian army, though strong
in horsemen and in elephants, kept upon the hills and did nothing
to save the country, and the wild desert tribes of Numidians came
rushing in to plunder what the Romans had left. The Carthaginians
sent to offer terms of peace; but Regulus, who had become uplifted
by his conquests, made such demands that the messengers remonstrated.
He answered, "Men who are good for anything should either conquer
or submit to their betters;" and he sent them rudely away, like a
stern old Roman as he was.
His merit was that he had no more mercy on himself than on others.
The Carthaginians were driven to extremity, and made horrible
offerings to Moloch, giving the little children of the noblest
families to be dropped into the fire between the brazen hands of
his statue, and grown-up people of the noblest families rushed in
of their own accord, hoping thus to propitiate their gods, and obtain
safety for their country. Their time was not yet fully come, and
a respite was granted to them. They had sent, in their distress,
to hire soldiers in Greece, and among these came a Spartan, named
Xanthippus, who at once took the command, and led the army out to
battle, with a long line of elephants ranged in front of them, and
with clouds of horsemen hovering on the wings, The Romans had not
yet learnt the best mode of fighting with elephants, namely, to
leave lanes in their columns where these huge beasts might advance
harmlessly; instead of which, the ranks were thrust and trampled
down by the creatures' bulk, and they suffered a terrible defeat;
Regulus himself was seized by the horsemen, and dragged into
Carthage, where the victors feasted and rejoiced through half the
night, and testified their thanks to Moloch by offering in his
fires the bravest of their captives.
Regulus himself was not, however, one of these victims. He was
kept a close prisoner for two years, pining and sickening in his
loneliness, while in the meantime the war continued, and at last
a victory so decisive was gained by the Romans, that the people
of Carthage were discouraged, and resolved to ask terms of peace.
They thought that no one would be so readily listened to at Rome
as Regulus, and they therefore sent him there with their envoys,
having first made him swear that he would come back to his prison
if there should neither be peace nor an exchange of prisoners. They
little knew how much more a true-hearted Roman cared for his city
than for himself--for his word than for his life.
Worn and dejected, the captive warrior came to the outside of the
gates of his own city, and there paused, refusing to enter. "I
am no longer a Roman citizen," he said; "I am but the barbarians'
slave, and the Senate may not give audience to strangers within
His wife Marcia ran out to greet him, with his two sons, but he
did not look up, and received their caresses as one beneath their
notice, as a mere slave, and he continued, in spite of all entreaty,
to remain outside the city, and would not even go to the little
farm he had loved so well.
The Roman Senate, as he would not come in to them, came out to hold
their meeting in the Campagna.
The ambassadors spoke first, then Regulus, standing up, said,
as one repeating a task, "Conscript fathers, being a slave to the
Carthaginians, I come on the part of my masters to treat with you
concerning peace, and an exchange of prisoners." He then turned to
go away with the ambassadors, as a stranger might not be present
at the deliberations of the Senate. His old friends pressed him to
stay and give his opinion as a senator who had twice been consul;
but he refused to degrade that dignity by claiming it, slave as he
was. But, at the command of his Carthaginian masters, he remained,
though not taking his seat.
Then he spoke. He told the senators to persevere in the war. He
said he had seen the distress of Carthage, and that a peace would
be only to her advantage, not to that of Rome, and therefore he
strongly advised that the war should continue. Then, as to the
exchange of prisoners, the Carthaginian generals, who were in the
hands of the Romans, were in full health and strength, whilst he
himself was too much broken down to be fit for service again, and
indeed he believed that his enemies had given him a slow poison,
and that he could not live long. Thus he insisted that no exchange
of prisoners should be made.
It was wonderful, even to Romans, to hear a man thus pleading
against himself, and their chief priest came forward, and declared
that, as his oath had been wrested from him by force, he was not
bound by it to return to his captivity. But Regulus was too noble
to listen to this for a moment. "Have you resolved to dishonor me?"
he said. "I am not ignorant that death and the extremest tortures
are preparing for me; but what are these to the shame of an infamous
action, or the wounds of a guilty mind? Slave as I am to Carthage,
I have still the spirit of a Roman. I have sworn to return. It is
my duty to go; let the gods take care of the rest."
The Senate decided to follow the advice of Regulus, though they
bitterly regretted his sacrifice. His wife wept and entreated in
vain that they would detain him; they could merely repeat their
permission to him to remain; but nothing could prevail with him
to break his word, and he turned back to the chains and death he
expected as calmly as if he had been returning to his home. This
was in the year B.C. 249.
"Let the gods take care of the rest," said the Roman; the gods whom
alone he knew, and through whom he ignorantly worshiped the true
God, whose Light was shining out even in this heathen's truth and
constancy. How his trust was fulfilled is not known. The Senate,
after the next victory, gave two Carthaginian generals to his
wife and sons to hold as pledges for his good treatment; but when
tidings arrived that Regulus was dead, Marcia began to treat them
both with savage cruelty, though one of them assured her that he
had been careful to have her husband well used. Horrible stories
were told that Regulus had been put out in the sun with his eyelids
cut off, rolled down a hill in a barrel with spikes, killed by
being constantly kept awake, or else crucified. Marcia seems to have
heard, and perhaps believed in these horrors, and avenged them on
her unhappy captives till one had died, and the Senate sent for
her sons and severely reprimanded them. They declared it was their
mother's doing, not theirs, and thenceforth were careful of the
comfort of the remaining prisoner.
It may thus be hoped that the frightful tale of Regulus' sufferings
was but formed by report acting on the fancy of a vindictive woman,
and that Regulus was permitted to die in peace of the disease brought
on far more probably by the climate and imprisonment, than by the
poison to which he ascribed it. It is not the tortures he may have
endured that make him one of the noblest characters of history,
but the resolution that would neither let him save himself at the
risk of his country's prosperity, nor forfeit the word that he had
THE RABBI WHO FOUND THE DIADEM
Translated from the Talmud by Dr. A. S. Isaacs
Great was the alarm in the palace of Rome, which soon spread throughout
the entire city. The empress had lost her costly diadem, and it
could not be found. They searched in every direction, but all in
vain. Half distracted, for the mishap boded no good to her or her
house, the empress redoubled her exertions to regain her precious
possession, but without result. As a last resource it was proclaimed
in the public streets: "The empress has lost a precious diadem.
Whoever restores it within thirty days shall receive a princely
reward. But he who delays, and brings it after thirty days, shall
lose his head."
In those times all nationalities flocked toward Rome; all classes
and creeds could be met in its stately halls and crowded thoroughfares.
