I’m a history major–I think I’ve mentioned that before. As I approach the end of my schooling, all the history stuff I’ve learned over the past years is finally bubbling to the surface and becoming an integral part of my thinking. It’s so exciting!!
So, here’s a history lesson and a poem :)
In class the other day we were talking about the Romans during the First Phoenician War (by the way, Punic=Phoenician–they’re the same people, just as spoken in different languages, and the Romans were fighting their Carthaginian colony, so if I use these names interchangeably, now you know why). The Romans were so dog-headed! They fought the Carthaginians on land first, as the Romans always had fought on land, but then decided to try fighting at sea. Now, the Phoenicians were merchants in the Mediterranean, so they were super good at using ships and had a pretty strong navy. The Romans had to build up a navy (they copied a Punic ship, a “trireme”, that they stole) from scratch.
In their first attempt to fight a naval war, the Romans were simply crushed by the Carthaginians. So, back to fighting at land. When they still couldn’t gain the upper had against Carthage, they decided to take a second shot at a sea war–and were crushed again. Again, they still couldn’t get anywhere with a land battle, so they decided one more time to try fighting at sea. This time, the third time, they crushed the Carthaginians. And that, dear friends, is the end of the First Punic War.
So, as we were learning about this, the relentless spirit of the Romans really stood out to me. Their perseverance was crazy! It inspired me to write this sonnet:
[Quick note–I’ve provided a “glossary” at the end for words that may not be widely known. Hope that helps to understand it!]
A Roman legionnaire am I; I fight
Beside my kin, and I do wait and look for,
Close by my brother velites armed with sword,
To stand with our consuls, washed in light.
We’ll climb aboard a trireme, new and bright
And funded by patricians for this war
We’re sure to win–for sons of Mars Ultor
Are blessed by Fortune’s kindness when we fight.
To Carthage we will turn our fleet, Rome’s third
Attempt to fight at sea with Punic foes.
The fools did hire mercenaries corrupt
To stand against the victory told by the birds
Our augur saw. So, Hamilcar Barca, know
This day that Roman spirit never. gives. up.
–Velites (3 syllables) were the lowest rank in the Roman army; these were the youngest and poorest soldiers.
–Consuls (there were two of them) were the highest elected magistrates in the Roman empire and led the army.
–Trireme—the type of boat built for the navy.
–Patricians—the aristocratic class of Rome; they funded the war effort.
–Mars Ultor was the Roman god of war, from whom it was said descended Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.
-“third attempt to fight at sea”—the Romans had a terrible time at sea battles, while their opponents the Carthaginians were very skilled seafarers. The Romans switched back and forth between fighting on land and at sea, and though they were devastated the first two times they engaged Carthage in naval combat, on the third attempt, they finally won the First Punic War.
–Augur—an augur was a priest who interpreted signs from the flights of birds.
–Hamilcar Barca was the leader of the Carthaginian force during the First Punic War, and the father of the famous Hannibal who led the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War (think elephants crossing the Alps).
And there you have it: What happens when a super nerdy history major is taking a Creative Writing class. Hope you enjoyed this brief trip down history lane!