Meanwhile in Sicily the Syracusans and the allies brought up the fleet which they had1
to Messenè, and joining the other fleet which was keeping guard there, carried on the war from thence.
They were instigated chiefly by the Locrians, who hated the Rhegians, and had already invaded their territory with their whole force.
They were eager to try their fortune in a naval engagement, for they saw that the Athenians had only a few ships actually on the spot, the larger portion of the fleet which had been despatched to Sicily being, as they heard, engaged in the siege of Sphacteria.
If they conquered at sea they hoped to blockade Rhegium both by sea and land; they would easily master the place, and their affairs would then be really gaining strength. Rhegium, the extreme point of Italy, and Messenè, of Sicily, are close to one another; and if Rhegium were taken the Athenians would not be able to lie there and command the strait.
Now the strait is that portion of sea between Rhegium and Messenè where Sicily is nearest to the continent; it is the so-called Charybdis by which Odysseus is said to have passed. The channel was naturally considered dangerous; for the strait is narrow, and the sea flowing into it from two great oceans, the Tyrrhenian and Sicilian, is full of currents.