Now, however, those to whom the construction of ships was committed were busy in getting them ready, and those who had collected the crews were teaching them to row on shore in the following fashion. Making the men sit on rowers' benches on dry land, in the same order as on the benches of the ships themselves, they accustomed them to fall back all at once bringing their hands up to them, and again to come forward pushing out their hands, and to begin and finish these movements at the word of command of the fugle-man. When the crews had been trained, they launched the ships as soon as they were completed, and having practised for a brief time actual rowing at sea, they sailed along the coast of Italy as their commander had ordered. For the Consul appointed by the Romans to the command of their naval force, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, had a few days previously given orders to the captains to sail in the direction of the Straits whenever the fleet was ready, while he himself, putting to sea with seventeen ships, preceded them to Messene, being anxious to provided for all the urgent needs of the fleet. While there a proposal happened to be made to him with regard to the city of Lipara, and embracing the prospect with undue eagerness he sailed with the above-mentioned ships and anchored off the town. The Carthaginian general Hannibal, hearing at Panormus what had happened, sent off Boödes, a member of the Senate, giving him twenty ships. Boödes sailed up to Lipara at night and shut up Gnaeus in the harbour. When day dawned the Roman crews hastily took refuge on land, and Gnaeus, falling into a state of terror and being unable to do anything, finally surrendered to the enemy. The Carthaginians now set off at once to rejoin Hannibal with the captured ships and commander of the enemy. But a few days later, though Gnaeus' disaster was so signal and recent, Hannibal himself came very near falling into the same error with his eyes open. For hearing that the Roman fleet which was sailing along the coast of Italy was near at hand, and wishing to get a glimpse of the numbers and general disposition of the enemy, he sailed towards them with fifty ships. As he was rounding the Cape of Italy he came upon the enemy sailing in good order and trim. He lost most of his ships and escaped himself with the remainder, which was more than he expected or hoped.
After this the Romans approached to coast of Sicily and learning of the disaster that had befallen Gnaeus, at once communicated with Gaius Duilius, the commander of the land forces, and awaited his arrival. At the same time, hearing that the enemy's fleet was not far distant, they began to get ready for sea-battle. As their ships were ill-built and slow in their movements, someone suggested to them as a help in fighting the engines which afterwards came to be called "ravens". They were constructed as follows: On the prow stood a round pole four fathoms in height and three palms in diameter. This pole had a pulley at the summit and round it was put a gangway made of cross planks attached by nails, four feet in width and six fathoms in length. In this gangway was an oblong hole, and it went round the pole at a distance of two fathoms from its near end. The gangway also had a railing on each of its long sides as high as a man's knee. At its extremity was fastened an iron object like a pestle pointed at one end and with a ring at the other end, so that the whole looked like the machine for pounding corn. To this ring was attached a rope with which, when the ship charged an enemy, they raised the ravens by means of the pulley on the pole and let them down on the enemy's deck, sometimes from the prow and sometimes bringing them round when the ships collided broadsides. Once the ravens were fixed in the planks of the enemy's deck and grappled the ships together, if they were broadside on, they boarded from all directions but if they charged with the prow, they attacked by passing over the gangway of the raven itself two abreast. The leading pair protected the front by holding up their shields, and those who followed secured the two flanks by resting the rims of their shields on the top of the railing. Having, then, adopted this device, they awaited an opportunity for going into action.
