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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.