In the civic education of the ancient Romans, an important role was played by the memory and knowledge of the virtuous deeds of ancestors, roles to imitate by young people

Marcus Atilius Regulus, although from a plebeian origin, was consul twice, the second in 256 BC, in the ninth year of the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage.

According to tradition but without historical evidence (many historians, some old ones, doubt it or silence it), a tale is told that we can make an example out of it. After some military successes, Regulus was taken prisoner by the Carthaginians and held him captive until the year 250 BC, in which allow him to go to Rome to negotiate peace or an exchange of prisoners, and make him promise that he would return to Carthage if unsuccessful.

When Regulus reached Rome behaves as a rigid man of honor: he refuses to enter the city as a slave that he is, refuses to talk to the Senate because his enslavement incapacitates him for it, not even admit the kiss of his faithful wife since that marriage is an exclusive right of free citizens and he was no longer a citizen.

When he finally agrees to go to the Senate he does precisely the opposite of that expected; he convinces them not to agree with the Carthaginian and reach any agreement with who is an avowed enemy. As a man of honor returned to Carthage, where he expected a horrible death at the hands of his executioners.

Latin chroniclers and poets that make him the prototype and example of heroic citizen who loves his city for future generations, complaining about the current neglect the ancient principles and civic values. So does Livius, Gellius, Diodorus, Apianus, Dio Cassius, Zonaras, Valerius Maximus, Aurelius Victor, Florus, Cicero, Horace,  Silius Italicus, etc.

Such idealized anecdotes are an essential element in the education of the Roman citizen. It's what the Romans themselves called the "mos maiorum", customs and behavior of the ancestors, as a beacon, ideal for young people.

Obviously older people were more valued than now, when the experience can be even a demerit.

The Roman Regulus heroically keeps his word and pays with death

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