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Marcellus in the meanwhile proceeded with about one-third of his army to recover the cities which in the general disturbance had seceded to the Carthaginans.  Helorum and Herbesus at once made their submission, Megara was taken by assault and sacked and then completely destroyed in order to strike terror into the rest, especially Syracuse.  Himilco, who had been for a considerable time cruising with his fleet off the promontory of Pachynus, returned to Carthage as soon as he heard that Syracuse had been seized by Hippocrates.  Supported by the envoys from Hippocrates and by a despatch from Hannibal in which he said that the time had arrived for winning back Sicily in the most glorious way, and by the weight of his own personal presence, he had no difficulty in persuading the government to send to Sicily as large a force as they could of both infantry and cavalry.  Sailing back to the island he landed at Heraclea an army of 20,000 infantry, 3000 cavalry, and twelve elephants, a very much stronger force than he had with him at Pachynus. Immediately on his arrival he took Heraclea and a few days later Agrigentum.  Other cities which had taken the side of Carthage were now so hopeful of expelling the Romans from Sicily that even the spirits of the blockaded Syracusans began to rise.  Their generals considered that a portion of their army would be adequate for the defence of the city, and accordingly divided their force; Epicydes was to superintend the defence of the city, whilst Hippocrates was to conduct the campaign against the Roman consul in conjunction with Himilco.  Hippocrates marched out of the city in the night through an unguarded part of the Roman lines and selected a site for his camp near the city of Acrillae.  Marcellus came upon them while they were entrenching themselves. He had marched hastily to Agrigentum in the hope of reaching it before the enemy, but, finding it already occupied, was returning to his position before Syracuse and expected least of all to find a Syracusan force at that time and in that place.  Knowing that he was no match with the troops he had for Himilco and his Carthaginians, he had advanced with the utmost caution, keeping a sharp look-out and guarding against any possible surprise.
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