Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Marmertines (Mamertini "sons of Mars") were mercenaries of Italian origin who had been in the service of Agathocles, the king of Syracuse. Agathocles died before he could go through with his campaign to expand his city's boarders and left many of these mercenaries to do nothing in Sicily. Some of these mercenary groups refused to leave and so were left to roam Sicily.
They became terribly treacherous when they were permitted to enter Messana (now Messina), a walled Greek settlement opposite Rhegium (making the crossing points of the straits between Italy and Sicily). In the middle of the night the Marmertines betrayed their hosts and slaughtered the population in their sleep. Messana was then theirs and they divided the property and women amongst them.
With Messana as their base the Marmertines raided and looted the nearby towns and villages around Sicily.
Eventually, in 265 BC, Hiero II of Syracuse (270 BC - 216 BC) came into control after proving himself when he won a great pitched battle near the Longanus River . He felt distaste for the brigand/pirate-like Marmertines and wished to get rid of them to cease their constant attacks and danger to his city as well as liberate the settlements which were being attacked.
When he began to besiege their base the Marmertines called for help to both Rome and Carthage. From then on the Punic Wars began. The greedy and brash Marmertines could be considered as the spark that began those terrible wars.
From then on they are lost in history, although the Mamertine wine was still known in the first century AD.
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