As for Gaius Duilius, no sooner had he learnt of the disaster which had befallen the commander of the naval forces than handing over his legions to the military tribunes he proceeded to the fleet. Learning that the enemy were ravaging the territory of Mylae, he sailed against them with his whole force. The Carthaginians on sighting him put to sea with a hundred and thirty sail, quite overjoyed and eager, as they despised the inexperience of the Romans. They all sailed straight on the enemy, not even thinking it worth while to maintain order in the attack, but just as is they were falling on a prey that was obviously theirs. They were commanded by Hannibal — the same who stole out of Agrigentum by night with his army — in the seven-banked galley that was formerly King Pyrrhus'. On approaching and seeing the ravens nodding aloft on the prow of each ship, the Carthaginians were at first nonplussed, being surprised at the construction of the engines. However, as they entirely gave the enemy up for lost, the front ships attacked daringly. But when the ships that came into collision were in every case held fast by the machines, and the Roman crews boarded by means of the ravens and attacked them hand to hand on deck, some of the Carthaginians were cut down and others surrendered from dismay at what was happening, the battle having become just like a fight on land. So the first thirty ships that engaged were taken with all their crews, including the commander's galley, Hannibal himself managing to escape beyond his hopes by a miracle in the jolly-boat. The rest of the Carthaginian force was bearing up as if to charge the enemy, but seeing, as they approached, the fate of the advanced ships they turned aside and avoided the blows of the engines. Trusting in their swiftness, they veered round the enemy in the hope of being able to strike him in safety either on the broadside or on the stern, but when the ravens swung round and plunged down in all directions and in all manner of ways so that those who approached them were of necessity grappled, they finally gave way and took to flight, terror-stricken by this novel experience and with the loss of fifty ships.
When the Romans had thus, contrary to all expectation, gained the prospect of success at sea their determination to prosecute the war became twice as strong. On this occasion they put in on the coast of Sicily, raised the siege of Segesta which was in the last stage of distress, and in leaving Segesta took the city of Macella by assault.
After the battle at sea Hamilcar, the Carthaginian commander of their land forces, who was quartered in the neighbourhood of Panormus, heard that in the Roman camp the allies and the Romans were at variance as to which had most distinguished themselves in the battles, and that the allies were encamped by themselves between the Paropus and the Hot Springs of Himera. Suddenly falling on them with his whole force as they were breaking up their camp he killed about four thousand. After this action Hannibal with the ships that escaped sailed away to Carthage and shortly after crossed from there to Sardinia, taking with him additional ships and some of the most celebrated naval officers. Not long afterwards he was blockaded in one of the harbours of Sardinia by the Romans and after losing many of his ships was summarily arrested by the surviving Carthaginians and crucified. The Romans, I should explain, from the moment they concerned themselves with the sea, began to entertain designs on Sardinia.
The Roman troops in Sicily did nothing worthy of note during the following year; but at its close when they had received their new commanders the Consuls of next year, Aulus Atilius and Gaius Sulpicius, they started to attack Panormus, because the Carthaginian forces were wintering there. The Consuls, when they got close up to the city, offered battle with their whole forces, but as the enemy did not come out to meet them they left Panormus and went off to attack Hippana. This city they took by assault and they also took Myttistratum which withstood the siege for long owing to its strong situation. They then occupied Camarina which had lately deserted their cause, bringing up a siege battery and making a breach in the wall. They similarly took Enna and several other small places belonging to the Carthaginians, and when they had finished with these operations they undertook the siege of Lipara.
Next year Gaius Atilius Regulus the Roman Consul, while anchored off Tyndaris, caught sight of the Carthaginian fleet sailing past in disorder. Ordering his crews to follow the leaders, he dashed out before the rest with ten ships sailing together. The Carthaginians, observing that some of the enemy were still embarking, and some just getting under weigh, while those in the van had much outstripped the others, turned and met them. Surrounding them they sunk the rest of the ten, and came very near to taking the admiral's ship with its crew. However, as it was well manned and swift, it foiled their expectation and got out of danger. The rest of the Roman fleet sailed up and gradually got into close order. As soon as they faced the enemy, they bore down on them and took ten ships with their crews, sinking eight. The rest of the Carthaginian fleet withdrew to the islands known as Liparaean.
