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Himilcon, now that his affairs were proceeding as he wished, made preparations to lead his army against Messene, being anxious to get control of the city because of its favourable facilities; for it had an excellent harbour, capable of accommodating all his ships, which numbered more than six hundred, and Himilcon also hoped that by getting possession of the straits he would be able to bar any aid from the Italian Greeks and hold in check the fleets that might come from the Peloponnesus. [2] With this programme in mind, he formed relations of friendship with the Himeraeans and the dwellers in the fort of Cephaloedium,1 and seizing the city of Lipara, he exacted thirty talents from the inhabitants of the island.2 Then he set out in person with his entire army toward Messene, his ships sailing along the coast beside him. [3] Completing the distance in a brief time, he pitched his camp at Peloris, at a distance of one hundred stades from Messene. When the inhabitants of this city learned that the enemy was at hand, they could not agree among themselves about the war. [4] One party, when they heard reports of the great size of the enemy's army and observed that they themselves were without any allies—what is more, that their own cavalry were at Syracuse—were fully convinced that nothing could save them from capture. What contributed most to their despair was the fact that their walls had fallen down and that the situation allowed no time for their repair. Consequently they removed from the city their children and wives and most valuable possessions to neighbouring cities. [5] Another party of the Messenians, however, hearing of a certain ancient oracle of theirs which ran, "Carthaginians must be bearers of water in Messene," interpreted the utterance to their advantage, believing that the Carthaginians would serve as slaves in Messene. [6] Consequently not only were they in a hopeful mood, but they made many others eager to face battle for their freedom. At once, then, they selected the ablest troops from among their young men and dispatched them to Peloris to prevent the enemy from entering their territory.

1 Some fifteen miles east of Himera.

2 On Lipara see Book 5.10.

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