Among the rest was a rabbi, a learned sage from the East, who loved
goodness, and lived a righteous life in the stir and turmoil of
the Western world. It chanced one night as he was strolling up and
down, in busy meditation, beneath the clear, moonlit sky, he saw
the diadem sparkling at his feet. He seized it quickly, brought
it to his dwelling, where he guarded it carefully until the thirty
days had expired, when he resolved to return it to the owner.
He proceeded to the palace, and, undismayed at sight of long lines
of soldiery and officials, asked for an audience with the empress.
"What dost thou mean by this?" she inquired, when he told her his
story and gave her the diadem. "Why didst thou delay until this
hour? Dost thou know the penalty? Thy head must be forfeited."
"I delayed until now," the rabbi answered calmly, "so that thou
mightst know that I return thy diadem, not for the sake of the
reward, still less out of fear of punishment; but solely to comply
with the Divine command not to withhold from another the property
which belongs to him."
"Blessed be thy God!" the empress answered, and dismissed the rabbi
without further reproof; for had he not done right for right's
HOW LIVIA WON THE BROOCH
By Beatrice Harraden
It was the day before the public games in Rome, in the year 123
B.C., and a tall man of magnificent appearance and strength was
standing outside the Temple of Hercules, talking to a young girl
whose face bore some resemblance to his own. The people passing by
looked at them, and said, half aloud, "There stands the gladiator
Naevus. I wonder how he will bear himself in the Public Games on
And another man, who was talking eagerly with his companion, stopped
when he caught sight of the gladiator (who was a well-known figure
in Rome), and said, in a loud voice, "That is the man I told you
about, Fabricius. A fine fellow, is he not? To-morrow he will fight
with the new hero, Lucius And, of course, he will be victorious,
as usual. If he disappoints my hopes, I shall lose a great deal of
"You have plenty to spare!" laughed his friend, as they passed on
The gladiator did not take the slightest notice of any remarks
which were made about him; indeed, it was doubtful whether he heard
them, being engaged in earnest conversation with the young girl,
"Do not be anxious about me, Marcella," he said, seeing that the
tears were falling from her eyes. "I shall be victorious, as I have
always been, and then, child, I shall buy your freedom, together
with my own, and we shall leave Rome, and return to Sicily."
"Nay, father," she answered, between her sobs, "I never doubted
your strength, but my heart is full of fears for you; and yet I
am proud when I hear every one praising you. Last night my master
Claudius gave a great banquet, and when I came to hand round the
ewer of rose-water, I heard the guests say that Naevus was the
strongest and finest gladiator that Rome had ever known. My master
Claudius and two of the guests praised the new man Lucius, but the
others would not hear a word in his favour."
The gladiator smiled.
"You shall be proud of me to-morrow, Marcella," he said, "I have
just been offering up my prayers to the god Hercules; and in the
name of Hercules I promise you, child, that I shall conquer the new
man Lucius, and that to-morrow's combat shall be my last fight. So
you may go home in peace. You look tired, child. Ah! it is a bitter
thing to be a slave! But courage, Marcella; a few days more of
slavery, and then we shall be free. For this end I have fought in
the arena; and this hope has given me strength and skill."
She took from her neck a piece of fine cord, to which was attached
a tiny stone. She put it in his great hand.
"Father," she said pleadingly, "the Greek physician gave this to
me. He told me it was an Eastern charm to keep the lives of those
who wore it. Will you wear it on the morrow?"
He laughingly assented, and the two walked together as far as the
Forum, where they parted.
But Marcella was not proud any more; she was sad.
She had had many a dream of freedom, but she would have gladly
given up all chances of realizing that dream, if only to feel that
her father's life was not in danger. She would have gladly been a
slave ten times over rather than that he should risk his life in
those fearful contests.
Marcella, who was a slave in the house of Claudius Flaccus, a great
Roman noble, now hastened home to her duties. Her little mistress
Livia, Claudius' only daughter, wondered to see her looking so pale
"Why, you should be glad like I am, Marcella," she cried, as she
showed the slave-maiden the necklace of pearls that she had just
finished stringing. "See, Marcella! I shall wear these to-morrow
when we go to the Circus Maximus. And what do you think? My father
has promised me a brooch of precious stones if the new gladiator,
Lucius, is successful to-morrow. Oh, how I hope he will be!"
Marcella tried to restrain her tears, but it was of no avail. She
threw herself on the couch, and buried her face in the soft cushions,
and wept as if her heart would break. Her little mistress Livia
bent over her, and tried to comfort her.
"Marcella," she whispered, "it was unkind of me to say that. I
forgot about your father. Please forgive me, Marcella, for I do love
you, although you are only a slave. And I do not want the brooch;
I should not like to wear it now. Please, Marcella, do not cry any
The slave raised her head and smiled through her tears.
"You did not mean to be unkind, dear little mistress," she said, as
she kissed the hand which had been caressing her own golden hair.
"I am sure you did not mean to be unkind; but I am in great trouble,
and I have just said 'Good-bye' to my father, and I can think of
no one else but him. When those we love are in danger we cannot
help being anxious, can we?"
At that moment the curtains were drawn aside, and Claudius himself
came into the beautiful apartment. Livia ran to greet him; she
was a child of ten years old, bright and winning in her ways, in
beauty and bearing every inch the child of a patrician. She was
dressed in soft silk of dark purple.
"I do not want the brooch," she said, as she put up her face to be
kissed. "I want Marcella's father to be victorious to-morrow."
"What has Marcella's father got to do with you, little one?" he
asked roughly. "Neither he nor she is anything to you, a patrician's
daughter. Slaves both of them! Let me hear no more of them. And as
for the brooch, it shall be a handsome one."
But when he had gone Livia turned to the slave and said, "I shall
never wear that brooch, Marcella."
So the day wore into the night, and all through the night Marcella
lay awake, wondering what the morrow would bring forth. When at
last she fell asleep she dreamed that she was in the Circus Maximus
watching her father, who was fighting with a new gladiator. She saw
her father fall. She heard the cries of the populace. She herself,
a girl of fourteen summers, sprang up to help him. And then she
"Ah, it was only a dream!" she cried, with a sigh of relief. "Father
will win the fight to-morrow, and then he will buy his own freedom
and mine, too."
It was a beautiful day for the Public Games. People had come from
all parts of the country, and the streets of Rome were crowded with
all manner of folk.
The AEdile whose duty it was to arrange the Public Games had
provided a very costly entertainment, and great excitement prevailed
everywhere to know the issue of the contest between the gladiators
Naevus and Lucius. It was a wonderful sight to see the Circus
Maximus crowded with the rich and luxurious patrician nobles and
ladies arid their retinues of slaves, and the poorer classes, all
bent on amusing themselves on this great public festival.
