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.The war on the Trebia had for the time being come to a standstill, but military and naval actions were taking place around Sicily and the islands fringing Italy, both under the conduct of Sempronius and also before his arrival.  Twenty quinqueremes with a thousand soldiers on board had been despatched by the Carthaginians to Italy, nine of them to Liparae, eight to the island of Vulcanus, and three had been carried by the currents into the Straits of Messana.  These were sighted from Messana, and Hiero, the King of Syracuse, who happened to be there at the time waiting for the consul, despatched twelve ships against them, and they were taken without any opposition and brought into the harbour of Messana.  It was ascertained from the prisoners, that besides the fleet of twenty ships to which they belonged which had sailed for Italy thirty-five quinqueremes were also on the way to Sicily with the object of stirring up the old allies of Carthage.  Their main anxiety was to secure Lilybaeum, and the prisoners were of opinion that the storm which had separated them from the rest had also driven that fleet up to the Aegates.  The king communicated this information just as he had received it to M. Aemilius, the praetor, whose province Sicily was, and advised him to throw a strong garrison into Lilybaeum.  The praetor at once sent envoys and military tribunes to the neighbouring states to urge them to take measures for self-defence.  Lilybaeum especially was engrossed in preparations for war; orders were issued for the seamen to carry ten days' rations on board that there might be no delay in setting sail when the signal was given; and men were despatched along the coast to look out for the approach of the hostile fleet.  So it came to pass that although the Carthaginians had purposely lessened the speed of their vessels, so that they might approach Lilybaeum before daylight, they were descried in the offing owing to there being a moon all night, and also because they were coming with their sails set.  Instantly the signal was given by the look-out men; in the town there was the cry, "To arms," and the ships were manned. Some of the soldiers were on the walls and guarding the gates, others were on board the ships.  As the Carthaginians saw that they would have to deal with people who were anything but unprepared, they stood out from the harbour till daylight, and spent the time in lowering their masts and preparing for action.  When it grew light they put out to sea that they might have sufficient room for fighting, and that the enemy's ships might be free to issue from the harbour.  The Romans did not decline battle, encouraged as they were by the recollection of their former conflicts in this very place, and full of confidence in the numbers and courage of their men.
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