The ambassadors returned from Marcellus very opportunely. They informed them that they had been influenced by groundless suspicions, and that the Romans saw no reason why they should inflict punishment upon them.
Of the three praefects of the Achradina one was a Spaniard, named Me- [p. 1000]
ricus. To him one of the Spanish auxiliaries was designedly sent, among those who accompanied the ambassadors. Having obtained an interview with Mericus in the absence of witnesses, he first explained to him the state in which he had left Spain, from which he had lately returned: “That there every thing was in subjection to the Roman arms;
that it was in his power, by doing the Romans a service, to become the first man among his countrymen, whether he might be inclined to serve with the Romans, or to return to his country. On the other hand, if he persisted in preferring to hold out against the siege, what hope could he have, shut up as he was by sea and land?”
Mericus was moved by these suggestions, and when it was resolved upon to send ambassadors to Marcellus, he sent his brother among them; who, being brought into the presence of Marcellus, apart from the rest, by means of the same Spaniard, after receiving an assurance of protection, arranged the method of carrying their object into effect, and then returned to the Achradina.
Mericus then, in order to prevent any one from conceiving a suspicion of treachery, declared, that he did not like that deputies should be passing to and fro; he thought that they should neither admit nor send any; and in order that the guards might be kept more strictly, that such parts as were most exposed should be distributed among the praefects, each being made responsible for the safety of his own quarter.
All approved of the distribution of the posts. The district which fell to the lot of Mericus himself extended from the fountain Arethusa to the mouth of the large harbour, of which he caused the Romans to be informed.
Accordingly, Marcellus ordered a transport with armed men to be towed by a quadrireme to the Achradina during the night, and the soldiers to be landed in the vicinity of that gate which is near the fountain of Arethusa.
This order having been executed at the fourth watch, and Mericus having received the soldiers when landed at the gate, according to the agreement, Marcellus assaulted the walls of the Achradina with all his forces at break of day, so that he not only engaged the attention of those who
occupied the Achradina, but also bands of armed men, quitting their own posts, ran to the spot from the island, in order to repel the furious attack of the Romans.
During this confusion, some light ships which had been prepared beforehand, and had sailed [p. 1001]
round, landed a body of armed men at the island; these suddenly attacking the half-manned stations and the opened door of the gate at which the troops had a little before run out, got possession of the island without much opposition, abandoned as it was, in consequence of the flight and trepidation of its guards.
Nor were there any who rendered less service, or showed less firmness in maintaining their posts, than the deserters; for as they did not repose much confidence even in those of their own party, they fled in the middle of the contest.
When Marcellus learnt that the island was taken, one quarter of the Achradina in the hands of his troops, and that Mericus, with the men under his command, had joined them, he sounded a retreat, lest the royal treasure, the fame of which was greater than the reality, should be plundered.