Marcus Atilius Regulus - Encyclopedia

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MARCUS ATILIUS REGULUS, Roman general and consul (for the second time) in the ninth year of the First Punic War (256 B.C.). He was one of the commanders in the Punic naval expedition which shattered the Carthaginian fleet at Ecnomus, and landed an army on Carthaginian territory (see Punic Wars). The invaders were so successful that the other consul, L. Manlius Vulso, was recalled to Rome, Regulus being left behind to finish the war. After a severe defeat at Adys near Carthage, the Carthaginians were inclined for peace, but the terms proposed by Regulus were so harsh that they resolved to continue the war. In 255, Regulus was completely defeated and taken prisoner by the Spartan Xanthippus. There is no further trustworthy information about him. According to tradition, he remained in captivity until 250, when after the defeat of the Carthaginians at Panormus he was sent to Rome on parole to negotiate a peace or exchange of prisoners. On his arrival he strongly urged the senate to refuse both proposals, and returning to Carthage was tortured to death (Horace, Odes, iii. 5). This story made Regulus to the later Romans the type of heroic endurance; but most historians regard it as insufficiently attested, Polybius being silent. The tale was probably invented by the annalists to excuse the cruel treatment of the Carthaginian prisoners by the Romans.

See Polybius i. 25-34; Florus ii. 2; Cicero, De Officiis, iii. 26; Livy, Epit. 18; Valerius Maximus ix. 2; Sil. Ital. vi. 299-550; Appian, Punica, 4; Zonaras viii. 15; see also O. Jager, M. Atilius Regulus (1878).

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