Page images

the wall, that bis troops might have a free passage out of the city. The person to whom Pyrrhus gave this order in great haste, having misunderstood his meaning, delivered a quite contrary message, in consequence of which Helenus immediately drew out his best infantry, with all the elephants he had left, and then advanced into the city to assist bis father, who was preparing to retire the moment the other entered the place.

Pyrrhus, as long as the place afforded him a sufficient extent of ground, appeared with a resolute mien, and frequently faced about and repulsed those who pursued him ; but when he found himself engaged in a narrow street, which ended at the gate, the confusion, which already was very great, became infinitely increased, by the arrival of the troops his son brought to his assistance. He frequently called aloud to them to withdraw, in order to clear the street, but in vain, for as it was impossible for his voice to be heard, they still continued to advance. And to complete the calamity in which they were involved, one of the largest elephants sunk down in the middle of the gate, and filled up the whole extent in such a manner, that the troops could neither advance nor retire. The confusion occasioned by this accident became then inexpressible.

Pyrrhus observing the disorder of his men, who broke forward, and were driven back, like the waves of the sea, took off the glittering crest which distinguished his helmet, and caused him to be known, and then, confiding in the goodness of his horse, he sprung into the throng of the enemies who pursued him; and while he was fighting with an air of despefation, one of the adverse party advanced up to him, and pierced his cuirass with a javelin. The wound, however, was neither great nor dangerous, and Pyrrhus immediately turned upon the man from whom he received it, and who happened to be only a private soldier, the son of a poor woman of Argos. The mother beheld the combat from

the top of a house, where she stood with several other women.

The moment she saw her son engaged with Pyrrhus, she almost lost her senses, and was chilled with horror at the danger to which she beheld him exposed. Amidst the impressions of her agony, she caught up a large tile, and threw it down upon Pyrrhus. The mass fell directly upon his head, and his helmet being too weak to ward off the blow, his eyes were immediately covered with darkness, his hands dropped the reins, and he sunk down from his horse without being then observed. But he was soon discovered by a soldier, who put an end to his life by cutting off his head.

The noise of this accident was immediately spread in all parts. Alcyonæus, the son of Antigonus, took the head from the soldier, and rid away with it full speed to his father, at whose feet he threw it; but met with a very ill reception for acting in a manner so unbecoming his rank. Antigonus, recollecting the fate of his grandfather Antigonus, and that of Demetrius, his father, could not refrain from tears at so mournful a spectacle, and caused magnificent honours to be rendered to the remains of Pyrrhus. After having made himself master of his camp and army, he treated his son Helenus, and the rest of his friends, with great generosity, and sent them back to Epirus.

The title of a great captain is justly due to Pyr. Thus, as he was so particularly esteemed by the Romans themselves; and especially if we consider the glorious testimony given in his favour, by a person the most worthy of belief, with regard to the merit of a warrior, and the best qualified to form a competent judgment in that particular. 'Livy reports, from an historian whom he cites as his voucher, that Hannibal, when he was asked by Scipio, whom he thought the most able and consummate general, placed Alexander in the first rank, Pyrrhus in the second, and himself in the third.

Liv. I. XXXV, n. 14.

The same general also characterised Pyrrhus, by adding, “ That he was the first who taught the art “ of encamping; that no one was more skilful in

choosing his posts, and drawing up his troops ; " that he had a peculiar art in conciliating affection, " and attaching people to his interest; and this to “ such a degree, that the people of Italy were more “ desirous of having him for their master, though

a stranger, than to be governed by the Romans “ themselves, who, for so many years, had held the “ first rank in that country.

Pyrrhus might possibly be master of all these great qualities; but I cannot comprehend, why Hannibal should represent him as the first, who taught the art of encamping. Were not several Grecian kings and generals masters of this art before him? The Romans, indeed, learnt it from him, and Hannibal's evidence extends no farther. However, these extraordinary qualities alone are not sufficient to constitute a great commander; and even proved ineffectual to him on several occasions. He was defeated by the Romans near Asculum, merely from having chosen his ground ill. He failed in his attempt on Sparta, by deferring the attack for a few hours. He lost Sicily, by his injudicious treatment of the people; and was himself killed at Argos, for venturing too rashly into an enemy's city. We might also enumerate a variety of other errors committed by him, with reference even to military affairs.