No doubt, amongst all those masses there were many anxious hearts, but
none so anxious as that of the slave-girl Marcella. She sat behind
her little mistress, eagerly expectant. At last a peal of trumpets
and a clash of cymbals, accompanied by some wild kind of music,
announced that the performance was about to begin. The folding-doors
under the archway were flung open, and the gladiators marched in
slowly, two by two. In all the pride of their strength and bearing
they walked once round the arena, and then they stepped aside to
wait until their turn came. The performance began with some fights
between animals; for at the time of which we are speaking the
Romans had learned to love this cruel bloodshed, and had learned
to despise the less exciting, if more manly, trials of strength in
which their ancestors had delighted. When this part of the cruel
amusement was over the trumpets again sounded, and the gladiators
made ready for their contest. Then it was that Marcella's heart
beat wildly with fear. She saw her father advance together with the
other gladiator; she saw their swords flash; she heard the people
around her call out the name now of Naevus, and now of Lucius; she
heard one near her say:
"He of the red scarf will prove the stronger mark my words."
Marcella's father wore the red scarf,
"Nay, nay," answered the speaker's companion. "He of the green
scarf will win the day."
It was all that Marcella could do to prevent herself from saying,
"The gladiator with the red scarf will prove the stronger--he must
prove the stronger."
She sat spell-bound, watching for the event of the contest, which
had now begun between the two in real earnest. The people encouraged
now the one and now the other. At this moment it seemed probable
that the new man, Lucius, would be the winner; at that moment the
tide had turned in the favour of Naevus. But suddenly there was a
loud cry, for Lucius had felled Naevus to the ground, and now stood
over him with his sword ready for use, waiting to learn from the
populace whether the favourite gladiator was to be spared or killed.
The slave-girl Marcella had risen from her seat.
"That is my father," she cried; "spare him--spare him!"
But no one heard her or noticed her, and the signal for mercy was
not shown; on the contrary, the thumbs of thousands of hands pointed
upwards; and that meant that the vanquished man, who had been
the hero of so many contests, having now failed of his accustomed
valour, was to die. So Lucius gave him a thrust with his sword,
and he died while he was being carried away from the arena.
"You have won your brooch, little daughter," laughed Claudius, as
he bent over and fondled Livia's hair. "And it shall be a costly
brooch, worthy of a patrician's daughter."
But Livia's eyes were full of tears,
"I could never wear it," she sobbed; "I should always be thinking
of Marcella's father."
Poor Marcella! and she thought the little charm which he had worn
for her sake would preserve his life. Ah! it was cruel to think
that she would never see him again, and that all their hopes of
freedom and their plans for the future had ended. Well might she
That was hundreds of years ago, you know, but still the same story
goes on, and all through the centuries sorrow comes to us, just as
we think we are grasping happiness, and we have to be brave and bear
that sorrow. But sometimes we are helped by friends, even as Livia
helped Marcella. For she did help her; she loved her as a sister,
and treated her as such. And as time went on the little patrician
lady claimed a gift from her father Claudius, a gift which was far
more costly than any brooch--it was the freedom of the Sicilian
slave Marcella, the gladiator's daughter.
JULIUS CĘSAR CROSSING THE RUBICON
By Jacob Abbott
There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy,
which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon.
This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are
now about to describe.
The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself
so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine
which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea
is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a
grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued
interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it
is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined,
and finally lost.
The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that
it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy
which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and
most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern
Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in
those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It
belonged now to Cęsar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul.
All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate
jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves
from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the
immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations,
had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions
in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The
Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding
in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army
on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon
became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction
to military power.
As Cęsar found the time of his service in Gaul drawing toward
a conclusion, he turned his thoughts more and more toward Rome,
endeavoring to strengthen his interest there by every means in his
power, and to circumvent and thwart the designs of Pompey. He had
agents and partisans in Rome who acted for him and in his name. He
sent immense sums of money to these men, to be employed in such ways
as would most tend to secure the favor of the people. He ordered
the Forum to be rebuilt with great magnificence. He arranged great
celebrations, in which the people were entertained with an endless
succession of games, spectacles, and public feasts. When his
daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, died, he celebrated her funeral with
indescribable splendor. He distributed corn in immense quantities
among the people, and he sent a great many captives home, to be
trained as gladiators to fight in the theatres for their amusement.
In many cases, too, where he found men of talents and influence among
the populace, who had become involved in debt by their dissipations
and extravagance, he paid their debts, and thus secured their
influence on his side. Men were astounded at the magnitude of
these expenditures, and, while the multitude rejoiced thoughtlessly
in the pleasures thus provided for them, the more reflecting and
considerate trembled at the greatness of the power which was so
rapidly rising to overshadow the land.
It increased their anxiety to observe that Pompey was gaining the
same kind of influence and ascendency, too. He had not the advantage
which Cęsar enjoyed in the prodigious wealth obtained from the rich
countries over which Cęsar ruled, but he possessed, instead of it,
the advantage of being all the time at Rome, and of securing, by
his character and action there, a very wide personal popularity
and influence. Pompey was, in fact, the idol of the people. At one
time, when he was absent from Rome, at Naples, he was taken sick.
After being for some days in considerable danger, the crisis passed
favorably, and he recovered. Some of the people of Naples proposed
a public thanksgiving to the gods, to celebrate his restoration to
health. The plan was adopted by acclamation, and the example thus
set extended from city to city, until it had spread throughout
Italy, and the whole country was filled with processions, games,
shows, and celebrations, which were instituted everywhere in honor
of the event. And when Pompey returned from Naples to Rome the
towns on the way could not afford room for the crowds that came
forth to meet him. The high roads, the villages, the ports, says
Plutarch, were filled with sacrifices and entertainments. Many
received him with garlands on their heads and torches in their hands,
and, as they conducted him along, strewed the way with flowers.
In fact, Pompey considered himself as standing far above Cęsar in
fame and power, and this general burst of enthusiasm and applause
educed by his recovery from sickness confirmed him in this idea.
He felt no solicitude, he said, in respect to Cęsar. He should take
no special precautions against any hostile designs which he might
entertain on his return from Gaul. It was he himself, he said, that
had raised Cęsar up to whatever of elevation he had attained, and
he could put him down even more easily than he had exalted him.
In the meantime, the period was drawing near in which Cęsar's command
in the provinces was to expire; and, anticipating the struggle
with Pompey which was about to ensue, he conducted several of his
legions through the passes of the Alps and advanced gradually,
as he had a right to do, across the country of the Po toward the
Rubicon, revolving in his capacious mind, as he came, the various
plans by which he might hope to gain the ascendency over the power
of his mighty rival and make himself supreme.