The result of this battle was that both sides thought that they had fought now on equal terms, and both threw themselves most thoroughly into the task of organizing naval forces and disputing the command of the sea, while in the mean time the land forces accomplished nothing worthy of mention, but spent their time in minor operations of no significance. The Romans, therefore, after making preparations as I said, for the coming summer, set to sea with a fleet of three hundred and thirty decked ships of war and put in to Messene. Starting again from there they sailed with Sicily on their right hand, and doubling Cape Pachynus they came round to Ecnomus, because their land forces too happened to be just in that neighbourhood. The Carthaginians, setting sail with three hundred and fifty decked vessels, touched at Lilybaeum, and proceeding thence came to anchor off Heraclea Minoa. The plan of the Romans was to sail to Libya and deflect the war to that country, so that the Carthaginians might find no longer Sicily but themselves and their own territory in danger. The Carthaginians were resolved on just the opposite course, for, aware as they were that Africa is easily accessible, and that all the people in the country would be easily subdued by anyone who had once invaded it, they were unable to allow this, and were anxious to run the risk of a sea-battle. The object of the one side being to prevent and that of the other to force a crossing, it was clear that their rival aims would result in the struggle which followed. The Romans had made suitable preparations for both contingencies — for an action at sea and for a landing in the enemy's country. For the latter purpose, selecting the best men from their land forces, they divided into four corps the total force they were about to embark. Each corps had two names; it was called either the First Legion or the First Squadron, and the others accordingly. The fourth had a third name in addition; they were called triarii after the usage in the land forces. The whole body embarked on the ships numbered about a hundred and forty thousand, each ship holding three hundred rowers and a hundred and twenty marines. The Carthaginians were chiefly or solely adapting their preparations to a maritime war, their numbers being, to reckon by the number of ships, actually above one hundred and fifty thousand. These are figures calculated to strike not only one present and with the forces under his eyes but even a hearer with amazement at the magnitude of the struggle and at that lavish outlay and vast power of the two states, if he estimates them from the number of men and ships.
The Romans taking into consideration that the voyage was across the open sea and that the enemy were their superiors in speed, tried by every means to range their fleet in an order which would render it secure and difficult to attack. Accordingly, they stationed their two six-banked galleys, on which the commanders, Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius, were sailing, in front and side by side with each other. Behind each of these they placed ships in single file, the first squadron behind the one galley, the second behind the other, so arranging them that the distance between each pair of ships in the two squadrons grew ever greater. The ships were stationed in column with their prows directed outwards. Having thus arranged the first and second squadrons in the form of a simple wedge, they stationed the third in a single line at the base, so that when these ships had taken their places the resulting form of the whole was a triangle. Behind these ships at the base they stationed the horse-transports, attaching them by towing-lines to the vessels of the third squadron. Finally, behind these they stationed the fourth squadron, known as triarii, making a single long line of ships so extended that the line overlapped that in front of it at each extremity. When all had been put together in the manner I have described, the whole arrangement had the form of a wedge, the apex of which was open, the base compact, and the whole effective and practical, while also difficult to break up.
About the same time the Carthaginian commanders briefly addressed their forces. They pointed out to them that in the event of victory in the battle they would be fighting afterwards for Sicily, but that if defeated they would have to fight for their own country and their homes, and bade them take this to heart and embark. When all readily did as they were ordered, as their general's words had made clear to them the issues at stake, they set to sea in a confident and menacing spirit. The commanders when they saw the enemy's order adapted their own to it. Three-quarters of their force they drew up in a single line, extending their right wing to the open sea for the purpose of encircling the enemy and with all their ships facing the Romans. The remaining quarter of their force formed the left wing of their whole line, and reached shoreward at angle with the rest. Their right wing was under the command of the same Hanno who had been worsted in the engagement near Agrigentum. He had vessels for charging and also the swiftest quinqueremes for the outflanking movement. The left wing was in charge of Hamilcar, the one who commanded in the sea-battle at Tyndaris, and he, fighting as he was in the centre of the line, used in the fray the following stratagem. The battle was begun by the Romans who, noticing that the Carthaginian line was thin owing to its great extent, delivered an attack on the centre. The Carthaginian centre had received Hamilcar's orders to fall back at once with the view of breaking the order of the Romans, and, as they hastily retreated, the Romans pursued them vigorously. While the first and second squadrons thus pressed on the flying enemy, the third and fourth were