Is it not entirely inconsistent with the rank and duty of a great general, and especially of a king, to be always exposing his person, without the least precaution, like a common soldier; to charge in the foremost ranks, like a common adventurer; to be more vain of a personal action, which only shows strength and intrepidity, .than a wise and attentive conduct, so essential to a general vigilant for the genesal safety, and who never confounds his own merit and functions with those of a priyate soldier? We

may even observe the same defects 'to have been very apparent, in the kings and gerierals of this age, who undoubtedly were led into it by the false lustre of Alexander's successful temerity.

May it not also be said, that Pyrrhus was deficient, in not observing any rule in his military enterprises, and in plunging blindly into wars, without reflection, without cause, through temperament, passion, babit, and mere incapacity to continue in a state of tranquillity, or pass any part of his time to his satisfaction, unless he was tilting with all the world? The reader will, I hope, forgive me the oddness of that expression, since a character of this nature seems, in my opinion, very much to resemble that of the heroes and knights errant of romances.

But no fault is more obvious in Pyrrhus's character, nor must have shocked my readers more, than his forming his enterprises without the least maturity of thought, and abandoning himself, without examination, to the least appearances of suce cess; frequently changing his views, on such slender occasions, as discover no consistency of design, and even little judgment; in a word, beginning every thing, and ending nothing.

His whole life was a continued series of uncertainty and variation; and . while he suffered his restless and impetuous ambition to hurry him, at different times, into Sicily, Italy, Macedonia, and Greece, his cares and attention were employed no where so little as in Epirus, the land of his nativity, and his hereditary dominions. Let us then allow him the title of a great Captain, if valour and intrepidity alone are sufficient to deserve it; for in these qualities, no man was ever his superior. When we behold him in his battles, we think ourselves spectators of the vivacity, intrepidity, and martial ardour of Alex. ander; but he certainly had not the qualities of a good king, who, when he really loves his people, makes his valour consist in their defence, his hap

Vol. VI.


piness in making them happy, and his glory in their

peace and security. A. M. The reputation of the Romans beginning now to 3730. spread through foreign nations, by the war they had Ant. J. C. maintained for six years against Pyrrhus, whom at 274.

length they compelled to retire from Italy, and return ignominiously to Epirus. Ptolemy Philadelphus sent ambassadors to desire their friendship; and the Romans were charmed to find it solicited by

so great a king. A. M.

An embassy was also sent from Rome to Egypt 3731. the following year, in return to the civilities of PtoAnt. J. C. lemy. The ambassadors were Q. Fabius Gurges, 373.

Cn. Fabius Pictor, with Numerius, his brother, and Q. Ogulnius. The disinterested air with which they appeared, sufficiently indicated the greatness of their souls. Ptolemy gave them a splendid entertainment, and took that opportunity to present each of them with a crown of gold; which they received, because they were unwilling to disoblige him by declining the honour he intended them; but they went the next morning, and placed them on the head of the King's statues erected in the public parts of the city. The King having likewise tendered them very considerable presents, at their audience of leave, they received them as they before accepted of the crowns; but before they went to the senate, to give an account of their embassy, after their arrival at Rome, they deposited all these presents in the public treasury, and made it evident, by so noble a conduct, that persons of honour ought, when they serve the public, to propose no other advantage to themselves, than the honour of acquitting themselves well of their duty. The republic, however, would not suffer itself to be exceeded in generosity of sentiments. The senate and people came to a resolution, that the ambassadors, in consideration of

* Liv. Epit. 1. iv. Eutrop. 1. ii. Liv. Epit. I. iv. Eutrop. 1. ii. Val. Max. l. iv, 6. 3. Dion. in Excerpto

« PreviousContinue »