He concluded that it would be his wisest policy not to attempt to
intimidate Pompey by great and open preparations for war, which
might tend to arouse him to vigorous measures of resistance, but
rather to cover and conceal his designs, and thus throw his enemy
off his guard. He advanced, therefore, toward the Rubicon with a
small force. He established his headquarters at Ravenna, a city
not far from the river, and employed himself in objects of local
interest there in order to avert as much as possible the minds
of the people from imagining that he was contemplating any great
design. Pompey sent to him to demand the return of a certain legion
which he had lent him from his own army at a time when they were
friends. Cęsar complied with this demand without any hesitation,
and sent the legion home. He sent with this legion, also, some
other troops which were properly his own, thus evincing a degree of
indifference in respect to the amount of the force retained under
his command which seemed wholly inconsistent with the idea that he
contemplated any resistance to the authority of the government at
In the meantime, the struggle at Rome between the partisans of
Cęsar and Pompey grew more and more violent and alarming. Cęsar,
through his friends in the city, demanded to be elected consul.
The other side insisted that he must first, if that was his wish,
resign the command of his army, come to Rome, and present himself
as a candidate in the character of a private citizen. This the
constitution of the state very properly required. In answer to
this requisition, Cęsar rejoined that, if Pompey would lay down
his military commands, he would do so too; if not, it was unjust to
require it of him. The services, he added, which he had performed
for his country demanded some recompense, which, moreover, they
ought to be willing to award even if in order to do it it were
necessary to relax somewhat in his favor the strictness of ordinary
rules. To a large part of the people of the city these demands
of Cęsar appeared reasonable. They were clamorous to have them
allowed. The partisans of Pompey, with the stern and inflexible
Cato at their head, deemed them wholly inadmissible and contended
with the most determined violence against them. The whole city was
filled with the excitement of this struggle, into which all the
active and turbulent spirits of the capital plunged with the most
furious zeal, while the more considerate and thoughtful of the
population, remembering the days of Marius and Sylla, trembled
at the impending danger. Pompey himself had no fear. He urged the
Senate to resist to the utmost all of Cęsar's claims, saying if Cęsar
should be so presumptuous as to attempt to march to Rome he could
raise troops enough by stamping with his foot to put him down.
It would require a volume to contain a full account of the disputes
and tumults, the manoeuvres and debates, the votes and decrees,
which marked the successive stages of this quarrel. Pompey himself
was all the time without the city. He was in command of an army
there, and no general, while in command, was allowed to come within
the gates. At last an exciting debate was broken up in the Senate
by one of the consuls rising to depart, saying that he would hear
the subject discussed no longer. The time had arrived for action,
and he should send a commander, with an armed force, to defend the
country from Cęsar's threatened invasion. Cęsar's leading friends,
two tribunes of the people, disguised themselves as slaves and
fled to the north to join their master. The country was filled with
commotion and panic. The Commonwealth had obviously more fear of
Cęsar than confidence in Pompey. The country was full of rumors in
respect to Cęsar's power, and the threatening attitude which he was
assuming, while they who had insisted on resistance seemed, after
all, to have provided very inadequate means with which to resist.
A thousand plans were formed, and clamorously insisted upon by
their respective advocates, for averting the danger. This only
added to the confusion, and the city became at length pervaded with
a universal terror.
While this was the state of things at Rome, Cęsar was quietly
established at Ravenna, thirty or forty miles from the frontier.
He was erecting a building for a fencing school there, and his mind
seemed to be occupied very busily with the plans and models of the
edifice which the architects had formed. Of course, in his intended
march to Rome, his reliance was not to be so much on the force
which he should take with him, as on the cooperation and support
which he expected to find there. It was his policy, therefore,
to move as quietly and privately as possible, and with as little
display of violence, and to avoid everything which might indicate
his intended march to any spies which might be around him, or to any
other persons who might be disposed to report what they observed,
at Rome. Accordingly, on the very eve of his departure, he busied
himself with his fencing school, and assumed with his officers and
soldiers a careless and unconcerned air, which prevented any one
from suspecting his design.
In the course of the day, he privately sent forward some cohorts
to the southward, with orders for them to encamp on the banks of
the Rubicon. When night came, he sat down to supper as usual and
conversed with his friends in his ordinary manner, and went with
them afterward to a public entertainment. As soon as it was dark
and the streets were still, he set off secretly from the city,
accompanied by a very few attendants. Instead of making use of
his ordinary equipage, the parading of which would have attracted
attention to his movements, he had some mules taken from a neighboring
bakehouse and harnessed into his chaise. There were torch-bearers
provided to light the way. The cavalcade drove on during the
night, finding, however, the hasty preparations which had been made
inadequate for the occasion. The torches went out, the guides lost
their way, and the future conqueror of the world wandered about
bewildered and lost, until, just after break of day, the party met
with a peasant who undertook to guide them. Under his direction they
made their way to the main road again, and advanced then without
further difficulty to the banks of the river, where they found
that portion of the army which had been sent forward encamped and
awaiting their arrival.
Cęsar stood for some time upon the banks of the stream, musing upon
the greatness of the undertaking in which simply passing across it
would involve him. His officers stood by his side. "We can retreat
_now_" said he, "but once across that river, we must go on."
He paused for some time, conscious of the vast importance of the
decision, though he thought only, doubtless, of its consequences to
himself. Taking the step which was now before him would necessarily
end either in his realizing the loftiest aspirations of his ambition,
or in his utter and irreparable ruin.
There were vast public interests, too, at stake, of which, however,
he probably thought but little. It proved, in the end, that
the history of the whole Roman world, for several centuries, was
depending upon the manner in which the question now in Cęsar's mind
There was a little bridge across the Rubicon at the point where
Cęsar was surveying it. While he was standing there, the story
is, a peasant or shepherd came from the neighboring fields with
a shepherd's pipe--a simple musical instrument made of a reed and
used much by the rustic musicians of those days. The soldiers and
some of the officers gathered around him to hear him play. Among
the rest came some of Cęsar's trumpeters, with their trumpets in
their hands. The shepherd took one of these martial instruments
from the hands of its possessor, laying aside his own, and began
to sound a charge--which is a signal for a rapid advance--and to
march at the same time over the bridge. "An omen! a prodigy!" said
Cęsar. "Let us march where we are called by such a divine intimation.
_The die is cast._"
So saying, he pressed forward over the bridge, while the officers,
breaking up the encampment, put the columns in motion to follow
It was shown abundantly, on many occasions in the course of Cęsar's
life, that he had no faith in omens. There are equally numerous
instances to show that he was always ready to avail himself of the
popular belief in them, to awaken his soldiers' ardor or to allay
their fears. Whether, therefore, in respect to this story of the
shepherd trumpeter it was an incident that really and accidently
occurred, or whether Cęsar planned and arranged it himself, with
reference to its effect, or whether, which is, perhaps, after all,
the most probable supposition, the tale was only an embellishment
invented out of something or nothing by the story-tellers of those
days to give additional dramatic interest to the narrative of the
crossing of the Rubicon, it must be left for each reader to decide.
