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But the town of Eryx now became Hamilcar’s stronghold. This was a far more ticklish, and puzzling, position than the heights above Heircte. He was wedged halfway up a mountain, between two tenacious enemy garrisons, with one twisting path down to his anchorage. On the plain below him a Roman consular army was encamped, though facing it were his forces in Drepana. Even if he had captured the summit as well, it would not have added greatly to his flexibility of manoeuvre. Yet Hamilcar both chose this position as his new base and maintained it for more than two years.
Polybius again merely supplies unhelpful generalizations about both sides experiencing ‘every kind of privation’, ‘every means of attack and every 15 THE HEIGHTS OF HEIRCTE AND ERYX variety of action’. But an excerpt of Diodorus tells how a Punic officer named ‘Vodostor’—probably a version of the Carthaginian name Bostar—after a victory suffered heavy losses by letting his men plunder against Hamilcar’s orders; the total loss of his infantry was prevented only by the discipline of his 200 horse.
In an episode vividly recorded by Diodorus, Bomilcar’s attempt was thwarted and he was executed on the cross. 17 These later efforts at dominating the state may have been partly encouraged by the examples of successful autocracy that Punic aristocrats could see across the water, not just in Greece (like Jason of Pherae in the 370s and of course the Macedonian kings) but equally in Sicily—above all the triumphant four-decade rule of Dionysius the Elder at Syracuse, later too that of Agathocles. Autocrats and kings were now in the ascendant in much of the Greek world.