First Punic War Battles > Battle of Adys

Battle of Adys

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Battle of Adys


Military Forces

  • 15,000 Infantry
  • 500 Cavalry
  • 5,000+ Infantry
  • 500 Cavalry
  • War Elephants (Unknown Number)


  • Minimal casualties
  • 3,700 Infantry
  • 300 Cavalry
  • War Elephants escaped


The Battle of Adys, also known as Adis was a major battle fought during the First Punic War in 255 BC between the Carthaginians and the Roman Republic. The previous year in 256 BC the Roman under the command of the two consuls Lucius Manlius Vulso and Marcus Atilius Regulus launched an invasion of Carthaginian held North Africa. They began by besieging the town of Aspis/Clupea which lay about forty miles east of Carthage.

The Romans began setting up defenses and gathered 20,000 slaves along wth herds of cattle from the countryside and set up a base from which to assault the capital itself. Soon they received instructions from Rome that Lucius Manlius Vulso was to sail back with the fleet and transports to Rome. This left Marcus Atilius Regulus in command of about 15,000 infantry as well as 500 cavalry.

At this point Carthage knew what was coming so they recalled their general Hamilcar Barca along with his 5,000 infantry and 500 cavalry from neighboring Sicily. He was to rejoin Bostar as well as Hasdrubal. The Carthaginian military was mostly comprised of mercenaries from Iberia, Hispania, North Africa as well other places. One of the most famous components of their army was the Numidian cavalry that proved essential in many battles. The other famous iconic portion of their army was the war elephants they incorporated as an ancient version of a tank.

The combined Carthaginian military set about building the defenses and fortifications of the city of Adis and prepared for a siege. Despite having a superior force that could have easily devastated the Romans in open-plains combat they took up position on the hill overlooking the city and began defensive measures. One of the other major problems was the Carthaginian army was mostly de-centralized unlike the Romans and this made the army less effective. As the Spartan general Xanthippus noted, the problem with the Carthaginian military was not its forces but rather its leadership.


However, unbeknownst to the Carthaginians the Romans attempted a surprise attack and during the night they quickly and quietly deployed all of their forces around the city and attacked the city from two fronts as soon as dawn broke. The battle proved to be an early stalemate with the Carthaginian forces managing to hold the invading Romans at bay. However, eventually the Carthaginians were defeated and the Romans proceeded to loot and plunder their military camp. After this the Roman army would march unimpeded to the city of Tunis prior to heading to Carthage itself.


The defeat of the Carthaginian forces created shockwaves that reverberated throughout the civilization. The Numidians would revolt against Carthage and flooded the city with their people from the outlying countryside. However, even with the internal social and political strife occurring in Carthage the Romans knew they had little chance of capturing the great and highly defended city without more soldiers and siege equipment. Carthage could easily be resupplied with the sea and to defeat Carthage would require a full naval and land blockade like what was seen in the Third Punic War.

However, due to the nature of the consul and its limited one year term Marcus Atilius Regulus was interested in ending the war early and claiming the victory for himself, not letting his successor steal all the glory. To this end he imposed harsh terms of peace on Carthage including them giving up all their territories in Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily as well as pay massive war reparations and accept Roman vassalage. The Carthaginians obviously refused expecting to negotiate with the Romans and the First Punic War continued on.

First Punic War

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Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Battle of Adys 256 BC A Scenario for Rome at War: Hannibal at Bay, by Stephen C. Jackson (2003). Retrieved on December 13, 2008.

Bagnall, Nigel (1990). The Punic Wars. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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