Manius Otacilius Crassus and Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla

The consuls for the next year (263) which replaced Appius Claudius Caudex in Sicily were Manius Otacilius Crassus and Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla, the latter being the grandson of the epic Marcus Valerius Corvus. With the Volsinii rebellion in Italy put down Rome was able to commit both consuls and their armies to the Sicilian campaign. The Roman armies were able to take several towns in eastern Sicily by force, though some sixty plus settlements defected over to the Roman cause without a fight. (Diodorus Siculus 23.4)1 This put Hiero II in a very tough spot as being the king of Syracuse that was largely gained from his charisma and military exploits. Seeing the limited territory Syracuse had fall into Roman hands, the Mamertines being granted protection by Rome, and the Carthaginians nowhere to be found (though a small naval contingent may have arrived too little after the fact), Hiero had much to think about.

His alliance with Carthage was likely an uneasy one as it went against literally prior centuries of war and conflict over control in Sicily. It may have also been meant as a very temporary alliance just to deal with the barbarous Mamertines and then to return to the status quo. At any rate, with no substantial Carthaginian assistance on the horizon Hiero may have felt isolated against Rome and he knew that his chances against Rome would be minimal. (No doubt seeing perhaps as many as 40,000 Romans at camp beyond Syracuse’s walls helped him come to a decision.) Instead of continuing a war against Rome, Hiero sent word that he was willing to submit to a peace.

The consuls agreed to a peace with Hiero. Sure they probably could have sieged the city and forced it to surrender, but Syracuse was notoriously well defended (as Carthage could attest to) and it would take losses and time (when Rome did siege Syracuse it took two years). The last thing the consuls wanted was for the next year’s consuls to attain all the credit for bringing the war with Syracuse to a close despite their own achievements. Besides, Rome was not necessarily against Syracuse as the whole operation was meant to be a preventative measure against the power of Carthage. Likewise, the Syracusans desired war with the Mamertines, not a war with Rome. The negotiations were swift and the terms of peace were thus:

Having made a treaty by which the king bound himself to give up his prisoners to the Romans without ransom, and in addition to this to pay them a hundred talents, the Romans hence forth treated the Syracusans as allies and friends. (Polybius 1.16)2

And so the Romans’ war against Syracuse came to a close. It was a win for the Romans as a prior enemy now became an ally to the Roman cause. Syracuse and eastern Sicily would provide a consolidated base from which to strike the Carthaginians from as well as provide necessary food and supplies to further campaigns in Sicily (the island was well known for its substantial harvest and there are hints in the records that Appius Claudius Caudex the year before encountered logistical problems.) Hiero II also turned out to be a very loyal ally of Rome for the rest of his days (which would be for another almost fifty years – we are told he lived into his nineties) and, as we will see later, provided aid to the Romans in the war in both manpower and grain. It was also a win to a lesser extent for Hiero and Syracuse. True, no more tyrants could legitimately claim to be King of Sicily and the Mamertines presumably would go unpunished. Yet Syracuse became an ally with Rome (with the terms of the peace being quite lenient) and was allowed to rule its own small kingdom in its corner of Sicily essentially unrestricted.

With Syracuse knocked out of the fight and now under their own control, the Romans believed that its forces in Sicily could be reduced. One of the armies then withdrew back to Italy proper. At this time Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus earned the appellation Messalla (for his liberation of Messanna) and was awarded a triumph for the victories in his campaign in Sicily. However this Roman overconfidence was indeed misplaced. Carthage established a fortified base at the town of Agrigentum on the southern coast of Sicily using mercenaries from the region of Cisalpine Gaul and from Spain. It would be here at Agrigentum that the first combat between the two powers of Carthage and Rome would take place.

1. Diodorus Siculus. Library of History. Translated by Francis Walton. 1957.
2. Polybius. The Histories. Translated by W. R. Paton. 1922.