Marcus Atilius Regulus
- This is about the Roman general and consul; for other Romans of that name, see Marcus Atilius Regulus (disambiguation).
|Marcus Atilius Regulus|
|Regulus returning to Carthage (1791)
by Cornelis Cels
|Consul of the Roman Republic|
267 BC – 267 BC
|Preceded by||Publius Sempronius Sophus and Appius Claudius Russus|
|Succeeded by||Decimus Iunius Pera and Numerius Fabius Pictor|
|Consul of the Roman Republic|
256 BC – 256 BC
|Preceded by||Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus and Quintus Caedicius|
|Succeeded by||Marcus Aemilius Paullus and Servius Fulvius Paetinus Nobilior|
|Born||Before 307 BC
|Religion||Ancient Roman religion|
|Battles/wars||First Punic War
Battle of Cape Ecnomus
Siege of Aspis
Battle of Adys
Battle of Tunis
Regulus first became consul in 267 BC, where fought the Messapians. Elected consul again in 256 BC, he served as a general in the First Punic War (256 BC), where he defeated the Carthaginians in a naval battle at Cape Ecnomus near Sicily and invaded North Africa, winning victories at Aspis and Adys, until he was defeated and captured at Tunis in 255 BC. After he was released on parole to negotiate a peace, he is supposed to have urged the Roman Senate to refuse the proposals and then, over the protests of his own people, to have fulfilled the terms of his parole by returning to Carthage, where he according to Roman tradition was tortured to death. He was posthumously seen by the Romans as a model of civic virtue.
He was one of the commanders in the Roman naval expedition that shattered the Carthaginian fleet at Cape Ecnomus, and landed an army on Carthaginian territory. The invaders were so successful that the other consul, Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus, was recalled to Rome, leaving Regulus behind to finish the war.
After a severe defeat at Adys near Carthage, the Carthaginians were inclined towards peace, but the terms proposed by Regulus were so harsh that they resolved to continue the war. The Carthaginians replaced the outmatched general Hamilcar with new leadership and in 255 BC, Regulus was completely defeated at the Battle of Tunis. He was taken prisoner by the Spartan mercenary general Xanthippus along with 500 of his men.
There is no further trustworthy information about him. According to tradition, he remained in captivity until 250 BC, when after the defeat of the Carthaginians at the Battle of Panormus he was sent to Rome on parole to negotiate a peace or an exchange of prisoners. On his arrival, he instead strongly urged the Roman Senate to refuse both proposals and continue fighting, and honored his parole by returning to Carthage where he was executed (Horace, Odes, iii. 5).
Roman historians after Horace record the manner of Regulus' death as either involving his being thrown into a dark dungeon and then dragged out and forced to look at the sun once his eyelids had been cut off (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, vii. 4) or his being encased in a chest lined with spikes (Augustine, "De Civitate Dei" 1.15, Aurelius Victor, De Viris Illustribus Romae, 40, Tertullian, "To the Martyrs" Chapter 4). Amongst the depictions of the latter version in art is Regulus in the Spiked Cask by Salvatore Rosa, c. 1651.
The traditional story made of Regulus is one of the best known examples of honour and patriotism to later Romans; most historians, however, regard this account as insufficiently attested, as Polybius does not mention it. The tale may have been invented by Roman annalists as propaganda, to incite hatred towards Carthage and justify cruel treatment of the Carthaginian prisoners.
The 18th-century poet Pietro Metastasio found enough admiration for the courage and virtue of Atilius Regulus to craft the libretto Attilio Regolo from his life story. The original operatic setting, composed in 1750 by Johann Adolf Hasse, was followed by other versions.
A fictionalized short story version of the life of Atilius Regulus called "The Triumph" by Robin Hobb appeared in the anthology Warriors, edited by George R.R. Martin. He is also the hero of a major historical novel "Křik neviditelných pávů" (The scream of invisible peacocks) by the Czech writer Jarmila Loukotková from 1997.
Atilius Regulus, the son of the eponymous consul of 294 BC, descended from an ancient Calabrian family. According to later Roman historians he married one Marcia, who tortured several Carthaginian prisoners to death on hearing of her husband's death. He had at least two sons and one daughter by Livy's account; both sons became consuls - Marcus in 227 BC and Gaius in 225 BC (killed in battle against the Gauls).
A brother or cousin, Gaius Atilius Regulus, served as consul in 257 BC and in 250 BC.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Publius Sempronius Sophus and Appius Claudius Russus
|Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Julius Libo
Decimus Iunius Pera and Numerius Fabius Pictor
Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus and Quintus Caedicius
|Consul (Suffect) of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus
Marcus Aemilius Paullus and Servius Fulvius Paetinus Nobilior