“The citadel of Syracuse still holds!”
The news reverberated around the Greek colonies and homelands every time a ship sneaked in and out of the harbour. It had become a rallying cry. Each time, months apart, the news was received with rejoicing.
“The city of Syracuse and its citadel still hold out!” This cry went round the city and empire of Carthage with something other than elation, indeed the emotion it generated was just the opposite. Hasdrubal’s army was encamped outside the city walls of Syracuse and had been so for four long years. Handro’s fleet was blockading the bay and the port. But neither could break the deadlock. Syracuse held out, the last of the Greek enclaves on the island of Sicily. In actuality, the last Greek enclave in the western arm of the True Sea.
* * * *
“My Lord Admiral, the General Hasdrubal approaches!” The herald’s announcement was unnecessary as the hooves of the approaching horses clearly signalled arrival of the expected visitors.
The sides of the tent had been raised to allow air to circulate, but it was still oppressively hot in the Sicilian sun. Hasdrubal and his staff reined in, in front of the tent and dismounted They gazed across the bay to where Syracuse still lay in Greek hands for a moment and then entered the tent.
“Hail and well met, Handro.”
“Hail and well met, Hasdrubal. How goes it in the siege lines?”
“Nothing changes. I don’t have the men to launch another full scale assault, and they are so well supplied, I cannot starve them out.”
“I know, but my ships cannot get closer to stop them fishing whilst the catapults on Faro Maniace are still manned.”
Hasdrubal grunted. “But you are still allowing their ships in and out.”
“Fewer than you think. For every ship that gets back to Athens, seven lie at the bottom of the sea. You know as well as I do that we allow most in but few out. That was the long range strategy agreed by the king’s council back in Carthage. The more of Greek strength, particularly Athenian strength we can destroy here the weaker Greece and Athens will be in the future.”
“Long range strategy my arse! It saps our strength more. My men bleed and die and your men patrol to no end. Now what’s this idea you have to end this farce?”
“Perhaps some wine, General, and then we can talk.”
Unobtrusively, Handro’s staff led their opposite numbers out of the tent leaving the two commanders alone as Handro began to explain.
* * * *
Two nights later, it was a new moon and, unusually for the time of year, it was also cloudy. Without starlight, the night was very black indeed. Early in the siege, the Carthaginians had captured the small village of Carrozziere at the southern end of the bay and Carthaginian galleys could sail in and out of the small harbour there by sticking close to the south shore to stay out of range of the catapults mounted in the fortress at Casa Maniace.Click here to return to book