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The First Punic War
Category: Classical Mediterranean and Europe: Roman Military
Chapter I: Crimson Streaks of WarBetween 315-312 B.C.E. Agathocles, a Syracusan general, marched to and captured the city of Messana, on the island of Sicily. This tyrant relied heavily on mercenaries, and this band of hired warriors would soon be the focal point of the causes of the epic war to come. Agathocles was known to hire Oscan speaking Campanians, which would later call themsleves Mamertines, after the god Mamer, God of War. Agathocles died in the year 289 and the Mamertines, after failing to be re-employed, were admitted into Messana. However, these soldiers soon overthrew the local government in a coup de etat and massacred the populace to use the city as a logistical base of operations to launch attacks on neighbors, thereyb guaranteeing tribute - therefore, a steady flow of income for other, more brutal military campaigns. Rhegium, a city across the Straits of Messana (later to be known as Messina) was also taken control by Oscan speaking Campanians, who had followed suit after learning of the progress made by their comrades across the water. However, these were former employees of the Roman Republican Army, and after the Romans were finished with Pyrrhic they sent an expidition to crush Rhegium, in 271. The Romans lay siege to the city, opened the defenses, and slaughtered all but three hundred of the men. Those who were spared were sent back to Rome in chains, and then publicly beheaded to show to all what happened when Rome was betrayed.
In any case, in Sicily Pyrrus launched an expidition to defend the Greeks, and a similar fate was given to this army as the army launched agaisnt Rome - very spectacular, but ultimately unsuccessful. The Mamertines did not aid and continued their raids agaisnt their neighbors. In Syracuse, though, a new general, named Hiero, took control and marched north to battle the Oscan speaking Mamertines, and at the Battle of River Cyamosorus his was able to fight to a draw, which was later to develope into a crushing victory at the Battle of River Longanus. This effectively defeated Mamertine military power and the Messana was quick to send envoys to Carthrage and Rome for immediate aid, seeing their days numbered. The Carthiginians responded fairly rapidly and in ernest and occupied Messana to defend it from Syracuse. This had adverse political effect. The Syracusan military had always been a thorn in the side of the Carthiginians and they had battled to stop Carthiginian encroaching in Sicily, to stop the total take over of the island by these North Africans. Thus, the Carthiginians had effectively checked Syracuse's attempt to enlarge its influece, as Hiero refused to take action against the Carthiginians, and thus abondoned his campaign north.
In Rome, the senate analyzed this news closely. A Carthiginian dominion of Messana gave them almost unrestricted access to the Italian peninsula, and the Romans saw this as an extremely plausable threat. Helping against Carthrage, and at the same time ending Herio's reign, would allow the Romans to show their new Greek vassals in Southern Italy who was the stronger man. This fear of a Carthiginian invasion was not as farfetched as may seem. Carthiginian administrators had been extremely imperialistic in the last years, as shown by their relentless expansion in Sicily, and the Romans did not want to face the prospect of another Pyrric like invasion of Italy.
In 264 B.C.E. consul Appius Claudius Caudex provided the momentum for the consequent approval of an expidition to Sicily, in which he would receive the command. Claudius was most probably driven by greed, ambition, and the prospect of being the first Roman to command an overseas expidition. To persuade the people and the senate he promised victory, and vast quantities of loot. The wealthier citizens quickly moved to support the movement, as they would profit intensely from selling their products to supply the Roman expulsion of Carthrage and the Greeks from Sicily. The venture, although oppurtunistic, was very logical for a nation so ambitious for Mediterranean power. Their is evidence that this was not the first time the Romans had thought about such an expidition, as years earlier they had secured an alliance with Ptolemy II of Egypt, gaining access to Egypt's timber, and they had confiscated allied forests in Italy - perhaps, to build a fleet? Adrian Goldsworthy repeats that Rome did not expend a drawn out war with Carthrage, and that the Senate wanted only a minimized conflict. However, this was better due to the Roman superiority complex, expecting the consular armies to merely slaughter anything thrown in their way. It would be a gross overexxageration, as they would soon be proven. However, it was strange that the Romans were helping the Mamertimes, the same 'race' of warriors that had betrayed Rome's trust at Rhegium and it seemed very hypocritical, and the senate was very well aware of this. This only adds to the piling evidence that the war to come was one of self-interest, and not a mind of justice, although the Romans would play it as such.
