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Gelon, who had likewise held his army in readiness, on learning that the Himerans were in despair set out from Syracuse with all speed, accompanied by not less than fifty thousand foot-soldiers and over five thousand cavalry. He covered the distance swiftly, and as he drew near the city of the Himerans he inspired boldness in the hearts of those who before had been dismayed at the forces of the Carthaginians. [2] For after pitching a camp which was appropriate to the terrain about the city, he not only fortified it with a deep ditch and a palisade but also dispatched his entire body of cavalry against such forces of the enemy as were ranging over the countryside in search of booty. And the cavalry, unexpectedly appearing to men who were scattered without military order over the countryside, took prisoner as many as each man could drive before him. And when prisoners to the number of more than ten thousand had been brought into the city, not only was Gelon accorded great approbation but the Himerans also came to hold the enemy in contempt. [3] Following up what he had already accomplished, all the gates which Theron through fear had formerly blocked up were now, on the contrary, opened up by Gelon through his contempt of the enemy, and he even constructed additional ones which might prove serviceable to him in case of urgent need.

In a word Gelon, excelling as he did in skill as a general and in shrewdness, set about at once to discover how he might without any risk to his army outgeneral the barbarians and utterly destroy their power. And his own ingenuity was greatly aided by accident, because of the following circumstance. [4] He had decided to set fire to the ships of the enemy; and while Hamilcar was occupied in the naval camp with the preparation of a magnificent sacrifice to Poseidon,1 cavalrymen came from the countryside bringing to Gelon a letter-carrier who was conveying dispatches from the people of Selinus, in which was written that they would send the cavalry for that day for which Hamilcar had written to dispatch them. [5] The day was that on which Hamilcar planned to celebrate the sacrifice. And on that day Gelon dispatched cavalry of his own, who were under orders to skirt the immediate neighbourhood and to ride up at daybreak to the naval camp, as if they were the allies from Selinus, and when they had once got inside the wooden palisade, to slay Hamilcar and set fire to the ships. He also sent scouts to the hills which overlook the city, ordering them to raise the signal as soon as they saw that the horsemen were inside the wall. For his part, at daybreak he drew up his army and awaited the sign which was to come from the scouts.

1 Although Diodorus states below that Hamilcar was slain in battle, Hdt. 7.179 says that he threw himself into the fire on which he was pouring libations and offering whole victims in order to bring victory. If this self-immolation is authentic, the god to whom he was sacrificing was in all probability the Phoenician Melcarth, the Biblical Moloch.

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