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Regŭlus, Atilius


M., consul B.C. 335, carried on war against the Sidicini.


M., consul 294, carried on war against the Samnites.


M., consul 267, conquered the Sallentini, took the town of Brundusium, and obtained in consequence the honour of a triumph. In 256 he was consul a second time with L. Manlius Vulso Longus. The two consuls defeated the Carthaginian fleet, and afterwards landed in Africa with a large force. They met with great and striking success; and after Manlius returned to Rome with half of the army, Regulus remained in Africa with the other half and prosecuted the war with the utmost vigour. The Carthaginian generals Hasdrubal, Bostar, and Hamilcar avoided the plains, where their cavalry and elephants would have given them an advantage over the Roman army, and withdrew into the mountains. There they were attacked by Regulus, and defeated with great loss; 15,000 men are said to have been killed in battle, and 5000 men with 18 elephants to have been taken. The Carthaginian troops retired within the walls of the city, and Regulus now overran the country without opposition. Numerous towns fell into the power of the Romans, and among others Tunis, at the distance of only twenty miles from the capital. The Carthaginians, in despair, sent a herald to Regulus to solicit peace; but the Roman general would only grant it on such intolerable terms that the Carthaginians resolved to continue the war, and hold out to the last. In the midst of their distress and alarm, success came to them from an unexpected quarter. Among the Greek mercenaries who had lately arrived at Carthage was a Lacedaemonian of the name of Xanthippus. He pointed out to the Carthaginians that their defeat was owing to the incompetency of their generals, and not to the superiority of the Roman arms; and he inspired such confidence in the people that he was forthwith placed at the head of their troops. Relying on his 4000 cavalry and 100 elephants, Xanthippus boldly marched into the open country to meet the enemy. In the battle which ensued Regulus was totally defeated; 30,000 of his men were slain; scarcely 2000 escaped to Clypea; and Regulus himself was taken prisoner with 500 more (B.C. 255). Regulus remained in captivity for the next five years, till 250, when the Carthaginians, after their defeat by the proconsul Metellus, sent an embassy to Rome to solicit peace, or at least an exchange of prisoners. They allowed Regulus to accompany the ambassadors on the promise that he would return to Rome if their proposals were declined, thinking that he would persuade his countrymen to agree to an exchange of prisoners in order to obtain his own liberty. This mission of Regulus is one of the most celebrated stories in Roman history. The orators and poets related how Regulus at first refused to enter the city as a slave of the Carthaginians; how afterwards he would not give his opinion in the Senate, as he had ceased by his captivity to be a member of that illustrious body; how, at length, when he was allowed by the Romans to speak, he endeavoured to dissuade the Senate from assenting to a peace, or even to an exchange of prisoners, and when he saw them wavering, from their desire of redeeming him from captivity, how he told them that the Carthaginians had given him a slow poison, which would soon terminate his life; and how, finally, when the Senate through his influence refused the offers of the Carthaginians, he firmly resisted all the persuasions of his friends to remain in Rome, and returned to Carthage, where a martyr's death awaited him. On his arrival at Carthage he is said to have been put to death with the most excruciating tortures.

Coin of a Livineius, with Head of Regulus.

It was related that he was placed in a chest covered over in the inside with iron nails, and thus perished; and other writers stated in addition that after his eyelids had been cut off he was first thrown into a dark dungeon, and then suddenly exposed to the full rays of a burning sun. When the news of the barbarous death of Regulus reached Rome, the Senate is said to have given Hamilcar and Bostar, two of the noblest Carthaginian prisoners, to the family of Regulus, who revenged themselves by putting them to death with cruel torments.

This celebrated tale, however, has not been allowed to pass without question in modern times. Many writers supposed that it was invented in order to excuse the cruelties perpetrated by the family of Regulus on the Carthaginian prisoners committed to their custody. Regulus was one of the favourite characters of early Roman story. Not only was he celebrated on account of his heroism in giving the Senate advice which secured him a martyr's death, but also on account of his frugality and simplicity of life. Like Fabricius and Curius he lived on his hereditary farm, which he cultivated with his own hands; and subsequent ages loved to tell how he petitioned the Senate for his recall from Africa when he was in the full career of victory, as his farm was going to ruin in his absence and his family was suffering from want. See Wolff, M. Atilii Reguli Vita (1846); and Jäger, M. Atilius Regulus (1878).


Gaius, surnamed Serrānus, consul B.C. 257, when he defeated the Carthaginian fleet off the Liparaean Islands, and obtained possession of the islands of Lipara and Melite. He was consul a second time in 250, with L. Manlius Vulso. The two consuls undertook the siege of Lilybaeum; but they were foiled in their attempts to carry the place by storm, and after losing a great number of men, were obliged to turn the siege into a blockade. This Regulus is the first Atilius who bears the surname Serranus. See Serranus.

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