That question has truly scratched the itch of Phidias, who had been thinking about this question. So after pondering about it, he said, “After winning the battle of Scylletium, you shouldn’t have attacked Crotone. Instead, you should have sent your army to bypass Crotone and Thurii by boat and land directly near Heraclea. After joining forces with the Tarantines, we should’ve attacked Heraclea and led the army to invade Theonia’s territory from the north while Theonia’s main force wasn’t in Thurii. Afterwards, we should’ve ignored the empty Amendolara and headed straight to the city of Thurii.
If the Theonian army fought back, we should take the opportunity to wipe them out. If they stayed on defence, we would forcefully storm the city of Thurii. And with the addition of the Tarantine army, you could’ve captured Thurii with less problem as you had even managed to capture Crotone. At the same time, you could’ve also sent a small number of troops to block the exit of the western mountain path so that the main force led by Davos couldn’t return in time…”
“For the army to go to Heraclea by ship?! Strategos Phidias, have you forgotten that the Theonian fleet was hiding in the Crati River? They would surely rush out to sea to attack our fleet!” Philistus objected.
“The Theonian fleet’s corvus just frightened you.” Phidias’ expression showed contempt, “I admit that the Theonian navy’s tactics are quite unique. However, you had underestimated the Theonians that you didn’t send all your ships to fight at the beginning. If you had adopted my plan and had merged the Syracusan navy with the Tarantines’ ships, you would’ve three times more ships than the Theonian fleet, and the final victor of this naval battle would definitely be you!… By then, Syracuse would already have control of the coast and taken over the city of Thurii, so even if Davos manage to return to Theonia with his army, the only thing that awaits him is a fractured alliance!”
“Even though strategos Phidias’ plan was wonderful, it is based on the fact that we already know about the Theonian fleet’s characteristics and that Davos would lead back the army with a total of 50,000 soldiers so soon after defeating the Samnites and that Davos’ commanding ability in the field is too strong for our army to fight head-on with them… Yet the circumstance at that time made us all confident that Theonia, which was significantly weaker than Syracuse, wouldn’t be able to stop our attack on both sea and land, which is why our Syracusan army attacked by advancing north!” Philistus retorted, causing Dionysius to nod slightly.
“My initial advice to Dionysius at that time was for Syracuse to not send a large army to risk landing in Magna Graecia just to save Locri. Instead, he should have let the South Italian Allied troops besiege Locri. After all, with our maritime support, they wouldn’t be able to breach through Locri. And while Locri held down the South Italian Alliance, Syracuse’s fleet would cut off the maritime trade of the city-states such as Theonia and Crotone on the western Mediterranean. By then, the Theonians wouldn’t be able to hold on for half a year and must withdraw their troops from Locri.
After that, we can concentrate on attacking Rhegium first as it is the closest to Sicily but the furthest from Theonia. Just having to transport the food would already pose significant difficulties for the enemies. Yet, they would also have to bypass Locrian and its allies’ territories, which is another major difficulty. Although it is difficult to say whether Theonia can withstand such massive consumption, we can always leave by ship once Davos does come with a large army… Then, we can just go back and forth several times like this until Theonia no longer dares to reinforce Rhegium again. And as long as we capture Rhegium, we will not only wholly own the Strait of Messia and collect more war funds but also make Sicily and Locri merge without worrying about our rear. Afterwards, we would just need to carry out Dionysius’ original plan and drag down Theonia with Syracuse’s strength…” Philistus finished saying the regret in his heart.
Phidias didn’t get angry. Rather, he reminded after carefully thinking about it, “Syracuse’s fleet!”
“In my opinion, Theonia feared our mighty Syracusan navy staying firmly on the coast of Thurii. Because even if they finally head south, they do not have actual combat experience. In addition, their unfamiliarity with the sea would allow us to discover the weaknesses of the corvus much earlier and not be caught off guard by them…” Philistus explained.
