|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE BATTLE OF CRIMISUS
 THE exiles who had returned to Sicily, and the colonists
who had come to settle there, were needed, not only to
till the ground but to defend the island. For the
Carthaginians, angry with Mago's failure, now sent to
Sicily an enormous army, seventy thousand strong.
The Syracusans were frightened to see so large a force,
and not more than three thousand men were willing to go
with Timoleon against the enemy. He hired four
thousand soldiers, but of these one thousand deserted
before a battle was fought.
Near the river Crimisus the Carthaginians encamped, and
thither Timoleon hastened with his faint-hearted army.
On their way they met a number of mules laden with
baskets of parsley. Now the Sicilians were used to
place wreaths of parsley upon the tombs of their dead,
so they were sure that it was a bad omen to meet the
mules, and they grew still more uneasy.
But Timoleon laughed at their fears, telling them that
in Corinth the victors at the games were crowned with
chaplets of parsley. He then lifted some from the
baskets, and twisting it into a wreath he placed it on
his head, his officers first and then the soldiers
following his example.
At that moment two eagles flew toward the army. One
carried in its talons a snake, which it had killed, the
other uttered loud cries as of victory. Here was a
good omen! It was ever a sign of success to see an
eagle, and the soldiers thanked the gods and plucked up
 Before long Timoleon led his men to the top of a hill
that looked down on the river Crimisus. But at first
he could see nothing, for a thick mist veiled the
The hill was still hidden from sight when the mist
lifted from the river, and Timoleon saw that the
Carthaginians had begun to cross to the other side, but
they had no idea that the enemy was near.
Now was the time, thought Timoleon, to charge the
enemy, while it was crossing the river. So bidding the
trumpets sound, he seized his shield and ordered his
troops to advance.
The courage of the men had returned, and with cheers
they rushed down the hill and charged the
Carthaginians, who, taken by surprise, yet fought
bravely. They wore heavy armour and their breastplates
were able to resist the thrust of the Corinthian
spears. Soon the men were at close quarters with
swords drawn, and a terrible struggle began.
It seemed that now one side, now the other would
conquer. While the victory still hung in the balance,
a violent storm broke over the battlefield.
The thunder crashed so that the orders of the officers
could no longer be heard. Lightning flashed in the
eyes of the startled horses and blinded them, while
torrents of rain and hail dashed in the faces of the
As the ground grew muddy, the soldiers slipped and fell
to the ground. The Sicilians, who wore light armour,
easily struggled to their feet, but their foes found it
almost impossible to rise.
Soon the river overflowed its banks and swept across
the battlefield. This was more than the Carthaginians
could bear, and they turned and fled, but many were
overtaken by the swift-footed Sicilians and slain.
The victorious army found more spoil than they had
thought possible—a thousand breastplates and ten
thousand shields of marvellous workmanship, as well as
ornaments of gold and silver were taken.
 When tidings were sent to Corinth of the great victory
of Crimisus, the richest of the spoil was also sent to
On the booty were written these words, "The people of
Corinth and Timoleon, their general, having redeemed
the Greeks of Sicily from Carthaginian bondage, make
oblation of these to the gods, in grateful
acknowledgement of their favour."
Sicily was now free, and the people in their gratitude
begged Timoleon to become their king. But this he
would not do, nor would he even keep the command of the
army. His wife and children whom he had left in
Corinth joined him, and for a time he lived with them
in Syracuse as quietly as any other citizen. When he
left the city it was to live in a beautiful country
house which was given to him by the grateful people of
As he grew older, Timoleon's eyesight failed, and at
length he became quite blind. But old and blind as he
was the people did not forget all that he had done for
them, and they loved and trusted him as in happier
If trouble arose in the assembly, they would beg him to
come to give them his advice. And the old man would
order his car, which was drawn by mules, and be driven
to the hall. Here he would sit and listen to the
troubles of the people, and when he spoke it was seldom
that his words were not obeyed.
Three or four years after the battle of Crimisus,
Timoleon died. The grief of the Syracusans was deep,
for they had loved their deliverer well.
Thousands of men and women, clad in white and crowned
with garlands, followed his body as it was carried
slowly through the city, past the places where once the
palaces of the tyrants had stood.
As the bier was laid on the funeral pile, a herald
cried aloud, "The people of Syracuse inter Timoleon the
Corinthian at the public expense and decree that his
 honoured for ever, by games held each year,
the prizes to be competed for in music, in horse-races
and all sorts of bodily exercises, and this because he
suppressed tyrants, overthrew the barbarian,
replenished the principalities that were desolate with
new inhabitants, and then restored the Sicilian Greeks
to the privilege of living by their own laws."
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