Not many days intervened before ambassadors came from the Leontines, requesting troops to protect their frontiers; an embassy which appeared to afford a very favourable opportunity for disencumbering the city of a turbulent and disorderly rabble, and for removing their leaders to a distance.
The praetor, Hippocrates, was ordered to lead the deserters thither. Many of the mercenary auxiliaries accompanying them made them number four thousand armed men.
This expedition gave great delight both to those who were sent and those who sent them, for to the former an opportunity was afforded of change which they had long desired, while the latter were rejoiced because they considered that a kind of sink of the city had been drained off. But they had, as it were, only relieved a sick body for a time, that it might afterwards fall into a more aggravated disease.
For Hippocrates began to ravage the adjoining parts of the Roman province, at first by stealthy excursions, but afterwards, when Appius had sent a body of troops to protect the lands of the allies, he made an attack with all his forces upon the guard posted over against him, and slew many.
Marcellus, when informed of [p. 931]
this, immediately sent ambassadors to Syracuse, who said that the faith of the treaty had been broken, and that there would never be wanting a cause for hostilities, unless Hippocrates and Epicydes were removed not only from Syracuse, but far from all Sicily. Epicydes, lest by being present he should be arraigned for the offence committed by his absent brother, or should be wanting on his own part in stirring up a war, proceeded himself also to the Leontines; and seeing that they were already sufficiently exasperated against the Romans, he endeavoured to detach them from the Syracusans also.
His argument was, that the terms on which they had formed a treaty of peace with the Romans were, that whatever people had been subject to their kings should be placed under their dominion;
and that now they were not satisfied with liberty unless they could also exercise kingly power and dominion over others.
The answer, therefore, he said, which they ought to send back was, that the Leontines also considered themselves entitled to liberty, either on the ground that the tyrant fell in the streets of their city, or that there the shout was first raised for liberty; and that they were the persons who, abandoning the king's generals, flocked to Syracuse.
That, therefore, either that article must be expunged from the treaty, or that that term of it would not be admitted. They easily persuaded the multitude;
and when the ambassadors of Syracuse complained of the slaughter of the Roman guard, and ordered that Hippocrates and Epicydes should depart either to Locri or any other place they pleased, provided they quitted Sicily, a reply was made to them in a haughty manner, “that they had neither placed themselves at the disposal of the Syracusans to make a
peace for them with the Romans, nor were they bound by the treaties of other people.”
This answer the Syracusans laid before the Romans, declaring at the same time that “the Leontines were not under their control, and that, therefore, the Romans might make war on them without violating the treaty subsisting between them; that they would also not be wanting in the war, provided that when brought again under subjection, they should form a part of their dominion, agreeably to the conditions of the peace.”