As soon as the bridge was crossed, Cęsar called an assembly of his
troops, and, with signs of great excitement and agitation, made an
address to them on the magnitude of the crisis through which they
were passing. He showed them how entirely he was in their power; he
urged them, by the most eloquent appeals, to stand by him, faithful
and true, promising them the most ample rewards when he should have
attained the object at which he aimed. The soldiers responded to
this appeal with promises of the most unwavering fidelity.
The first town on the Roman side of the Rubicon was Ariminum.
Cęsar advanced to this town. The authorities opened its gates to
him--very willing, as it appeared, to receive him as their commander.
Cęsar's force was yet quite small, as he had been accompanied by
only a single legion in crossing the river. He had, however, sent
orders for the other legions, which had been left in Gaul, to join
him without any delay, though any reinforcement of his troops seemed
hardly necessary, as he found no indications of opposition to his
progress. He gave his soldiers the strictest injunctions to do no
injury to any property, public or private, as they advanced, and
not to assume, in any respect, a hostile attitude toward the people
of the country. The inhabitants, therefore, welcomed him wherever
he came, and all the cities and towns followed the example of
Ariminum, surrendering, in fact, faster than he could take possession
In the confusion of the debates and votes in the Senate at Rome
before Cęsar crossed the Rubicon, one decree had been passed deposing
him from his command of the army and appointing a successor. The
name of the general thus appointed was Domitius. The only real
opposition which Cęsar encountered in his progress toward Rome
was from him. Domitius had crossed the Apennines at the head of an
army on his way northward to supersede Cęsar in his command, and
had reached the town of Corfinium, which was perhaps one third of
the way between Rome and the Rubicon. Cęsar advanced upon him here
and shut him in.
After a brief siege the city was taken, and Domitius and his army
were made prisoners. Everybody gave them up for lost, expecting
that Cęsar would wreak terrible vengeance upon them. Instead of
this, he received the troops at once into his own service and let
Domitius go free.
In the meantime, the tidings of Cęsar's having passed the Rubicon,
and of the triumphant success which he was meeting with at the
commencement of his march toward Rome, reached the capital, and
added greatly to the prevailing consternation. The reports of the
magnitude of his force and of the rapidity of his progress were
greatly exaggerated. The party of Pompey and the Senate had done
everything to spread among the people the terror of Cęsar's name
in order to arouse them to efforts for opposing his designs; and
now, when he had broken through the barriers which had been intended
to restrain him and was advancing toward the city in an unchecked
and triumphant career, they were overwhelmed with dismay. Pompey
began to be terrified at the danger which was impending. The Senate
held meetings without the city--councils of war, as it were, in
which they looked to Pompey in vain for protection from the danger
which he had brought upon them. He had said that he could raise
an army sufficient to cope with Cęsar at any time by stamping with
his foot. They told him they thought now that it was high time for
him to stamp.
In fact, Pompey found the current setting everywhere strongly against
him. Some recommended that commissioners should be sent to Cęsar
to make proposals for peace. The leading men, however, knowing that
any peace made with him under such circumstances would be their
own ruin, resisted and defeated the proposal. Cato abruptly left
the city and proceeded to Sicily, which had been assigned him as
his province. Others fled in other directions. Pompey himself,
uncertain what to do, and not daring to remain, called upon all
his partisans to join him, and set off at night, suddenly, and with
very little preparation and small supplies, to retreat across the
country toward the shores of the Adriatic Sea. His destination was
Brundusium, the usual port of embarkation for Macedon and Greece.
Cęsar was all this time gradually advancing toward Rome. His soldiers
were full of enthusiasm in his cause. As his connection with the
government at home was sundered the moment he crossed the Rubicon,
all supplies of money and of provisions were cut off in that quarter
until he should arrive at the capital and take possession of it.
The soldiers voted, however, that they would serve him without pay.
The officers, too, assembled together and tendered him the aid of
their contributions. He had always observed a very generous policy
in his dealings with them, and he was now greatly gratified at
receiving their requital of it.
The further he advanced, too, the more he found the people of the
country through which he passed disposed to espouse his cause. They
were struck with his generosity in releasing Domitius. It is true
that it was a very sagacious policy that prompted him to release
him. But, then, it was generosity too. In fact, there must be
something of a generous spirit in the soul to enable a man even to
see the policy of generous actions.
Among the letters of Cęsar that remain to the present day, there
is one written about this time to one of his friends, in which he
speaks of this subject. "I am glad," says he, "that you approve of
my conduct at Corfinium. I am satisfied that such a course is the
best one for us to pursue, as by so doing we shall gain the good
will of all parties, and thus secure a permanent victory. Most
conquerors have incurred the hatred of mankind by their cruelties,
and have all, in consequence of the enmity they have thus awakened,
been prevented from long enjoying their power. Sylla was an exception;
but his example of successful cruelty I have no disposition to
imitate. I will conquer after a new fashion, and fortify myself in
the possession of the power I acquire by generosity and mercy."
Domitius had the ingratitude, after this release, to take up arms
again, and wage a new war against Cęsar. When Cęsar heard of it he
said it was all right. "I will act out the principles of my nature,"
said he, "and he may act out his."
Another instance of Cęsar's generosity occurred which is even more
remarkable than this. It seems that among the officers of his
army there were some whom he had appointed at the recommendation
of Pompey, at the time when he and Pompey were friends. These men
would, of course, feel under obligations of gratitude to Pompey
as they owed their military rank to his friendly interposition in
their behalf. As soon as the war broke out Cęsar gave them all his
free permission to go over to Pompey's side if they chose to do
Caesar acted thus very liberally in all respects. He surpassed
Pompey very much in the spirit of generosity and mercy with which
he entered upon the great contest before them. Pompey ordered every
citizen to join his standard, declaring that he should consider
all neutrals as his enemies. Cęsar, on the other hand, gave free
permission to every one to decline, if he chose, taking any part
in the contest, saying that he should consider all who did not act
against him as his friends. In the political contests of our day it
is to be observed that the combatants are much more prone to imitate
the bigotry of Pompey than the generosity of Cęsar, condemning, as
they often do, those who choose to stand aloof from electioneering
struggles, more than they do their most determined opponents and
When, at length, Cęsar arrived at Brundusium, he found that Pompey
had sent a part of his army across the Adriatic into Greece and was
waiting for the transports to return that he might go over himself
with the remainder. In the meantime, he had fortified himself
strongly in the city. Cęsar immediately laid siege to the place,
and he commenced some works to block up the mouth of the harbor. He
built piers on each side, extending out as far into the sea as the
depth of the water would allow them to be built. He then constructed
a series of rafts, which he anchored on the deep water, in a line
extending from one pier to the other. He built towers upon these
rafts, and garrisoned them with soldiers, in hopes by this means
to prevent all egress from the fort. He thought that, when this
work was completed, Pompey would be entirely shut in, beyond all
possibility of escape.
