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The Topography of Lilybaeum

Sicily, then, lies towards Southern Italy very much in the same relative position as the Peloponnese does to the rest of Greece. The only difference is that the one is an island, the other a peninsula; and consequently in the former case there is no communication except by sea, in the latter there is a land communication also. The shape of Sicily is a triangle, of which the several angles are represented by promontories: that to the south jutting out into the Sicilian Sea is called Pachynus; that which looks to the north forms the western extremity of the Straits of Messene and is about twelve stades from Italy, its name is Pelorus; while the third projects in the direction of Libya itself, and is conveniently situated opposite the promontories which cover Carthage, at a distance of about a thousand stades: it looks somewhat south of due west, dividing the Libyan from the Sardinian Sea, and is called Lilybaeum. On this last there is a city of the same name. It was this city that the Romans were now besieging. It was exceedingly strongly fortified: for besides its walls there was a deep ditch running all round it, and on the side of the sea it was protected by lagoons, to steer through which into the harbour was a task requiring much skill and practice.

The Romans made two camps, one on each side of the

Siege of Lilybaeum, B. C. 250.
town, and connected them with a ditch, stockade, and wall. Having done this, they began the assault by advancing their siege-works in the direction of the tower nearest the sea, which commands a view of the Libyan main. They did this gradually, always adding something to what they had already constructed; and thus bit by bit pushed their works forward and extended them laterally, till at last they had brought down not only this tower, but the six next to it also; and at the same time began battering all the others with battering-rams. The siege was carried on with vigour and terrific energy: every day some of the towers were shaken and others reduced to ruins; every day too the siege-works advanced farther and farther, and more and more towards the heart of the city. And though there were in the town, besides the ordinary inhabitants, as many as ten thousand hired soldiers, the consternation and despondency became overwhelming. Yet their commander Himilco omitted no measure within his power. As fast as the enemy demolished a fortification he threw up a new one; he also countermined them, and reduced the assailants to straits of no ordinary difficulty. Moreover, he made daily sallies, attempted to carry or throw fire into the siegeworks, and with this end in view fought many desperate engagements by night as well as by day: so determined was the fighting in these struggles, that sometimes the number of the dead was greater than it ordinarily is in a pitched battle.

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Lilybaeum (Italy) (3)
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250 BC (1)
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