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The summer following the battle of Cannae was passed without any important

military movements in Italy. The Romans busied themselves as never before

with preparations for the expulsion of the invader. All the men of military

age in the Republic were called into service. Prisoners were freed and

slaves were armed for the great emergency. A fleet of a hundred and fifty

vessels was built, and twenty-one legions were organized and equipped.

Meanwhile Hannibal gained no accession of strength. His brother, Hasdrubal,

now in Spain, was obliged to act on the defensive, and the Greek cities of

Southern Italy, with few exceptions, were held in subjection by force

rather than affection. The year B. C. 215 passed with the greatest

augmentation of resources on the side of the Romans, and no material gain

on the side of Hannibal.

The first revival of the Carthaginian's prospects came from the quarter of

Sicily. So long as Hiero reigned in Syracuse-and the whole island was under

the influence of Syracuse-the insular state remained faithful to the

Romans. For the Senate had made Hiero a socius of the Republic. With his

death, however, a new state of circumstances supervened. Hieronymus, son of

the late king, came to the throne at the age of fifteen, and being at that

ripe epoch of his life wiser in his own esteem than his father, he turned

to the Carthaginian party. Hearing of this, Hannibal sent to Syracuse as

his agents two of his officers, Hippocrates and Epicydes, with instructions

to strengthen the young king's purposes and aid in the overthrow of Roman


For a brief season every thing looked favorable for a restoration of

Carthaginian supremacy in the island; but Hieronymus was presently

assassinated and his party driven from the city. The latter took refuge in

Leontini, and persuaded the people to renounce the Syracusan government and

expel the Roman garrison. This act brought upon them the vengeance of the

praetor Marcellus, who laid siege to Leontini, and soon carried the place

by storm. In the use which he made of his victory he behaved with so much

harshness towards the Roman deserters who were found in the town that the

Syracusan soldiers put themselves under Hippocrates and Epicydes, and the

Roman party in Syracuse was again suppressed.

The Carthaginian interest was thus completely triumphant, and Marcellus was

obliged to begin a siege in the hope of regaining by force what he had lost

by folly. The investment continued with varying successes for the space of

two years. A Roman fleet of sixty vessels was added to the land forces of

the praetor, but these were rendered of little avail by the wonderful

contrivances invented by Archimedes, who-if the tradition is to be

credited-constructed huge grappling hooks or cranes, which, hanging out

over the bay, reached down their insensate arms from above, clutched the

Roman ships, lifted them from the water, and dashed them to pieces by

dropping them as an eagle would a tortoise on the rocks! Still more

apocryphal is the story of his great concave mirrors, which he is said to

have set up as burning glasses on the beach, in the light of whose

concentric eyes of flame the ships in the harbor took fire like tinder! So

the siege was delayed.

Meanwhile a Carthaginian army landed in Sicily and marched to the relief of

the city. Agrigentum was taken and Marcellus was brought into a strait

place, when he suddenly improved his fortunes by the carelessness of the

enemy. By an oversight a certain part of the ramparts was left unguarded,

and the Romans, taking advantage of a festival, which had absorbed the

attention of the besieged, made a dash, and gained the heights of Epipolae,

which in part commanded the city. At this juncture the Carthaginian army

arrived before Syracuse, but the Romans were now able to retain their

position. In a short time a violent epidemic broke out among the African

soldiery, and they were obliged to decamp in order to save their- lives.

Soon afterwards a Spanish officer, having charge of the walls next Ortygia,

opened the gates to the Romans, who on the following day gained possession

of the entire city. The lives of the people were spared, but Syracuse

was sacked by the soldiers, whose appetites were

whetted by the delays and hardships of a two