Once at sea, the Romans wanted to join battle and match their strength against the enemy's at close quarters.
The Phoenicians, on the contrary, preferred to manœuvre; to conduct the affair by strategy, not by force, and to make it a contest [p. 149]
rather of ships than of men or arms.
their fleet was well equipped with rowers, they were short of fighting men; and when a ship was grappled, the men-at-arms in her were greatly outnumbered by their enemies.
Perceiving this, the Romans derived a fresh access of courage from their numbers, and the other side were correspondingly disheartened by their fewness. Seven Punic ships were instantly cut out and captured, and the rest took to flight.
There were seventeen hundred soldiers and sailors on the captured ships, including three Carthaginian nobles. The Roman fleet returned intact into the harbour: one ship only had been rammed, and even this was brought safely in.
After this engagement, but before the people in Messana had got wind of it, the consul Tiberius Sempronius came to that city.
As he was entering the straits, King Hiero put out to meet him, with his fleet in fighting order, and passing over from the royal galley to the praetorian,2
congratulated Sempronius on having arrived in safety with his army and his ships, and prayed that he might have a safe and successful passage to Sicily.
He then described conditions in the island and the attempts made by the Carthaginians, and promised that with the same spirit with which, in
his youth, he had helped the Roman People in the former war he would help them now, as an old man, and would furnish corn and clothing gratis to the legions of the consul and the naval allies.
He added that Lilybaeum and the cities of the coast were in great danger, and that some of them would welcome a revolution.
In view of these things, the consul saw fit to sail without delay for Lilybaeum, and the king attended him with [p. 151]
the royal fleet. On the voyage they learned of the3
action that had been fought near that city, and the defeat and capture of the enemy's ships.