separated from them, the third squadron towing the horse-transports, and the triarii remaining with them as a supporting force. When the Carthaginians thought they had drawn off the first and second squadrons far enough from the others, they all, on receiving a signal from Hamilcar's ship, turned simultaneously and attacked their pursuers. The engagement that followed was a very hot one, the superior speed of the Carthaginians enabling them to move round the enemy's flank as well as to approach easily and retire rapidly, while the Romans, relying on their sheet strength when they closed with the enemy, grappling with the ravens every ship as soon as it approached, fighting also, as they were, under the very eyes of both the Consuls, who were personally taking part in the combat, had no less high hopes of success. Such then was the state of the battle in this quarter. At one and the same time Hanno with the right wing, which had held its distance in the first attack, sailed across the open sea and fell upon the ships of the triarii, causing them great embarrassment and distress. Meanwhile that part of the Carthaginian force which was posted near the shore, changing their former formation and deploying into line with their prows facing the enemy, attacked the vessels which were towing the horse-transports. Letting go their tow-lines this squadron met and engaged the enemy. Thus the whole conflict consisted of three parts, and three sea-battles were going on at a wide distance from each other. As the respective forces were in each case of equal strength owing to their disposition at the outset, the battle also was fought on equal terms. However, in each case things fell out as one would expect, when the forces engaged are so equally matched. Those who had commenced the battle were the first to be separated, for Hamilcar's division was finally forced back and took to flight. Lucius was now occupied in taking the prizes in tow, and Marcus, observing the struggle in which the triarii and horse-transports were involved, hastened to their assistance with such of the ships of the second squadron as were undamaged. When he reached Hanno's division and came into conflict with it, the triarii at once took heart, though they had had much the worst of it, and recovered their fighting spirit. The Carthaginians, attacked both in front and in the rear, were in difficulties, finding themselves surrounded, to their surprise, by the relieving force, and giving way, they began to retreat out to sea. Meanwhile both Lucius, who was by this time sailing up and observed that the third squadron was shut in close to the shore by the Carthaginian left wing, and Marcus, who had now left the horse-transports and triarii in safety, hastened together to the relief of this force which was in grave peril; for the state of matters now was just like a siege, and they all would evidently have been lost if the Carthaginians had not been afraid of the ravens and simply hedged them in and held them close to the land instead of charging, apprehensive as they were of coming to close quarters. The Consuls, coming up rapidly and surrounding the Carthaginians, captured fifty ships with their crews, a few managing to slip out along shore and escape. The separate encounters fell out as I have described, and the final result of the whole battle was in favour of the Romans. The latter lost twenty-four sail sunk and the Carthaginians more than thirty. Not a single Roman ship with its crew fell into the enemy's hands, but sixty-four Carthaginian ships were so captured.
After this the Romans, laying in a further supply of provisions, repairing the captured ships, and bestowing on their men the attention which their success deserved, put to sea and sailed towards Libya, reaching the shore with their advanced ships under the promontory known as the Hermaeum which lies in front of the whole Gulf of Carthage and stretches out to sea in the direction of Sicily. Having waited there until their other ships came up, and having united their whole fleet, they sailed along the coast till they reached the city of Aspis. Landing there and beaching their ships, which they surrounded with a trench and palisade, they set themselves to lay siege to the town, the garrison of which refused to surrender voluntarily. Those Carthaginians who made good their escape from the naval battle sailed home, and being convinced that the enemy, elated by their recent success, would at once attack Carthage itself from the sea, kept watch at different points over the approaches to the city with their land and sea forces. But when they learnt that the Romans had safely landed and were laying siege to Aspis, they abandoned the measures taken to guard against an attack from the sea, and uniting their forces devoted themselves to the protection of the capital and its environs. The Romans, after making themselves masters of Aspis, where they left a garrison to hold the town and district, sent a mission to Rome to report on recent events, and to inquire what they should do in future and how they were to deal with the whole situation. They then hastily advanced with their whole force and set about plundering the country. As nobody tried to prevent them, they destroyed a number of handsome and luxuriously furnished dwelling-houses, possessed themselves of a quantity of cattle, and captured more than twenty thousand slaves, taking them back to their ships. Messengers from Rome now arrived with instructions for one of the Consuls to remain on the spot with an adequate force and for the other to bring the fleet back to Rome. Marcus Regulus, therefore, remained, retaining forty ships and a force of fifteen thousand infantry and five hundred horse, while Lucius, taking with him the ship's crews and all the prisoners, passed safely along the coast of Sicily and reached Rome.