As the Romans spent the time to prepare their army, as it took some time to enlist soldiers and train them, the Carthiginians sent a fleet to begin patrolling of the Straits. Using trimeres given to Rome by their Italian allies they began to cross the Straits soon after, however, daylight attempts were intercepted by Carthiginian shipping, although any prisoners were promptly returned, perhaps to avoid war with Rome. However, at a certain point Claudius was able, under the cover of darkness, to move men to Messana, and somehow persuade the Mamertines to evict the Carthiginians. The Carthiginian general, Hanno, would be beheaded by his own countrymen for this failure. After this Claudius brought the rest of his army over across the straits and on to Sicily. Resulting from this was a Carthrage willing to, out of the blue, ally with Hiero. Hiero soon sent an expidition which rondevouzed with a Carthiginian force outside Messana and lay siege to it, and blockaded the city. Sometime later Claudius led a raiding party, mostly cavalry, and plundered the Syracusan camp, ensuing in a sharp battle where the Syracusan cavalry, known for their martial abilities, were able to defend from the Roman attack successfully until Claudius brought up some of his infantry reserves which promptly put the Syracusan army to flight. Soon after Hiero began his march back home. The next day Claudius hit the Carthiginians in what seems like a suprise attack and drove them off too, resulting in a double victory for the Roman expedition. Claudius then raided Syracusan territory, laying waste to the land, in a show of force. However, by the end of the year his term as consul had expired and he left Sicily for Rome.
In 263 consuls Marcus Valerius Maximums and Manius Otacilius Crassus were both sent to Sicily with some forty thousand soldiers. This fairly large Roman army proved enough to cause a certain number of cities on Sicily to defect from Carthrage and Syracuse, and this was only augmented by quick suprise attacks and treachery. The Romans marched for Syracuse soon after and most of the above force was sent to subdue Hiero. The witty Syracusan king quickly moved for peace with Rome, which was accepted by the Romans, who truly did not want to attempt a brutal siege of one of the better defended cities of the island. It is also likely that the logistical preperations were not sufficient to keep up with such a rapid, and drawn out advance, which was caused both by Roman unpreparedness and Carthiginian actions in the Straits. Hiero would remain allied to Rome for all, or most, of the remainder of the First Punic War.
More importantly, however, the stage was set for the two superpowers of the area, Rome and Carthrage, to duke it out for control of Sicily. The war, or wars, to follow would be long, harsh, and unpleasant for all sides.
How the conflict began would do well in explaining how the conflict would be fought, and the styles shown by all sides would dictate the fluidity of the coming war. The Romans, as always, would rely on large numbers to give them an advantage on the battlefield, and the Carthiginians would attempt to take a route which encompassed the long run. These different styles were created by centuries of warfare, and the responsibility to describe the difference of both armies, and the evolution of both armies, lies in the next chapters.
Chapter II: The Roman ArmyRome, according to a widely accepted legend, was founded by Romulus on the banks of the Tiber in 753 B.C.E., and it is most likely that Romulus merely incorporated an already existing band of tribal people and settled the area. History then tells that the city of Rome lacked the existance of women, thus setting the stage of Rome's earliest conflict, the rape of the Sabine women - where the Romans invited their Sabine neighbor's, at least the men, to a festival in Rome, and in the absense of the men, the Romans raided the Sabine village and took the women for themselves. Throughout the rest of the monarchy, seven kings in all, the Etruscans would play a big role in the developement of Rome, and had it not been for them the Romans may have never gotten past the village state to become a great city in central Italy. The Romans continued their wars into the era of the Republic as vividly narrated by Livy and Appian. The Romans fought several wars with their neighbors and fought three brutal wars with the Samnites. The Gauls were able to sack Rome in 390 B.C.E. after the Roman army was routed at the Battle of Allia. After this the Latin cities rebelled against Rome and the Romans were able to supress this after a long war, and after that they set the pattern for the absorbing of the other Italian cities, which they would continue for centuries to come.
Originally the Romans had equipped a hoplite army, taken from Etruscan and Greek influence, and this would provide problems since the hoplites were mostly land owners, and needed to return to Rome to plant and till their lands - the same problems which arose in Greece and other areas of the world. During the turn of the 4th Century the Romans began to develope a standing army, as they adapted a system of payment to keep their men fighting wars as the wars were fought over greater expanses. It is evident that the Romans attempted to expand their base of conscription to all citizens of Rome, or at least those which owned land, although some administrations allowed even the land less to join, although the full implimintation of this would not become standard until the advent of Gaius Marius circa 100 B.C.E. However, the Romans were able to conscript fairly large and well trained armies - at least, larger than their enemies.
The Roman Army was built around a legio, which originally meant levy. However, by the Third Century the Roman Republican Army began to organize into complex tiers. The consular armies would form into a series of lines, with the hastati to the fore, which were the youngest conscripts, the principes in the center, since they had more experience, and the triarii in the rear, as the heavy and most experienced infantry. Each line had ten maniples, a maniple consisting of one hundred and twenty men, although the triarii maniples only consisted of sixty men. A century was composed of five maniples, each led by a Centurion, although the centuries did not act together - the basic tactical unit was the maniple. The second in commands were the optios and other officers included the signifier, and the tesserarius. Although many Roman and Greek historians which narrated the wars between Rome and Carthrage tell of Roman conhorts this unit was not used until the late Republic, possibly after Marius.