The transports, however, returned before the work was completed.
Its progress was, of course, slow, as the constructions were the
scene of a continued conflict; for Pompey sent out rafts and galleys
against them every day, and the workmen had thus to build in the
midst of continual interruptions, sometimes from showers of darts,
arrows, and javelins, sometimes from the conflagrations of fireships,
and sometimes from the terrible concussions of great vessels of
war, impelled with prodigious force against them. The transports
returned, therefore, before the defences were complete, and contrived
to get into the harbor. Pompey immediately formed his plan for
embarking the remainder of his army.
He filled the streets of the city with barricades and pitfalls
excepting two streets which led to the place of embarkation. The
object of these obstructions was to embarrass Cęsar's progress
through the city in case he should force an entrance while his
men were getting on board the ships. He then, in order to divert
Cęsar's attention from his design, doubled the guards stationed upon
the walls on the evening of his intended embarkation, and ordered
them to make vigorous attacks upon all Cęsar's forces outside. Then,
when the darkness came on, he marched his troops through the two
streets which had been left open to the landing-place, and got them
as fast as possible on board the transports. Some of the people of
the town contrived to make known to Cęsar's army what was going on,
by means of signals from the walls; the army immediately brought
scaling ladders in great numbers, and, mounting the walls with great
ardor and impetuosity, they drove all before them, and soon broke
open the gates and got possession of the city. But the barricades
and pitfalls, together with the darkness, so embarrassed their
movements that Pompey succeeded in completing his embarkation and
Cęsar had no ships in which to follow. He returned to Rome. He met,
of course, with no opposition. He re-established the government
there, organized the Senate anew, and obtained supplies of corn
from the public granaries and of money from the city treasury in
the capital. In going to the Capitoline Hill after this treasure,
he found the officer who had charge of the money stationed there
to defend it. He told Cęsar that it was contrary to law for him to
enter. Cęsar said that, for men with swords in their hands, there
was no law. The officer still refused to admit him. Cęsar then
told him to open the doors or he would kill him on the spot. "And
you must understand," he added, "that it will be easier for me to
do it than it has been to say it." The officer resisted no longer,
and Cęsar went in.
After this, Cęsar spent some time in vigorous campaigns in Italy,
Spain, Sicily, and Gaul, wherever there was manifested any opposition
to his sway. When this work was accomplished, and all these countries
were completely subjected to his dominion, he began to turn his
thoughts to the plan of pursuing Pompey across the Adriatic Sea.
FEARLESS SAINT GENEVIEVE, PATRON SAINT OF PARIS
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Four hundred years of the Roman dominion had entirely tamed the once
wild and independent Gauls. Everywhere, except in the moorlands of
Brittany, they had become as much like Romans themselves as they
could accomplish; they had Latin names, spoke the Latin tongue, all
their personages of higher rank were enrolled as Roman citizens,
their chief cities were colonies where the laws were administered
by magistrates in the Roman fashion, and the houses, dress, and
amusements were the same as those of Italy. The greater part of
the towns had been converted to Christianity, though some paganism
still lurked in the more remote villages and mountainous districts.
It was upon these civilized Gauls that the terrible attacks came
from the wild nations who poured out of the center and east of
Europe. The Franks came over the Rhine and its dependent rivers,
and made furious attacks upon the peaceful plains, where the Gauls
had long lived in security, and reports were everywhere heard
of villages harried by wild horsemen, with short double-headed
battle-axes, and a horrible short pike covered with iron and with
several large hooks, like a gigantic artificial minnow, and like
it fastened to a long rope, so that the prey which it had grappled
might be pulled up to the owner. Walled cities usually stopped them,
but every farm or villa outside was stripped of its valuables, set
on fire, the cattle driven off, and the more healthy inhabitants
seized for slaves.
It was during this state of things that a girl was born to a wealthy
peasant at the village now called Nanterre, about two miles from
Lutetia, which was already a prosperous city, though not as yet so
entirely the capital as it was destined to become under the name of
Paris. She was christened by an old Gallic name, probably Gwenfrewi,
or White Stream, in Latin Genovefa, but she is best known by the late
French form of Genevieve. When she was about seven years old, two
celebrated bishops passed through the village, Germanus, of Auxerre,
and Lupus, of Troyes, who had been invited to Britain to dispute
the false doctrines of Pelagius. All the inhabitants flocked into
the church to see them, pray with them, and receive their blessing;
and here the sweet childish devotion of Geneviéve so struck Germanus,
that he called her to him, talked to her, made her sit beside him
at the feast, gave her his special blessing, and presented her
with a copper medal with a cross engraven upon it. From that time
the little maiden always deemed herself especially consecrated to
the service of Heaven, but she still remained at home, daily keeping
her father's sheep, and spinning their wool as she sat under the
trees watching them, but always with her heart full of prayer.
After this St. Germanus proceeded to Britain, and there encouraged
his converts to meet the heathen Picts at Maes Garmon, in Flintshire,
where the exulting shout of the white-robed catechumens turned to
flight the wild superstitious savages of the north,--and the Hallelujah
victory was gained without a drop of bloodshed. He never lost sight
of Genevičve, the little maid whom he had so early distinguished
for her piety.
After she lost her parents she went to live with her godmother,
and continued the same simple habits, leading a life of sincere
devotion and strict self-denial, constant prayer and much charity
to her poorer neighbors.
