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Running the Blockade

Himilco, the general in command at Lilybaeum, now
A sally from Lilybaeum.
saw that both divisions of his troops were in high spirits and eager for service,—the original garrison owing to the presence of the reinforcement, the newly arrived because they had as yet had no experience of the hardships of the situation. He wished to take advantage of the excited feelings of both parties, before they cooled, in order to organise an attempt to set fire to the works of the besiegers. He therefore summoned the whole army to a meeting, and dwelt upon the themes suitable to the occasion at somewhat greater length than usual. He raised their zeal to an enthusiastic height by the magnitude of his promises for individual acts of courage, and by declaring the favours and rewards which awaited them as an army at the hands of the Carthaginians. His speech was received with lively marks of satisfaction; and the men with loud shouts bade him delay no more, but lead them into the field. For the present, however, he contented himself with thanking them and expressing his delight at their excellent spirit, and bidding them go early to rest and obey their officers, dismissed them. But shortly afterwards he summoned the officers; assigned to them severally the posts best calculated for the success of the undertaking; communicated to them the watchword and the exact moment the movement was to be made; and issued orders to the commanders to be at the posts assigned with their men at the morning watch. His orders were punctually obeyed: and at daybreak he led out his forces and made attempts upon the siege-works at several points. But the Romans had not been blind to what was coming, and were neither idle nor unprepared. Wherever help was required it was promptly rendered; and at every point they made a stout resistance to the enemy. Before long there was fighting all along the line, and an obstinate struggle round the entire circuit of the wall; for the sallying party were not less than twenty thousand strong, and their opponents more numerous still. The contest was all the hotter from the fact that the men were not fighting in their regular ranks, but indiscriminately, and as their own judgment directed; the result of which was that a spirit of personal emulation arose among the combatants, because, though the numbers engaged were so great, there was a series of single combats between man and man, or company and company. However, it was at the siege-works themselves that the shouting was loudest and the throng of combatants the densest. At these troops had been massed deliberately for attack and defence. The assailants strove their utmost to dislodge the defenders, the defenders exerted all their courage to hold their ground and not yield an inch to the assailants,— and with such emulation and fury on both sides, that they ended by falling at their posts rather than yield. But there were others mingled with these, carrying torchwood and tow and fire, who made a simultaneous attack upon the batteringrams at every point: hurling these fiery missiles against them with such audacity, that the Romans were reduced to the last extremity of danger, being quite unable to overpower the attack of the enemy.
It fails.
But the general of the Carthaginians, seeing that he was losing large numbers in the engagement, without being able to gain the object of the sortie, which was to take the siege-works, ordered his trumpeters to sound a recall. So the Romans, after coming within an ace of losing all their siege-gear, finally kept possession of the works, and were able to maintain them all without dispute.

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