Each man would employ a scutum, or a round cylindrical shield covering most of the body, and it was constructed in three layers of plywood, and covered with calf-skin, making it very flexible, yet incredibly strong. A boss was located in the center to hold the shield together and provide some protection for the hand holding the shield. At this time most Roman armor was made of bronze, including a bronze helmet, bronze greaves, and a bronze cuirass. Most helmets also incorporated a thick crest, most phsycological purposes. Some of the wealthier soldiers sported mail armor. The Romans were mostly swordsmen, and used a stabbing sword, although it wouldn't be until after the First Punic War that the gladius, or the Spanish designed stabbing blade, was adopted. The principes and the hastati were give one or two pilum which they normally let loose on the ranks of enemies before charging in to deplete enemy ranks. The triarii retained their thrusting spears. The pilii were designed as to put most of the weight on the metal tip, thereby giving it the strength to puncture through enemy armor, and at some point the tip was changed to make it bend on impact, thereby rendering it useless for use by the enemy. If the pilum did not kill an enemy its weight on an enemy shield would render the enemy shield useless, or a burden. A fourth infantry type, the velities were mostly skirmishers armed with a short stabbing sword, later the gladius, and with many throwing spears (it is important to note that these were not the pilii.). Their were about twelve hundred velites to three thousand infantry. As a cavalry wing the Romans incorporated three hundred horsemen, divided into ten turmae, each led by a decurion. This cavalry was recruited from the wealthier citizens of Rome, just like the knits of the Middle Ages would be rallied. The Roman cavarly suffered somewhat from inneffective tactics as they primarily provided an early charge - which would not prove to be enough, especially during the Second Punic War. The Romans also relied heavily on allied armies, and these provided the flanks of the Roman Consular Armies. The allies provided some nine hundred cavalry to a legion, and about a similar amount of infantry. Their armaments is largely unknown, although it can be assumed that they were most probably similar to the Roman army. A Roman army was commanded by six tribunes although they did not share command - pairs commanded on seperate days.
Roman officers were chosen from experience which would give a certain edge to the Roman armies. Agression in battled was rewarded, and certain rewards for given in battle, just like the Greeks did centuries before. For example, those who scaled the walls of a city first would be given certain priveliges, or a hefty amount of extra payment. The Romans were very good in getting the best of their men, and they kept a very strict discipline on their army. It is said that if a soldier, or a group of soldiers, failed to behave properly the officers would line their men up and one in every ten men would be either flogged or executed - although the former was most likely the more popular alternitive. This was termed decimation and is the root of the word in the English vocabulary today.
In most times the Romans fielded four legions, two for each consul, plus the needed alae, or allied wings. However, sometimes, as seen later, the Senate would not hesitate to raise more if needed. The Senate never allowed for a legion to be given a sense of unity, and changed the names and numbers about every year, or couple of years - this would hamper preformance in upcoming battles.
The Romans also took great advantage in their 'moving fortifications.' It is said that the Romans first employed fortified camps until after the Pyrrhic Wars. The Romans were defeated twice, and heavily, during the wars, once at Heraclea, and then at Asculum. However, the clever M. Curius Dentatus, a consul in the year 275, was able to defeat Pyrrhus by building a fortified camp to his rear and use it as a focal point to unleash charges and counter charges into the Greek lines - thereby, everytime he was thrown back he would rally around this fort and hit again. This battle at Beneventum decisively defeated the Greek cities of Southern Italy and Pyrrhus of Epirus. These 'marching camps' soon began to be designed for deep penetrations into enemy lines, and allowed very organized logistical supply lines. They were built for the offensive, however, they had their defensive values. These camps ended up securing conquered land, and they were used as rallying points during defeats in battle, as shown at the Battle of Beneventum. If besieged the defenses would provide ample enough to stemie the tide and defeat their opponents. As Vegetius said in the 4th Century C.E., the camp "gave the soldiers a place of safte...". These camps would prove to be very valuable in the upcoming campaigns.
All in all, the Roman Army was a well trained military machine. However, it suffered from a common indentity, and it suffered from poorly trained military leaders. Although the officers did have experience the consular generals did not receive training and fought with their own improvised, or self taught, military tactics and strategies. Although sometimes this proved ample, other times it proved fatal.
Chapter III: The Carthiginian ArmyThe Carthiginian Military fielded little of the citizen body into the infantry service since the citizen body was both extremely small, and untrained for war. Although sometimes they served as infantrymen, they were normally armed with a phalanx type armament, and served as such, with poor results. Such an army was defeated by the Syracusan Agathocles. They were not distinguished fighters, and most citizens were reserved for the Carthiginian Navy, which boasted to be one of the best in the Mediterranean Sea. The harbor of Carthrage itself was said to hold a circular harbor which berthed one hundred and eighty ships, and it is very likely that many crews were permament.
