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A Fruitless Sortie

Meanwhile the Carthaginians at home knew nothing of
Hannibal relieves Lilybaeum.
what was going on. But they could calculate the requirements of a besieged garrison; and they accordingly filled fifty vessels with soldiers, furnished their commander Hannibal, a son of Hamilcar, and an officer and prime favourite of Adherbal's, with instructions suitable to the business in hand, and despatched him with all speed: charging him to be guilty of no delay, to omit no opportunity, and to shrink from no attempt however venturesome to relieve the besieged. He put to sea with his ten thousand men, and dropped anchor at the islands called Aegusae, which lie in the course between Lilybaeum and Carthage, and there looked out for an opportunity of making Lilybaeum. At last a strong breeze sprang up in exactly the right quarter: he crowded all sail and bore down before the wind right upon the entrance of the harbour, with his men upon the decks fully armed and ready for battle. Partly from astonishment at this sudden appearance, partly from dread of being carried along with the enemy by the violence of the gale into the harbour of their opponents, the Romans did not venture to obstruct the entrance of the reinforcement; but stood out at sea overpowered with amazement at the audacity of the enemy.

The town population crowded to the walls, in an agony of anxiety as to what would happen, no less than in an excess of joy at the unlooked-for appearance of hope, and cheered on the crews as they sailed into the harbour, with clapping hands and cries of gladness. To sail into the harbour was an achievement of great danger; but Hannibal accomplished it gallantly, and, dropping anchor there, safely disembarked his soldiers. The exultation of all who were in the city was not caused so much by the presence of the reinforcement, though they had thereby gained a strong revival of hope, and a large addition to their strength, as by the fact that the Romans had not dared to intercept the course of the Carthaginians.

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