“Excellent! Excellent! Phidias, Philistus, your plans are all excellent! If I had followed it, how could they kick me out of Sparta today? Alas!” Said Dionysius with a looked of regret. He then said, “Unfortunately, these methods will no longer work against the future Theonia! I heard about Theonia not only annexing Locri and its allies but also Taranto, Messina and even occupying the Catanian plain of Sicily; To their north, the mighty Samnites had yielded to him. Now, Theonia owns many regions such as Lucania, Magna Graecia, Bruttii, the eastern coast of Sicily and so on. Apart from owning a land area far larger than Syracuse, its strength has increased even more. Given a few more years of stable development, Theonia will certainly become the most powerful Greek force! By that time, not only will Syracuse have to submit to them, but even your Sparta, Athens, Thebes and other Greek city-states will have to seek their opinion before doing anything!” Said Dionysius appearing indifferent, but his eyes were glancing at Phidias.
Even though Phidias remained expressionless, Dionysius knew he must have heard it. Thus he was prepared to say a few more words just to make Sparta fear Theonia more so that they would definitely do their best to hinder Theonia’s development, which would increase the chance of him returning to Syracuse again.
At this time, his men entered the cabin, “Master, the fleet has passed the Adriatic Sea and is approaching the island of Corfu.”
When Phidias heard this, his expression became quite complicated, ‘We would reach Sparta soon!’
“Order the fleet to sail all the way southeast to Crete.” Dionysius’ words surprised Phidias as he turned his head and said, “Dionysius, you aren’t going to Sparta?!”
“Yes, I have changed my mind. Now, I am heading to Kyrenaika.” Dionysius smiled.
Phidias could no longer sit still and snapped at him, “But you promised you would come with me to Sparta?! I have already sent someone to inform the Gerousia!”
Dionysius pointed at Phidias and angrily questioned, “You Spartans once promised to support me, and now?! Now you actually supported those rebels! So how can I trust you?!”
“That…” Phidias couldn’t respond for a while as it seemed Dionysius had been holding himself back this entire time.
After the two men glared at each other angrily like a bull, Phidias asked, “Dionysius, are you determined not to go to Sparta?!”
“Phidias, I had never decided things lightly in all my years in Syracuse because every decision I make can affect the life and death of a large group of people. And going to Kyrenaika is an important decision I had made!” Replied Dionysius with pride as he showed the majesty of a tyrant at this moment.
Phidias grimaced as he threatened, “Dionysius, you will regret your decision!” With that, he turned around and left the cabin.
“Sparta will be the one regretting the decision of abandoning me and choosing Herolis!” Dionysius shouted angrily.
“Dionysius, there is no need to provoke the Spartans at this moment.” Said Hipparinus worriedly.
“I already discussed it with Dionysius. Since Sparta is in the midst of war, they would likely forcibly recruit the two thousand mercenaries we lead and levy the wealth we brought for their military expenses once we arrive in Sparta. Moreover, they would definitely constrain our actions in Sparta, making it impossible for us to do active preparations for our return to Syracuse…
Instead, if we take our 2,000 mercenaries to Kyrenaika, whose nobles were in power after overthrowing the king a few years ago but had contradictions between the several ruling families that caused the political situation to be unstable and often had conflicts with the Libyans(the indigenous people), not only would we not get restricted, but they would also compete in roping us in, which is suitable for our development… ”
“Besides, I only promised Phidias on Ortygia to go to Sparta just to confuse the Spartans. Now that the whole fleet, including the helmsmen, is controlled by my beloved slaves, and our mercenaries are now the sailors, Phidias and his dozen Spartan warriors wouldn’t be able to stop us! And after we arrive in Kyrenaika, we could just send someone to bring him safely to Sparta.” Dionysius’ hatred on his face didn’t disappear. But after patting the chair hard, he could only sigh helplessly, “If it were my old self, I would’ve offered Phidias’ head to Apollo for Sparta’s betrayal! Unfortunately, we still need Sparta’s help in the future!”
As the three sighed, a crisp cry of “Father! Father!…” sounded as a four-year-old child stumbled into the cabin.
“Little Dio, stop running around!” A teenage boy followed him closely and entered the cabin.
Dionysius then picked up his son and asked him with a smile, “Little Dio, do you miss your father?”
“I…I was playing hide…hide and seek with brother Dion…” Little Dio turned around to point at the boy.
“Brother-in-law.” Dion hurriedly said with respect.
Dionysius smiled and looked at Dion, the son of his father-in-law Hipparinus and the younger brother of Aristomache. Dionysius liked his brother-in-law a lot as he was smart, studious, diligent and serious since childhood, without the laziness of noble children at all. Interestingly enough, he couldn’t play with his sister’s two children but got along well with little Dionysius, the child of his Locrian wife, Doris.