In any case, the Carthiginian Army was based mostly on foreign contingents, from areas conquered by the city or directly influenced. It is known that the Carthiginians recruited heavily from Numidia and other parts of Lybia for their horsemen and these cavalry were reknown for their abilities in battle - a major example their prowess would come up later at Cannae in 216 B.C.E. The Carthiginians also recruited from Spain and other areas for their infantry, which were armed with large shields and with either a gladius styled stabbing sword or a slashing sword - although the recruits were armed with their home armaments. In return for their service the Carthiginians would pay their fighters and would reward the tribal leader of whom these warrios belonged to, thus establishing a quasi-feudal system. The Carthiginians were known to make alliances with the tribes they recruited from, and were extremely hurt if some of these tribes rebelled. This latter fact seems to connote that the Carthiginians had a similar diplomatic system to that of Rome. They 'allied' with the neighbors, however, forged some sort of superiority over them, and imposed their will when they wanted to, which sometimes, most likely, became highly tyrannical, prompting revolts. It is also possible that these 'allies' were willing to change sides as time passed, depending on who seemed to be winning.
However, the one strength of the Carthiginian Army over the Roman Army was the fact that Carthiginian generals normally led their armies for the entire progression of the campaign, thus banding armies together and creating a common identity. This was lacked in the Roman Army, as generals were most likely only for the year, as the most generals were also consuls, and the term for consuls was annual.
The Carthiginian Navy was something on the other side of the hill. It was superior to the early Republican Navy of Rome. However, through the First Punic War the Romans would soon learn the trick of the trade and make their own navy able to withstand that of the Carthiginians and in fact surpass it. However, the fact remains that the Carthiginians started the war with a far superior navy, both in technology and numbers. The mainstay of the navy was most likely the trireme, and it also sported quinquereme, as well as some sixers, and sometimes even larger ships, although exact numbers are not available and how they were manned is lost to history.
All in all, a full break down on the Carthiginian military is almost impossible to construct with the sources available to a simple historian and a better look would require some archeological evidence, which I do not have access to, or the monetary resources to conduct my own search of history.
Chapter IV: The War in Sicily 262-258 B.C.EThe Roman conquest of Messana provided the Roman armies deployed on Sicily with a strong logistical base for further operations on the island. Consequently, it can be safely assumed that the straits between Italy and Sicily were extremely important to the Roman cause and must have been littered with Roman shipping. However, neither were the Carthiginians completely idle during this process, as they were busy recruiting a fairly large army. Mercenaries were hired from Spain, Gaul and even some Ligurians would be hired. In reply, the Romans put a full force of four legions and both consuls on Sicily by 262. In the summer of 262 the Romans moved to besiege the Carthiginian logistical base at Agrigentum, and the Carthiginians had failed to reinforce the city with the main body of their army.
The Romans invested Agrigentum, which was commanded by a general named Hannibal (not the famed Hannibal of the Second Punic War, mind you), with all four legions, and camped about a mile from the city, and sent a large part of their force to sweep over the land for supplies and such. Taking this oppurtunity Hannibal sallied with tenacity and scattered the foragers, and the Carthiginians changed axis to march on the Roman camp, which was met by fierce resistance at a picket line. However, this was crushed and the Carthiginians continued onto the camp, where he was routed, despite heavy Roman casualties. The fighting in the camp ensued as a second group of Carthiginians jabbed at the camp soon after, although this too was defeated, and the Romans chased the enemy back to the city walls. This would be hard learned lesson for both sides. The consuls decided on blockading the city for the rest of the year, and the occupying Roman army immediately set up on digging ditches and constructing forts along the perimeter of the city, completely cutting Agrigentum off from the rest of Sicily, and lucky for the Romans the city lacked a harbor, meaning the Carthiginian navy could not effectively re-supply Agrigentum. Five months later the Carthiginians finally landed the bulk of their forces at a site named Heraclea Minoa, twenty miles upcoast from Agrigentum, immediately putting the Roman army in threat. According to Diodorus this army had a strength of sixty war elephants, fifty thousand infantry and six thousand cavalry, which put this army, under the command of General Hanno, at a advantage over the Romans.
Hanno was quick to strike at the Roman supply dump at Herbesus and severed ties to this logistical base, casuing manifold problems in the Roman lines, including disease. Hanno continued and decided to engage the Roman army, sending his Numidian Horsemen to engage the Roman cavalry, which eagerly followed. The Numidians immediately retreated drawing the Roman cavalry to chase them, and once they had reached the main lines the Numidians promptly turned around and crushed the isolated Roman cavalry, sending them in tatters back to Roman lines. Hanno then marched and set up camp about a mile and half from the Roman's own camp, and he eagerly deployed for battle, however, the Romans declined. Days later, pressed by supply problems, the Romans marched out and offered Hanno his fight, however, he declined, weary of this sudden change of heart in the Roman army. In the end, both suffering food shortages, deployed for battle soon after.