In the year 451 the whole of Gaul was in the most dreadful state
of terror at the advance of Attila, the savage chief of the Huns,
who came from the banks of the Danube with a host of savages
of hideous features, scarred and disfigured to render them more
frightful. The old enemies, the Goths and the Franks, seemed like
friends compared with these formidable beings, whose cruelties
were said to be intolerable, and of whom every exaggerated story
was told that could add to the horrors of the miserable people who
lay in their path. Tidings came that this "Scourge of God," as
Attila called himself, had passed the Rhine, destroyed Tongres and
Metz, and was in full march for Paris. The whole country was in the
utmost terror. Every one seized their most valuable possessions,
and would have fled; but Genevičve placed herself on the only bridge
across the Seine, and argued with them, assuring them, in a strain
that was afterwards thought of as prophetic, that, if they would
pray, repent, and defend instead of abandoning their homes, God
would protect them. They were at first almost ready to stone her
for thus withstanding their panic, but just then a priest arrived
from Auxerre, with a present for Genevičve from St. Germanus, and
they were thus reminded of the high estimation in which he held
her; they became ashamed of their violence, and she led them back
to pray and to arm themselves. In a few days they heard that Attila
had paused to besiege Orleans, and that Aėtius, the Roman general,
hurrying from Italy, had united his troops with those of the Goths and
Franks, and given Attila so terrible a defeat at Chālons that the
Huns were fairly driven out of Gaul. And here it must be mentioned
that when in the next year, 452, Attila with his murderous host,
came down into Italy, and after horrible devastation of all the
northern provinces, came to the gates of Rome, no one dared to meet
him but one venerable bishop, Leo, the Pope, who, when his flock
were in transports of despair, went forth only accompanied by one
magistrate to meet the invader, and endeavored to turn his wrath
aside. The savage Huns were struck with awe by the fearless majesty
of the unarmed old man. They conducted him safely to Attila, who
listened to him with respect, and promised not to lead his people
into Rome, provided a tribute should be paid to him. He then
retreated, and, to the joy of all Europe, died on his way back to
his native dominions.
But with the Huns the danger and suffering of Europe did not end.
The happy state described in the Prophets as "dwelling safely, with
none to make them afraid," was utterly unknown in Europe throughout
the long break-up of the Roman Empire; and in a few more years
the Franks were overrunning the banks of the Seine, and actually
venturing to lay siege to the Roman walls of Paris itself. The
fortifications were strong enough, but hunger began to do the work
of the besiegers, and the garrison, unwarlike and untrained, began
to despair. But Genevičve's courage and trust never failed; and
finding no warriors willing to run the risk of going beyond the
walls to obtain food for the women and children who were perishing
around them, this brave shepherdess embarked alone in a little
boat, and guiding it down the stream, landed beyond the Frankish
camp, and repairing to the different Gallic cities, she implored them
to send succor to their famished brethren. She obtained complete
success. Probably the Franks had no means of obstructing the passage
of the river, so that a convoy of boats could easily penetrate
into the town: at any rate they looked upon Genevičve as something
sacred and inspired whom they durst not touch; probably as one of
the battle-maids in whom their own myths taught them to believe.
One account indeed says that, instead of going alone to obtain help,
Genevičve placed herself at the head of a forage party, and that
the mere sight of her inspired bearing caused them to be allowed
to enter and return in safety; but the boat version seems the more
probable, since a single boat on the broad river would more easily
elude the enemy than a troop of Gauls pass through their army.
But a city where all the valor resided in one woman could not long
hold out, and in another inroad, when Genevieve was absent, Paris
was actually seized by the Franks. Their leader, Hilperik, was
absolutely afraid of what the mysteriously brave maiden might do
to him, and commanded the gates of the city to be carefully guarded
lest she should enter; but Genevičve learnt that some of the chief
citizens were imprisoned, and that Hilperik intended their death,
and nothing could withhold her from making an effort in their
behalf. The Franks had made up their minds to settle and not to
destroy. They were not burning and slaying indiscriminately, but
while despising the Romans, as they called the Gauls, for their
cowardice, they were in awe of their superior civilization and
knowledge of arts. The country people had free access to the city,
and Genevičve in her homely gown and veil passed by Hilperik's
guards without being suspected of being more than any ordinary
Gaulish village-maid; and thus she fearlessly made her way, even
to the old Roman halls, where the long-haired Hilperik was holding
his wild carousal. Would that we knew more of that interview--one
of the most striking that ever took place!
We can only picture to ourselves the Roman tesselated pavement
bestrewn with wine, bones, and fragments of the barbarous revelry.
There were, untamed Franks, their sun-burnt hair tied up in a knot
at the top of their heads, and falling down like a horse's tail,
their faces close-shaven, except two huge mustaches, and dressed
in tight leather garments, with swords at their wide belts. Some
slept, some feasted, some greased their long locks, some shouted
out their favorite war-songs around the table, which was covered
with the spoils of churches, and at their head sat the wild,
long-haired chieftain, who was a few years later driven away by
his own followers for his excesses,--the whole scene was all that
was abhorrent to a pure, devout, and faithful nature, most full of
terror to a woman. Yet there, in her strength, stood the peasant
maiden, her heart full of trust and pity, her looks full of the power
that is given by fearlessness of them that can kill the body. What
she said we do not know--we only know that the barbarous Hilperik
was overawed; he trembled before the expostulations of the brave
woman, and granted all she asked--the safety of his prisoners, and
mercy to the terrified inhabitants. No wonder that the people of
Paris have ever since looked back to Genevieve as their protectress,
and that in after-ages she has grown to be the patron saint of the
She lived to see the son of Hilperik, Chlodwig, or, as he was more
commonly called, Clovis, marry a Christian wife, Clotilda, and after
a time become a Christian. She saw the foundation of the Cathedral
of Notre Dame, and of the two famous churches of St. Denys and of
St. Martin of Tours, and gave her full share to the first efforts
for bringing the rude and bloodthirsty conquerors to some knowledge
of Christian faith, mercy, and purity. After a life of constant
prayer and charity she died, three months after King Clovis, in
the year 512, the 89th of her age.
[Illustration: HE SHOOK HIS CLENCHED FIST AT THE OBSTRUCTED SEA-STRAIT
_From the drawing by Gertrude Demain Hammond_]
THE BOY VIKING--OLAF II OF NORWAY
By E. S. Brooks
Old Rane, the helmsman, whose fierce mustaches and shaggy shoulder-mantle
made him look like some grim old Northern wolf, held high in air
the great bison-horn filled with foaming mead.
"Skoal to the Viking! Hael was-hael!"[Footnote: "Hail and health
to the Viking!"] rose his exultant shout. From a hundred sturdy
throats the cry re-echoed till the vaulted hall of the Swedemen's
conquered castle rang again.
"Skoal to the Viking! Hael; was-hael!" and in the centre of that
throng of mail-clad men and tossing spears, standing firm and
fearless upon the interlocked and uplifted shields of three stalwart
fighting-men, a stout-limbed lad of scarce thirteen, with flowing
light-brown hair and flushed and eager face, brandished his sword
vigorously in acknowledgment of the jubilant shout that rang once
again through the dark and smoke-stained hall: "Was-hael to the
sea-wolf's son! Skoal to Olaf the King!"
Then above the din and clash of shouting and of steel rose the voice
of Sigvat the saga-man, or song-man of the young viking, singing
loud and sturdily:
"Olaf the King is on his cruise,
His blue steel staining,
Rich booty gaining,
And all men trembling at the news,
Up, war-wolf's brood! our young fir's name
O'ertops the forest trees in fame,
Our stout young Olaf knows no fear.
