Marcus Atilius Regulus is one of the Roman heroes who embodied the most important virtues: bravery (virtus) and duty towards the state (officium). During the First Punic War (264-241 BCE), he fought against the Carthaginian army and even threatened the capital, Carthage. However, in the spring of the year 255 BCE there was a battle at Tunis, where the Carthaginian army completely smashed Regulus’s army and he was taken as prisoner.
After a few years (around 250 BCE), the Carthaginians sent to Rome a legation to hold talks on the exchange of prisoners and the conclusion of peace. There was also Regulus in the legation, who promised that if he failed to conclude the treaty, he would return voluntarily to Carthage.
Regulus noticed the weakness of Carthage and Rome’s chance of a decisive victory. Therefore he advised the Romans in Senate to intensify the war against Carthage or make peace for the more difficult conditions for Carthage. Finally the Carthaginians rejected the burdensome peace conditions, and Regulus, faithful to his word, returned to Carthage. There, according to Appian, he was locked in a wooden crate, which was nailed from all sides by nails. In turn, according to Polyaenus, he was to be enclosed in a wooden cage for animals and finally tormented to death.