The battle remains in relative obscurity but contemporary sources indicate that the Roman infantry line moved foward and enganged the first Carthiginian line, and using their cavalry, which had been previously mauled, they pushed back the Carthiginian wings, prompting the first Carthiginian line to rout, which subsequently sent the entire army into flight, and the Romans rapidly persued. Carthiginian losses were cited at three thousand infantry and two hundred cavalry, and the Romans had lost about thirty thousand infantry and five hundred and forty cavalry throughout the entire siege, although he claims a total Roman army of one hundred thousand. Consequently, it was more likely that the Roman army was at forty thousand men, which was the theoritical number for four legions, placing Roman casualties at around ten thousand or less, although it is not certain. Hanno was been critisized for not using his elephants properly, but historians suggest that elephants had not been a custom of the Carthiginian military until recently and Hanno lacked the experience to deploy these to full effect. Also, relatively new, and recruited from different sections of the Carthiginian sphere of influence, the army did not have the time to learn how to coordinate with each other, and they certainly did not know how to work with each other, meaning that they most likely lacked coordination of the battlefield, contributing to this defeat. Hannibal took another opportunity, this time to flee, and attempted to break out during the Roman festivities for the victory, and it seems he left unhindered, although the Romans entered Agrigentum the next morning, and saced the city, enslaving the local population. Polybius notes that this success pushed the senate to escalate the war fund, and thereby escalate the war itself.
The art of siege warfare quickly unravelled itself in front of the eyes of the Romans who came close to a crushing defeat at Agrigentum. They had entered the war with non-existant siege technology, and they would soon learn that this was crucial to a successful siege of a large and well defended city. Up to now, most sieges required scaling the walls with the advantage of full suprise. However, it was much more common that the city was merely handed over through treachery, such as bribing, or opening of the city gates. The battle in front of the gates of Agrigentum would be the first of only four pitched battles throughout the entire First Punic War. However, it was a testament to the grim nature of the war, and it proved that this war would not be one in a single swift campaign. It truly shook both sides up, and taught them powerful lessons in the art of war.
In the end the Romans merely brought more men from the Italian mainland, and the Carthiginians began to prepare for their own campaign by amassing supplies and men in Sicily. The Carthiginians would also learn to use the power of their fleet to their own advantage - another aspect of war the Romans would have to grow into.
Chapter V: The Rebirth of the Roman NavyPolybius claims that the Roman navy that fought its battles against the Carthiginians was built from a marooned model found on an Italic beach, near Regium, where it had ran aground, originally sent to intercept Roman forces heading from Italy to Sicily. The Romans immediately called for their allies to build them a fleet using that ship. It's also possible that the main center of construction was a single harbor under Roman supervision, perhaps Ostia. The mass amounts of ships were completed in sixty days, according to Pliny. Therefore, it's much more likely that the construction of these ships was spread throughout the allies of Rome, because it's very improbable that single harbor, which was innexperienced in naval construction construct so many ships in such short time. Most of the ships that were to comprise the new fleet were quinqueremes, or 'fives'. Importantly, the Romans also improved the design with the corvus, or the grapling bridge that could link a Roman ship to an enemy, forcing the enemy to a hand to hand fight on their own ship. Although it's said to be a detriment in actual naval combat the time to close on a ship and push men to the enemy vessel would have made up for any detriments, and subsequent Roman victories were testament to these improvements.
It's not true that the Romans had never built a fleet prior to the advent of the Carthiginian shipwreck. It's known that in 311 B.C. the administration of Rome created a seperate board, duoviri navales classis ornandae reficiendawque causa which would oversee the construction of warships, and it's known that a squadron of these ships was defeated at Tarentum in 282 B.C. The Romans also relied heavily on ships supplied by their allies, as shown by the crossing to Sicily in 264 B.C.
The fleet was put under the command of Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio, and with seventeen ships he crossed to Messena to prepare logistical supplies for his coming naval campaigns. Once there he was given the chance to pay for the betrayal of Lipara, a strategic port city which if captured would deny the Carthiginians of an extremely important base. He set off to Lipara and occupied the harbor. However, the Carthiginians launched a contingent of twenty ships, under a nobleman called Boodes, and it maneuvered to blockade the port and trap the Romans. The events that followed ensured that the Romans would be defeated, and some crews even fled to Sicily, possibly swimming the harbor's waters to reach the city. Rome was forced to pay ransom for the release of Scipio, forever branded Asina. However, the Romans had their vengeance when the main fleet detroyed much of Hannibal's - the same Hannibal who had defended Agrigentum - fifty ships, sailing for reconaissance operations. After this the command of the fleet was given to Caius Duilius. Furthermore, the corvus was employed around this date for the first time, because the Romans needed another way of defeating the Punic fleets, since the Roman equivalents were poorly trained and not as maneuverable.
