CHAPTER XINew Expedition against Sextus Pompeius -- Lepidus brings a Fleet from Africa -- Another Storm damages Octavius' Ships and causes Delay-Sextus fails to take Advantage of these Occurrences -- Menodorus turns Traitor again -- Surrenders his Ships and himself to Octavius -- Disposition of the Forces of Octavius -- Disaster to Lepidus on the Sea -- Agrippa occupies the Island of Hiera -- He attacks the Pompeian Fleet, and wins a Victory
 It was intended that Octavius should set sail from Puteoli, Lepidus from Africa, and Taurus from Tarentum, to Sicily, in order to surround the enemy at once, from the east, the west, and the south. The day of Octavius' sailing had been previously communicated to all. It was the tenth day after the summer solstice. This, in the Roman calendar, was the calends of the month which, in honor of the first Cæsar, they call July instead of Quintilis. Octavius fixed on this day, perhaps because he considered it propitious on account of his father, who was always victorious. Pompeius stationed Plennius at Lilybæum with one legion and a considerable body of light-armed troops, to oppose Lepidus. He guarded the whole coast of Sicily, both east and west, and especially the islands of Lipara and Cossyra, lest they should become convenient harbors and naval stations for Octavius and Lepidus against Sicily. The best part of his naval force he kept together at Messana watching its chances. In this way they made their preparations on either side.  When the calends came they all set sail at daybreak, Lepidus from Africa with 1000 ships of burden, seventy war vessels, twelve legions of soldiers, 500 Numidian horse, and a great quantity of apparatus; Taurus from Tarentum with only 102 of the 130 ships that Antony had left, since the oarsmen of the remainder had perished during the winter. Octavius sailed from Puteoli, offering sacrifices and pouring out libations from the admiral's ship into the water to the propitious winds, and to Neptune, the guardian, and to the tranquil sea, that they should be his assistants against his father's enemies. Certain ships sent in advance made examination of the bays, and Appius with a large squadron followed as a rear guard. On the third day after their departure a south wind blew with violence and capsized a large number of ships of burden belonging to Lepidus. Nevertheless, he reached the Sicilian coast, laid siege to Plennius in Lilybæum, and got possession of some towns by persuasion and others by force. When the wind began to blow Taurus returned to Tarentum. While Appius was doubling the promontory of Minerva, some of his ships were shattered against the rocks, others ran with violence on the shoals, and the rest were dispersed, not without injury. At the beginning of the storm, Octavius took refuge in the sheltered bay of Elea, except one six-banked ship, which was wrecked on the promontory. The south wind was succeeded by a southwester, which threw the bay into commotion, as it opened toward the west. It was impossible to sail out of the bay with the wind still ahead, nor could the ships be held by oars or anchors. They crashed against each other or against the rocks, and the confusion became worse confounded by night.  When the tempest had subsided, Octavius buried the dead, cared for the wounded, clothed those who had swum ashore and furnished them with new weapons, and repaired his whole fleet with the means at his command. Six of his heavy ships, twenty-six lighter ones, and a still larger number of liburnicas had been destroyed. He was likely to consume nearly thirty days in these repairs; and now the end of summer was approaching, for which reason he deemed it best to postpone the war till the following summer, but as the people were suffering from scarcity he drew his ships upon the land and made his preparations rapidly, and sent the crews of the ships that he had lost to fill the empty ones in the fleet of Taurus. In anticipation of more serious misfortune he sent Mæcenas to Rome on account of those who were still under the spell of the memory of Pompey the Great, for the fame of that man had not yet lost its influence over them. Octavius himself visited the new colonies throughout Italy and dispelled their fears, which had been excited by the recent events. He also went to Tarentum and inspected the naval force under Taurus. Thence he proceeded to Vibo, where he encouraged his infantry and hastened the preparations of his fleet, the time for his second invasion of Sicily being near at hand.  