Hardly had Pyrrhus turned his back for the last time on Italy when the first note of war between the Romans and the Carthaginians, who had so recently formed an alliance against him, was sounded. It came, as was to be expected, from that fair island which, by its position, seemed to belong half to Europe, half to Africa, and from that point in it which lay actually within sight of Rhegium, the town which was, as yet, the farthest outpost of the Roman alliance. For more than a century past Greeks and Carthaginians had been contending, with varying success, for the possession of the island. Few towns of any importance within its limits had escaped destruction, fewer still had escaped a siege, and many had been taken and retaken almost as many times as there had been campaigns. On the whole, in spite of the efforts of able leaders like Dionysius the Tyrant, Timoleon, and Agathocles, fortune had favoured the Carthaginians; and the power of Syracuse, the head of the Greek states, was now confined to the southeastern comer of the island.
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