First Punic War Battles > Battle of Messana

Battle of Messana

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Battle of Messana

  • Part of the First Punic War
  • Date: 265 BC - 264 BC
  • Location: Messana (modern Messina)
  • Coordinates: 38.1800°N 15.5614°E
  • Battle Victor: Roman Republic


Roman Republic

Appius Claudius Caudex

Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla

Manius Otacilius Crassus

Military Forces

  • 9,000 Infantry
  • 500 Cavalry
  • 12,000 Cavalry, Hoplites, Mercenaries


  • 1,340 casualties
  • 6,000 casualties


The Battle of Messana was the first major battle of the First Punic War which occurred in 265-264 BC between the Carthaginians and the Roman Republic. The battle was fought over the city of Messana on the island of Sicily. The Greek historian Polybius writes about this battle in book one of his "Histories";

"Even after long consideration, the (Roman) Senate did not approve the proposal to send help to Messana; they took the view that any advantage which would result from relieving the place would be counterbalanced by the inconsistency of such an action. However, the people who had suffered grievously from the wars that had just ended and were in dire need of rehabilitation of every kind, were inclined to listen to the consuls.

These men, besides stressing the national advantages I have already mentioned which Rome could secure if she intervened, also dwelt on the great gains which would clearly accrue to every individual citizen from the spoils of war, and so a resolution for sending help was carried. When his decree had been passed by the people, one of the consuls, Appius Claudius, was appointed to command an expedition, and was given orders to cross to Messana."

- Polybius Book One

Following this the fickle Mamertines forced the Carthaginian military garrison out of Messana and invited the Romans into the city instead.


The Romans quickly defeated the Syracusans and then moved to strike against the Carthaginians. The light infantry and hoplites engaged in a small skirmish in the with the Romans in the center while the cavalry fought on the flanks of the formation. Eventually the Romans would triumph over the Carthaginians and Syracusans and they retreated. For this the Carthaginians would crucify Hanno the garrison commander for his cowardice to leave Messana without fighting the Mamertines.


Following this, the First Punic War was on. This minor conflict on Sicily would culminate in a series of three major wars that would end in the destruction of the Punic civilization and the complete destruction of Carthage. But for now, the Romans would move on from here to Siege of Agrigentum.

First Punic War

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Primary Sources

Polybius, 1:11.4-5.

Diodorus Siculus, Biblioteca Historica, 23.1.2.

Secondary Sources

Historical Background Messana I - 264 BC Romans vs Syracusans. Retrieved on 14 December 2008.

The General History of Polybius by Polybius, translator James Hampton.

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