By James Wright
May 17, 2013

Roman Statesman and Scout Honor

Marcus Atilius Regulus was a Roman statesman and general.  He was defeated and captured at Tunis in 255 BC.  His captors sent him back to Rome to negotiate a peace on terms dictated by the Carthaginians. Regulus delivered the terms to the Roman Senate; then urged them to refuse the proposals.  Finally, over the protests of his own people, he kept his promise to his captors that he would return to Carthage, where he was tortured to death.  After 2200 years, Regulus is remembered as a model of “Honor,” a word that suggests actions of honesty, fairness and integrity.

Regulus could easily have stayed in Rome and not honored the terms of his release. He knew what would happen to him if he returned to Carthage. He knew he would be tortured and face death. So why go back?

Because death was preferable to dishonor.

When a Scout or Scouter raises his right arm to the square with the Scout sign and  recites the Scout Oath, he begins with a promise, which I paraphrase: I pledge to act honestly, fairly and with integrity, and to give my best effort, to fulfill my responsibilities to my God, and to my country.

This is a worthwhile and solemn promise that requires time, consideration, and effort, to teach, and to learn. The reward for instilling meaning to the word honor can be great.

America’s astronauts are honored for their heroism and passion to explore space. The Mercury Seven were the first group of astronauts chosen by NASA in 1959. Their mission was to determine if humans could survive space travel.

The selection process was rigorous consisting of more than 500 applications that had to be whittled down to seven.  Since 1959 US astronauts have exemplified honor in how they lived their lives and the experiences they had. Twelve of the 17 US Astronauts lost in space missions were Boy Scouts. Two hundred and seven of America’s 312 astronauts have been Scouts.

Regulus lived 250 years before the birth of Christ. There was no technology in the world, no electricity, no automobiles, no airplanes, no Internet or iPhone and no iPad. We consider the time one in which the world was primitive, even uncivilized by today’s standards.

Yet despite the advances in the world, that today offers more technology and discovery than any time in the past, a society of civilized humans and yet for all the abundance that we have, a world in which lies and deceit abounds. Who today would honor the terms of a parole agreement, would return to their home to negotiate for peace and then return to face torture and death?

On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country…

It is not always easy, or popular, to act with honor, but it is a great and worthwhile goal.  Shakespeare’s Count Mowbray stated “Mine honor is my life, both grow in one. Take honor from me, and my life is done.” Those who strive to act with honor are rewarded with the peace of mind that comes with having done well what one has committed to do.

…to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.


Author: Jim Wright | Retired California Judge, Photographer

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2 thoughts on “Roman Statesman and Scout Honor

  1. Heidi Sanders


    I love history and loved this article that you did. I went and read all about Regulus. I also loved the quote from Shakespeare. Thanks so much for sharing. It is really difficult to find that kind of honor today but hopefully Scouting is helping youth recognize that honor has meaning.

  2. Ken Krogue


    My favorite quote is Shakespeare’s Count Mowbray stated “Mine honor is my life, both grow in one. Take honor from me, and my life is done.” Well done.



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