Pompeius did not deign to seize the fine opportunity presented to him by so many shipwrecks. He merely offered sacrifice to the sea and to Neptune, assuming to call himself their son, and persuading himself that it was not without the special act of Providence that his enemies had been twice overwhelmed in this way in the summer months. It is said that he was so much puffed up by these circumstances that he exchanged the purple cloak customary to Roman commanders for a dark blue one, to signify that he was the adopted son of Neptune. He hoped that Octavius would now desist from his undertaking, but when he learned that the latter was building ships and was about to renew the expedition against him that summer, he became alarmed at finding himself at war with a man of such indomitable spirit and such formidable preparations. He sent Menodorus, with the seven ships he had brought, to reconnoitre the dockyards of Octavius and to do whatever damage he could. Menodorus had been vexed for some time past because the naval command had not been given to him, and he now perceived that he was intrusted with only the ships that he had brought, because he was under suspicion. So he plotted a new desertion.  Conceiving that, however matters might turn out, he should first signalize himself by some act of valor, he distributed among his companions all the gold he had, and sailed, by rowing three days, accomplishing a distance of 1500 stades, and fell like a thunderbolt, unperceived, on the vessels that were guarding Octavius' shipyards, and darted away to an unseen place carrying off the guard-ships by twos and threes. He also sunk, or captured, or burned some merchant vessels, laden with corn, that were moored there or sailing along the coast. Everything was thrown into confusion by this raid of Menodorus, both Octavius and Agrippa being absent. The latter had gone away to procure timber. In a spirit of bravado Menodorus ran his ship upon the soft ground, voluntarily and contemptuously, and pretended to be stuck in the mud, until his enemies dashed down from the mountains as to a certain prey, when he backed away, laughing, and left the soldiers of Octavius the victims of both chagrin and astonishment. When he had sufficiently shown what he was capable of, as enemy or friend, he dismissed a senator whom he had taken prisoner, named Rebillus, having a view already to the future.  During his former desertion he had been a friend of Mindius Marcellus, one of the companions of Octavius, and he now told his own men that Mindius had the intention of betraying his party and deserting to that of Pompeius. Then he drew near to the enemy and invited Mindius to go with him to a small island in order to have a conference. When the latter came, and there was nobody else within earshot, Menodorus said that he had gone back to Pompeius because he was ill-treated by the admiral of those days, Calvisius, but that since Agrippa had been appointed to the command of the fleet he would come back to Octavius, who had done him no wrong, if Mindius would bring him a safe-conduct from Messala, who was commanding in Agrippa's absence. He said that on his return he would make amends for his fault by brilliant exploits, but that until the safe-conduct arrived he should be obliged to harass the forces of Octavius as before in order to avoid suspicion; and this he did. Messala hesitated on account of the baseness of the transaction, but he nevertheless yielded, either because he considered such things necessary in war, or because he had learned beforehand, or conjectured, the mind of Octavius. Menodorus at once deserted, and, upon the approach of Octavius, threw himself at his feet and begged that he would pardon him without asking for the reasons for his flight. Octavius conceded his safety on account of the pledges made, but had him secretly watched. He dismissed the captains of his triremes and allowed them to go wherever they pleased.  When the fleet was ready Octavius set sail again. He landed at Vibo and ordered Messala, who had two legions of infantry, to cross over to Sicily, join the army of Lepidus, pass through to the bay in front of Tauromenium, and station himself there. He sent three legions to Stylis and the extremity of the straits, to await events. He ordered Taurus to sail around from Tarentum to Mount Scylacium, which is opposite Tauromenium.1 Taurus did so, having prepared himself for fighting as well as for rowing. His infantry kept even pace with him, the cavalry reconnoitring by land and the liburnicas by sea. While he was making this movement Octavius, who had advanced from Vibo, made his appearance near Scylacium, and, after giving his approval to the good order of the forces, returned to Vibo. Pompeius, as I have already said, guarded all the landing-places on the island and retained his fleet at Messana, in order to send aid where it might be needed.  Such were the preparations of Octavius and Pompeius in this quarter. Meanwhile four more legions were en route to Lepidus from Africa in merchant ships, being the remainder of his army. Papias, one of Pompeius' captains, threw himself in their way on the sea, and, after they had received him as a friend (for they thought that these were ships sent by Lepidus to meet them), destroyed them. Some ships were despatched by Lepidus later, and when these were approaching, the merchant ships that had escaped mistook them for other enemies and fled. So some of them were burned, some captured, some upset, and the rest returned to Africa. Two legions perished in the sea, or, if any of them could swim, Tisienus, the lieutenant of Pompeius, slew them when they reached the land. The other legions reëmbarked and joined Lepidus, some sooner and some later. Papias sailed back to Pompeius.  