The Carthiginian fleet continued to raid coastal cities, including Mylae. Duilius, receiving information of the Punic presence at Mylae moved quickly and set out to meet the full force of the enemy fleet. Hannibal replied with his own haughty maneuvers to meet the Romans. Diodorus claims that Hannibal was at the head of two hundred ships, however, Polybius claims one hundred and twenty, which is much more believable. The Romans boasted some one hundred and three. Hannibal rode on his flagship, a captured hepteres, or 'seven'. Although the presence of the corvus was strange to Hannibal he continued, confident of his superiority. The battle that ensued was very chaotic, with the Punic vessels rushing foward, out of control, some ramming Roman ships. However, most of the Roman warships managed to drop their corvi and the Roman crews immediately put thirty ships out of action, including the Hepteres, which was abondoned by Hannibal. The Carthiginians then attempted a flanking manevuer to hit the Romans astern, however, the Romans also proved astute and turned around and managed to drop their corvi on these ships also. The Carthiginians again turned to retreat, using their superior velocities to escape, however, the battle had been a clear Roman success. Polybius claims fifty ships lost for Hannibal, some thirty captured and some fifteen sunk.
Hannibal was not punished for this loss, however, he was executed by his own men in Sardniania, after he was blockaded by another Roman fleet. In 257 B.C. another major action occured of Tyndaris, however, it ended in a Carthiginian withdrawl, and nothing decisive was encountered.
The naval victory against Hannibal had given Rome the prestige it needed to continue the war, and it would ensure that the Romans would never be low on pride. Duilius built his own triumphal column, although it no longer survives completely, and the Romans decorated the Forum with the prows of captured Punic ships.
Chapter VI: Ecnomus and the Roman Invasion of North Africa
Following the Carthiginian defeat and the subsequent setback at Tyndaris both nations began to construct massive fleets in which to wage a naval war. In 256 B.C. the Senate decided to escalate the war and invade North Africa, and for this ultimate objective the Romans were able to compose a fleet of around three hundred and thirty warships. These crossed over to Messana where they picked up the soldiers for the invasion, giving a total crew of one hundred and forty thousand men, according to Polybius. The Carthiginians set sail to counter this fleet with three hundred and fifty ships, which sailed to Lilybaeum, and then to Heraclea Minoa, and their strength was around one hundred and fifty thousand men. In essence the Carthiginians had assembled the largest fleet their empire had ever conjured, and they decided to stop the Roman fleet off Sicily.
Both consuls, Lucius Manlius Vulso and Marcus Atilius Regulus, were sent to command the fleet and the infantry. The Roman fleet was divided into four, numbered I through IV, with I and II led by the consuls, and III and IV lined up into the apex of a triangle with squadron III forming the base, I and II the two sides, and IV a further reinforcement and rear guard behind the III. Squadron IV was consequently nicknamed the triarii, as they were the reserves of the Roman fleet. This quite advance formation shows the maturity of the Roman crews and strateticians following Tyndaris.
The Carthiginians maneuvered once they had the Romans in sight, and they placed a numerous left wing, that closest to Sicily, angled so that it seemed that it had flanked the Roman formation. To the very right commanded Hanno - who had prior to Ecnomus failed at Agrigentum - and this extended past the Roman flanks also. Hamilcar Barca, the overall commander, commanded the rest which was the center formation. Hamilcar decided that the best way to defeat Rome would be to withdrawl if the Romans attacked and hope to break up their formation so that his flanks could use their maneuverability to ram the Roman vessels.
The Romans fell to this trap as squadrons I and II moved foward to pierce the Carthiginian center, which they perceived as weak. Then Hamicalr ordered his center to turn and fight, and a rought melee ensued, with some Carthiginian vessels successfully passing up the Romans and then turning around to hit them astern. The Roman squadrons I and II fought equally as determined, especially with both consuls in the thick of the fighting. The right wing of the Carthiginian fleet, commanded by Hanno, swept to the rear of the Roman formation and hit squadron IV from behind. All the while the left wing of the Carthaginian armada moved to hit the Roman III squadron. Although Hamilcar succeeded in determining the sequence of the battle he failed to gain an advantage and although he had limited success in outmanuevering the corvus the Roman fleet was still able to disable much of the Carthiginian shipping through the use of the corvus. Soon after the Carthiginian center began to flee, allowing the Roman vessels not pre-occupied with securing the ships they had already grappled or captured to turn and aid with the rest of the battle. Hanno, hitting the triarii in the rear was soon the victim of a flanking Roman contingent, and he was forced to flee, and consequently the Carthiginian left flank was sorrounded and also forced to withdrawl. The Carthiginians escaped with the bulk of their fleet, although sixty-four ships captured and thirty-four sunk, meaning just under one third of their fleet was lost. The Romans lost a mere twenty-four sunk.
