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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IV. THE RISE OF ROME TO 264 B.C.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 21
ROME SUPREME IN SOUTHERN ITALY, 264 B.C.
The wealthy cities of southern Italy offered a tempting prize to Roman greed. Before long many of them received Roman garrisons and accepted the rule of the great Latin republic. Tarentum, however, the most important of the Greek colonies, held jealously to her independence. Unable single-handed to face the Romans, Tarentum turned to Greece for aid. She called on Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, the finest soldier of his age. Pyrrhus led twenty-five thousand mercenary soldiers into Italy, an army almost as large as Alexander's. The Romans could not break the bristling ranks of the Greek phalanx, and they shrank back in terror before the huge war elephants which Pyrrhus had brought with him. The invader won the first battle, but lost many of his best troops. He then offered peace on condition that the Romans should give up their possessions in southern Italy. The Senate returned the proud reply that Rome would not treat with the enemy while he stood on Italian soil. A second battle was so bitterly contested that Pyrrhus declared, "Another such victory, and I am lost."  Weary of the struggle, Pyrrhus now crossed over to Sicily to aid his countrymen against the Carthaginians. The rapid progress of the Roman arms called him back, only to meet a severe defeat. Pyrrhus then withdrew in disgust to Greece; Tarentum fell; and Rome established her rule over southern Italy.
 Plutarch, Pyrrhus, 21.
POLITICAL SITUATION IN 264 B.C.
The triumph over Pyrrhus and the conquest of Magna Graecia mark a decisive moment in the history of Rome. Had Pyrrhus won Italy, as well as Asia and Egypt, might have become a Greek land, ruled by Hellenistic kings. Now it was clear that Rome, having met the invader so bravely, was to remain supreme in the Italian peninsula. She was the undisputed mistress of Italy from the strait of Messina northward to the Arnus and the Rubicon. Etruscans, Latins, Samnites, and Greeks acknowledged her sway. The central city of the peninsula had become the center of a united Italy. 
 It should be noticed, however, that as yet Rome controlled only the central and southern parts of what is the modern kingdom of Italy. Two large divisions of that kingdom, which every Italian now regards as essential to its unity, were in other hands—the Po valley and the island of Sicily.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy