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This incident raised the spirits of the Romans and produced considerable alarm amongst the Macedonians and their king.  At first he tried to stifle the report by sending to Pantauchus, who was on his way to the camp, to forbid him from entering it; but some boys, who were being taken away amongst the Illyrian hostages, had been seen by their friends.  So the greater the pains taken to conceal the details, the more easily did they leak out through the love of gossip in the king's Court.  Just after this the envoys from Rhodes arrived at the Roman camp bringing with them the same demand for peace which had so roused the ire of the Roman senate. They received a much more hostile hearing from the council of war in the camp.  Some thought they ought to be driven helter-skelter out of the camp; the consul said he would give them an answer in a fortnight's time. Meanwhile, to make it clear how far the influence of the Rhodians extended in their efforts to bring about peace, he began to discuss the plan of operations with his council.  Some, mainly the younger officers, were for crossing the Elpeus and storming the opposite bank and the defensive works above it.  After their expulsion the year before from their forts, which were on higher ground, better fortified and strongly held, they thought the Macedonians would be unable to stand a general attack made in full force. Others were of opinion that Octavius ought to take his fleet to Thessalonica and devastate the coast.  By thus menacing his rear they would compel the king to divide his forces and march away to protect the interior of his kingdom, thus leaving the passage of the river in some direction open. The consul considered the river bank insurmountable, owing to its steepness and the works which defended it, especially as artillery was in position everywhere, and he had heard that the enemy used their missile weapons more skillfully, and with a surer aim.  The consul had quite made up his mind to adopt another course, and the council broke up. There were two Perrhaebian traders, Coenus and Menophilus, whose honesty and sagacity he knew he could trust.  He sent for them and questioned them privately about the routes leading into Perrhaebia. They told him that the country was not difficult; it was held by detachments of the king's troops.  Hearing this he thought that by a sudden night attack delivered in force, when the enemy were not expecting it, they could be dislodged and driven back. Javelins and arrows and other missiles were useless in the dark, when it was impossible to see what to aim at; it was in close hand-to-hand fighting with the sword, in the melee of battle, that the Roman soldier was victorious.  He decided to take these men as guides, and sent for Octavius, to whom he explained his plans, and he gave him instructions to sail to Heracleum and have in readiness ten days' rations for 1000 men.  P. Scipio Nasica and Q. Fabius Maximus, his own son, were sent overland to Heracleum with 5000 select troops, as though they were going on board the fleet to devastate the Macedonian coast-the scheme which had been advocated in the council.  They were privately informed that, to avoid any delay, there was food ready for these troops on board the fleet. The two guides were then ordered so to regulate the length of each day's march as to allow of an attack being made on Pythium in the fourth watch of the third day.  To prevent the king from directing his attention elsewhere, the consul, at dawn on the following day, commenced an action with the enemy's outposts in the middle of the river-bed, and the fighting was kept up by the light infantry on both sides; heavier troops could not possibly fight on such uneven ground.  From the top of each bank down to the river-bed was about 300 paces; the actual channel of the river between the banks, which varied in depth, was over a mile wide.  There in mid-channel the fight went on, the king watching it from his intrenchments on the one side and the consul from the rampart surrounded by his legionaries on the other.  As long as they were not in touch and could use their missiles the king's men fought at an advantage, but when it came to close fighting the Roman was more steady and better protected, whether by the shield or the Ligurian buckler.  About noon the consul ordered the retreat to be sounded, so the action was broken off for that day with a not inconsiderable number killed on both sides.  The next day the conflict was renewed at sunrise with even greater bitterness, as their passions had been roused by the previous contest.  But the Romans were wounded, not only by those with whom they were actually fighting, but to a much greater extent by the missiles of every kind which were discharged by the multitude of assailants posted on the turrets, and especially by the huge stones from the ballistae. Whenever they got nearer to the bank held by the enemy the discharges from the catapults reached even the hindmost. After losing far more on that day, the consul recalled his men somewhat later than the day before.  On the third day he abstained from fighting and went down to the lowest part of the camp, as if to attempt a passage through that part of the enemy's line, which was carried down to the sea.  . . .
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