Following the battle the Romans sailed back to Sicily for a rest and to repair any damaged done. The Carthiginians had been shattered. Following the quick rest the Roman fleet again set sail south, and was able to reach the Carthiginian shore without any major events. The Roman army was unloaded near the Carthiginian city of Aspis, and Apsis itself soon besieged. The Roman navy was beached with heavy defenses on the beachfront. Aspis fell soon afterwards and the Romans decided to plunder the country side, most likely for supplies. According to sources some twenty thousand Carthaginian slaves were captured, some repordetly Italians captured beforehand. Rome soon delivered a message ordering Vulso back to Italy, while Regalus stay in Africa to oversee operations. So, Regalus now commanded some fifteen thousand men with five hundred horses, albeit understrength. To counter this Carthrage called upon three commanders to forge an army around the city, including Hadrubal (son of Hanno, the same to command the right wing at Ecnomus), Bostar and Hamilcar (the main commander at Ecnomus). All the while Regalus continued his advance and soon besieged Adys (who's location is now unknown). However, the Carthigian generals hurried to the area and set camp north of Adys. Regalus, noticing a weakness in the Carthiginian camp, decided to storm it, and set out to do just this. Regalus attacked either at dawn or at night, and the only resistance he received was from a group of Carthiginian mercenaries, although these were defeated, and the camp, consequently, captured, with the bulk of the Punic army fleeing. This Carthiginian defeat was most likely due to the fact that it had just been conjured and that it did not have the experience to co-ordinate effectively.
Therefore, Adys fell, and Regalus followed up with a capture of Tunis. This put the city of Carthrage directly under threat and Regalus was sure to mount raids of the country side around the city. Carthrage soon requested peace talks, as it was also in a war against the Numidians to their south and their had been food shortages in Carthrage due to the massive amounts of refugees trying to enter the city. The Romans, charactiristicly, introduced harsh terms, and the Carthiginians denied them, and so the table talks ended.
During January and Febuary 255 B.C. Carthrage reformed their army, and included a contingent of Spartan soldiers. Their leader, Xangthippus, soon rose to advise the Carthiginian Army after he had openly critisized the strategy used at Adys. In any case, twelve thousand infantry, four thousand cavalry, and one hundred elephants soon formed into an army in order to stop Regalus. The two armies marched out to meet each other, the Punic commanders ready to regain their honor, and the Romans eager to inflict another heavy defeat and finally end the war. They camped at about a mile from each other and both accepted battle the following day. The battle is thought to have been held around Tunis, although it's exact location is a mistery. Xanthippus put a phalanx, formed by citizens of Carthrage, in the center, with mercenaries on the right. The two wings were occupied by cavalry, and reinforced with skirmirshers, and finally, the elephants formed as a shock corps. Regalus placed his Velites ahead to skirmish, and the cavalry formed the wings, with the infantry in the center, and this was made especially deep. Furthermore, the Romans employed the usual triplex acies, however the cavalry wings were not nearly strong enough.
Xanthippus gave the order for the elephant charge some time later and the Velites moved to meet them. The Carthiginian horsemen also moved to engage the Roman flanks, which were routed, and the Carthiginians soon found themselves in a position to outflank the Roman army. Although the elephants pressed the Roman infantry the formation did not break and parts of the Roman center moved past the elephants and engaged the center of the Carthiginian infantry line. These were defeated in succession and the Carthiginian cavalry moved to hit the Romans in the flanks. In a brief, but very red, slaughter the Carthigians destroyed the Roman army, except for five hundred men and Regalus himself - which were captured in any case. Some other two thousand men, who had broken through the mercenaries on the Carthiginian flank, were able to return to Aspis avoiding capture or destruction.
Soon after the defeat the survivors left Africa and the fleet returned to Italy. Although the invasion of Africa concluded in a heavy defeat the Romans had been successful in the sense that they had finally made their point that Carthrage was not safe, and they had been able to apply pressure, and they had even been able to get Carthrage to the peace tables. This would play into Roman hands later after the war.
Chapter VII: End WarWhile Economus brewed and Regalus stormed North Africa events in Sicily progressed further. By 254 B.C. the Romans had taken the city of Panormus, which was one of the largest cities still allied to Carthrage, forcing the Carthiginians into a sole enclave in the northwest. Lipara and Thermae had also fallen to the Romans, and it seems that the Romans had gained the upperhand in the war. However, their overall momentum had slowed considerably, especially when one of two consular armies left Sicily. The withdrawl of an army also persuaded Hadrusbal, the commander who had replaced Hamilcar while Hamilcar was still in North Africa, to move his armies from Lilybaum to Panormus, where the sole consular army was staying for the time being. Metellus, the commander of the Roman army, watched while Hadrusbal camped from the city, and soon showed a reluctance to fight a pitched battle, which spurred Hadrusbal to march up right to the city wall to show the Sicilian cities that the Romans were cowards. This, however, forced Hadrusbal's army to cross a river, which would give him little space to move and would cut off any attempts to withdraw. Metellus has given explicit orders for the Velites to march out and begin hammering the Carthiginians with their pilae, especially at elephants, and if hard pressed he told his men to take cover in an specially prepared trench line running right outside the city walls. Hadrusbal launched his elephants to hit the Roman lines, which they did, and the Roman Velites withdrew to the trench line, keeping a steady stream of missiles launching at the elephants and other Carthiginian soldiers. Consequently, the Punic elephants ran amok and stampeded back to their own lines killing Punic infantry and creating havoc, allowing Metellus to launch his long awaited counter offensive from inside the city. This charging column hit the Carthiginians in the flank and the Punic army turned to rout, ending in some ten thousand to thirty thousand casualties, although the latter seems somewhat unrealistic. The elephants were all killed or captured, ending in a very big blow to the Carthiginian war effort, for the elephants provided the same type of scare which had first penetrated the Germans when they witnessed the new Soviet tanks in 1941.
