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Scipio's eagerness to carry out his project was quickened by the report which C. Laelius brought back of his conversation with Masinissa, and the troops, too, were very keen to make the voyage when they saw the whole of Laelius' fleet loaded with plunder taken from the enemy. His larger purpose, however, was crossed by a smaller undertaking, namely the conquest of Locri, one of the cities which in the general defection of Italy had gone over to the Carthaginians.  The hope of achieving this object had arisen from a very trivial incident. The struggle in Bruttium had assumed the character of brigandage much more than that of regular warfare. The Numidians had commenced the practice, and the Bruttians followed their example, not so much because of their alliance with the Carthaginians as because it was their traditional and natural method of carrying on war.  At last even the Romans were infected by the passion for plunder and, as far as their generals allowed them, used to make predatory incursions on the enemy's fields.  A party of Locrians who had left the shelter of their city were caught by them in one of these raids and carried off to Regium, and amongst them were some artisans who had been working for the Carthaginians in the citadel of Locri.  Many of the Locrian nobles who had been expelled by their opponents when the city was surrendered to Hannibal had retired to Regium and were living there at the time. They recognised these artisans and naturally after their long absence wanted to know what was going on at home.  After replying to all their questions the prisoners said that if they were ransomed and sent back they believed that they could betray the citadel to them, as they lived there and were implicitly trusted by the Carthaginians.  The nobles, filled as they were, with a yearning for home and burning to take vengeance on their opponents, came to an understanding with them as to how the project was to be executed and what signals those in the citadel were to look out for.  They then promptly ransomed them and sent them back. Their next step was to proceed to Syracuse, where some of the refugees were staying, and interview Scipio.  They told him what the prisoners had promised to do, and he felt that there was a reasonable prospect of success. Two military tribunes, M. Sergius and P. Matienus, accompanied them back to Regium with orders to take 3000 men from the garrison there and march to Locri.  Written instructions were also sent to the propraetor Q. Pleminius to take command of the expedition. The troops started from Regium carrying with them ladders specially constructed to reach the lofty elevation of the citadel and about midnight they arrived at the place from which they were to give the signal agreed upon.  The conspirators were on the look out, and when they observed the signal they lowered ladders which they had made for the purpose, and in this way the assailants were able to mount at several different points simultaneously. Before any shouting arose they attacked the men on guard who, suspecting no danger, were asleep.  Their dying groans were the first sounds that were heard, then there was the consternation of men suddenly awakened and not knowing the cause of the tumult, and at last when they discovered it they roused the rest and every man shouted his loudest, "To arms!  the enemy is in the citadel and the sentinels are being killed!" The Romans, who were far outnumbered, would have been overpowered had not the shouts of those outside bewildered the garrison, whilst everything seemed more terrible in the confusion and panic of a nocturnal assault.  The Carthaginians in their alarm imagined that the citadel was filled by the enemy, and abandoning all further resistance fled to the other citadel which was situated not far from the first.  The city itself, which lay between the two as the prize of victory, was held by the townsmen. Sorties were made from each citadel and skirmishes went on day by day.  Q. Pleminius commanded the Roman garrison and Hamilcar the Carthaginian. The numbers on each side were augmented by reinforcements from neighbouring positions.  At last Hannibal himself moved up and the Romans would not have held out had not the population, embittered by the tyranny and rapacity of the Carthaginians, taken their side.
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