Octavius crossed from Vibo with his whole fleet to Strongyle,2 one of the five Æolian islands, having made a reconnoissance of the sea beforehand. Seeing large forces in front of him on the Sicilian shore at Pelorum, Mylæ, and Tyndaris, he conjectured that Pompeius himself was there. So he left Agrippa in command and returned again to Vibo, and thence hastened with Messala and three legions to the camp of Taurus, intending to seize Tauromenium while Pompeius was still absent, and thus threaten him on two sides at once. In pursuance of this plan Agrippa moved forward from Strongyle to the island of Hiera, and as Pompeius' garrison made no resistance he occupied it and intended on the following day to attack, at Mylæ, Demochares, the lieutenant of Pompeius, who had forty ships. Pompeius observed the menacing attitude of Agrippa, and sent to Demochares from Messana forty-five ships, under the command of his freedman Apollophanes, and followed in person with seventy others.  Agrippa, with half of his ships, sailed out of Hiera before daylight in order to have a naval engagement with Papias3 only. When he saw the fleet of Apollophanes also, and seventy ships on the other wing, he sent word to Octavius at once that Pompeius was at Mylæ with the greater part of his naval forces. Then he placed himself with his heavy ships in the centre, and summoned the remainder of his fleet from Hiera in all haste. The preparations on both sides were superb. The ships had towers on both stem and stern. When the usual exhortation had been given and the standards raised, they rushed against each other, some coming bow on, others making flank attacks, the shouts of the men and the spray from the ships adding terror to the scene. The Pompeian ships were shorter and lighter, and better adapted to blockading and darting about. Those of Octavius were larger and heavier, and, consequently, slower, yet stronger to give blows and not so easily damaged. The Pompeian crews were better sailors than those of Octavius, but the latter were stronger. Accordingly, the former excelled not so much in close fighting as in the nimbleness of their movements, in breaking oar blades and rudders, cutting off oar handles, or separating the enemy's ships entirely, doing them no less harm than by ramming. Those of Octavius sought to cut down with their beaks the hostile ships, which were smaller in size, or shatter them, or break through them. When they came to close quarters, being higher, they could hurl missiles down upon the enemy, and more easily throw the corvus4 and the grappling-irons. The Pompeians, whenever they were overpowered in this manner, leaped into the sea and were picked up by their small boats, which were hovering around for this purpose.  Agrippa bore down directly upon Papias and struck his ship under the bow, shattering it and breaking a hole in the keel. The men in the towers were shaken down, the water rushed into the ship, and all the oarsmen on the lower benches were cut off. The others broke through the deck and escaped by swimming. Papias escaped to a ship alongside of his own, and returned to the battle. Pompeius, who observed from a mountain that his ships were making little headway, and that whenever they came to close quarters with the enemy they were denuded of fighting men, and that reinforcements were coming to Agrippa from Hiera, gave the signal to retire in good order. This they did, advancing and retreating little by little. Agrippa continued to bear down upon them, and they took refuge, not on the beach, but among the shoals formed in the sea by river deposits.  Agrippa's pilots prevented him from running his large ships on the shoals. He cast anchor in the open sea, intending to blockade the enemy and to fight a battle by night if necessary; but his friends advised him not to be carried away by rashness and not to wear out his soldiers with excessive toil and want of sleep, and not to trust to that tempestuous sea. So in the evening he reluctantly withdrew. The Pompeians made sail to their harbors, having lost thirty of their ships, and sunk five of the enemy's, and having inflicted considerable other damage and suffered as much in return. Pompeius praised his own men because they had resisted such formidable vessels, saying they had fought against walls rather than against ships; and he rewarded them as though they had been victorious. He encouraged them to believe that, as they were lighter, they would prevail over the enemy in the straits on account of the current. He said also that he would make some addition to the height of his ships. Such was the result of the naval battle at Mylæ between Agrippa and Papias.