The victory gave the Romans the confidence they needed to continue with the campaigns on Sicily and this was to be the last pitched battle of the First Punic War, and in 250 B.C. the Romans underwent another offensive to rid Sicily of the Carthiginians.
Lilybaum, one of two large ports still in enemy hands, was sorrounded by one hundred and ten thousand men and a sizable fleet, and the Romans constructed plenty of siegeworks. The garrison in Lilybaum proved very violent and excessive sallies were launched against the Romans, and even some defensive sapping. The siege proved extremely difficult for the Romans and resulted in heavy casualties, and the Romans decided to settle in for a siege to starve out the defenders.
As for the naval war, the Romans had done extensive damaged by raiding the Carthiginian coastline along North Africa, and at one point a large portion of the Roman fleet ran aground on modern Djerba, although they were saved at high tide. When the same fleet sailed back to Italy one hundred and fifty ships were destroyed in a strong storm, and the fleet would have to be rebuilt. At Lilybaum two hundred of these ships were present, however, the geography these ships had to deal with was horrible and it gave them a horrible experience in naval warfare. The Roman blockade was dishonored when fifty Punic ships managed to run right through the Roman web and into the harbor and then back out in a daring night movement. In order to stop the blockade runners the Romans decided to fill the minir passages into the city with boulders, but most of the material dropped was carried away by the currents.
In 249 B.C. Roman consul Publius Claudius Pulcher decided to mount a raid on Deprana, the second strongest port still in Carthiginian hands. It ended in disaster as his disordely fleet of some one hundred and twenty ships moved into harbor, but witnessed the Carthiginian fleet leaving right as they entered. Claudius moved to cut the fleet off but failed and he manuevered to form a new battle line when the Punic armada turned to battle the Romans. In a sharp melee the Roman fleet was largely destroyed, and it proved to be the first, and last, major defeat of Roman naval forced by Carthiginian seamen.
The Romans faced further setbacks, including the loss of some transports when one hundred and twenty warships escorted eight hundred transports. It seems that the warships halted to allow the rest of the transports to catch up and some transports were sent alone, or with minor escort, and these were raided by the Carthiginians. They were only saved through the inginuity of using city defenses to stave off the attacks. However, the fleet was not saved, as the Roman commander decided to avoid the Carthiginian fleet and began to sail close to the rocks of Sicily. A heavy wind picked up and caused most of the ships to be thrown against the seawall and rocks of the coast, causing a second disaster at the hands of a natural force. The Senate now found itself in trouble, as it lacked the funds to build another fleet.
However, private families and Rome's allies were quick to lend the Senate funds, and another two hundred quinqueremes were built by 243 BC. The new fleet was placed under the command of Caius Lutatius Catalus, and the Romans renewed their blockades on Drepana and Lilybaum. Carthrage decided to pull off another fleet of some two hundred and fifty ships and sent them to Sicily. However, the hasty construction and crew training would ensure that the Carthaginian crews were not the same as those that had fought the Romans in prior engagements. They were told to destroy the Roman fleet. The Punic warfleet sailed to a position just off the Aegates Islands to prepare for a further trip to eryx. Catalus found out about their movements before they had a chance to leave, however, and moved his ships to the area. On 10 March 241 Hanno, the commander of the fleet, moved to link up with the land army, and Catalus moved to intercept the Carthiginian fleet, although the odds were agaisnt him. His gamble paid off and the Carthiginians prepared for battle. The battle was quick, and the Romans manged to sink fift ships and capture seventeen. Again, though, the Carthiginian fleets that survived escaped their death. However, the victory had been decisive.
All in all the Romans had suffered around five hundred ships destroyed, although Polybius claims seven hundred. The Carthaginians suffered around half a thousand also. This prompted the Carthiginians to sue for peace, led by Hamilcar Barca. The Carthaginians were forced to agree to the evacuation of Sicily (although in tact and as an army), neither Rome nor Carthrage was to attack one's allies, all Roman prisoners would be let go while Punic prisoners would be ransomed and two thousand two hundred Euboean talents would be paid to Rome over twenty years. The latter was risen to three thousand two hundred talents when Rome looked over the treaty. Carthage, as said before, accepted.