Though fell the fray,
He's blithe and gay,
And warriors fall beneath his spear.
Who can't defend the wealth they have
Must die or share with the rover brave!"
A fierce and warlike song, boys and girls, to raise in honor of so
young a lad. But those were fierce and warlike days when men were
stirred by the recital of bold and daring deeds--those old, old
days, eight hundred years ago, when Olaf, the boy viking, the pirate
chief of a hundred mail-clad men, stood upon the uplifted shields
of his exultant fighting-men in the grim and smoke-stained hall of
the gray castle of captured Sigtun, oldest of Swedish cities.
Take your atlas and, turning to the map of Sweden, place your
finger on the city of Stockholm. Do you notice that it lies at the
easterly end of a large lake? That is the Maelar, beautiful with
winding channels, pine-covered islands, and rocky shores. It is
peaceful and quiet now, and palace and villa and quaint Northern
farmhouse stand unmolested on its picturesque borders. But channels,
and islands, and rocky shores have echoed and re-echoed with the
war-shouts of many a fierce sea-rover since those far-off days
when Olaf, the boy viking, and his Norwegian ships of war ploughed
through the narrow sea-strait and ravaged the fair shores of the
Maelar with fire and sword.
Stockholm, the "Venice of the North," as it is called, was not then
in existence; and little now remains of old Sigtun save ruined walls.
But travellers may still see the three tall towers of the ancient
town, and the great stone-heap, alongside which young Olaf drew his
ships of war, and over which his pirate crew swarmed into Sigtun
town, and planted the victorious banner of the golden serpent upon
the conquered walls.
For this fair young Olaf came of hardy Norse stock. His father,
Harald Graenske, or "Gray-mantle," one of the tributary kings of
Norway, had fallen a victim to the tortures of the haughty Swedish
queen; and now his son, a boy of scarce thirteen, but a warrior
already by training and from desire, came to avenge his father's
death. His mother, the Queen Aasta, equipped a large dragon-ship or
war-vessel for her adventurous son, and with the lad, as helmsman
and guardian, was sent old Rane, whom men called "the far-travelled,"
because he had sailed westward as far as England and southward to
Nörvasund (by which name men then knew the Straits of Gibraltar).
Boys toughened quickly in those stirring days, and this lad,
who, because he was commander of a dragon-ship, was called Olaf
the King--though he had no land to rule--was of viking blood, and
quickly learned the trade of war. Already, among the rocks and
sands of Sodermann, upon the Swedish coast, he had won his first
battle over a superior force of Danish war-vessels.
Other ships of war joined him; the name of Olaf the Brave was
given him by right of daring deeds, and "Skoal to the Viking!" rang
from the sturdy throats of his followers as the little sea-king of
thirteen was lifted in triumph upon the battle-dented shields.
But a swift runner bursts into the gray hall of Sigtun. "To your
ships, O king; to your ships!" he cries. "Olaf, the Swedish king,
men say, is planting a forest of spears along the sea-strait, and,
except ye push out now, ye may not get out at all!"
The nimble young chief sprang from the upraised shields.
"To your ships, vikings, all!" he shouted. "Show your teeth, war-wolves!
Up with the serpent banner, and death to Olaf the Swede!"
Straight across the lake to the sea-strait, near where Stockholm
now stands, the vikings sailed, young Olaf's dragon-ship taking the
lead. But all too late; for, across the narrow strait, the Swedish
king had stretched great chains, and had filled up the channel with
stocks and stones. Olaf and his Norsemen were fairly trapped; the
Swedish spears waved in wild and joyful triumph, and King Olaf,
the Swede, said with grim satisfaction to his lords: "See, jarls
and lendermen, the Fat Boy is caged at last!" For he never spoke
of his stout young Norwegian namesake and rival save as "Olaf
Tjocke"--Olaf the Thick, or Fat.
The boy viking stood by his dragon-headed prow, and shook his
clenched fist at the obstructed sea-strait and the Swedish spears.
"Shall we, then, land, Rane, and fight our way through?" he asked.
"Fight our way through?" said old Rane, who had been in many another
tight place in his years of sea-roving, but none so close as this.
"Why, king, they be a hundred to one!"
"And if they be, what then?" said impetuous Olaf "Better fall as
a viking breaking Swedish spears than die a straw-death [Footnote:
So contemptuously did those fierce old sea-kings regard a peaceful
life that they said of one who died quietly on his bed at home:
"His was but a straw-death."] as Olaf of Sweden's bonder-man. May
we not cut through these chains?"
"As soon think of cutting the solid earth, king," said the helmsman.
"So; and why not, then?" young Olaf exclaimed, struck with
a brilliant idea. "Ho, Sigvat," he said, turning to his saga-man,
"what was that lowland under the cliff where thou didst say the
pagan Upsal king was hanged in his own golden chains by his Finnish
"'Tis called the fen of Agnefit, O king," replied the saga-man,
pointing toward where it lay.
"Why, then, my Rane," asked the boy, "may we not cut our way out
through that lowland fen, to the open sea and liberty?"
"'Tis Odin's own device," cried the delighted helmsman, catching at
his young chief's great plan. "Ho, war-wolves all, bite ye your way
through the Swedish fens! Up with the serpent banner, and farewell
to Olaf the Swede!"
It seemed a narrow chance, but it was the only one. Fortune favored
the boy viking. Heavy rains had flooded the lands that slope down
to the Maelar Lake; in the dead of night the Swedish captives and
stout Norse oarsmen were set to work, and before daybreak an open
cut had been made in the lowlands beneath Agnefit, or the "Rock of
King Agne," where, by the town of Sodertelje, the vikings' canal
is still shown to travellers; the waters of the lake came rushing
through the cut, and an open sea-strait awaited young Olaf's fleet.
"Unship the rudder; hoist the sail aloft!" commanded Bane the
helmsman. "Sound war-horns all! Skoal to the Viking; skoal to the
wise young Olaf!"
A strong breeze blew astern; the Norse rowers steered the rudderless
ships with their long oars, and with a mighty rush, through the new
canal and over all the shallows, out into the great Norrstrom, or
North Stream, as the Baltic Sea was called, the fleet passed in
safety while the loud war-horns blew the notes of triumph.
So the boy viking escaped from the trap of his Swedish foes, and,
standing by the "grim, gaping dragon's head" that crested the prow
of his warship, he bade the helmsman steer for Gotland Isle, while
Sigvat, the saga-man, sang with the ring of triumph:
"Down the fiord sweep wind and rain;
Our sails and tackle sway and strain;
Wet to the skin
We're sound within.
Our sea-steed through the foam goes prancing,
While shields and spears and helms are glancing.
Back to Full Books