First Punic War > Battles > Battle of Panormus

Battle of Panormus

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Battle of Panormus

Combatants

Carthaginians

Hasdrubal

Roman Republic

Lucius Caecilius Metellus

Military Forces

  • 60,000
  • 21,000

Aftermath

  • 2,500
  • 11,000

Background

The Battle of Panormus was a major battle of the First Punic War that was fought in 251 BC between the Carthaginians led by Hasdrubal and the Roman Republic under the command of the consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus. Near the end of 252 BC or 251 BC the Carthaginians were forced to put down a revolt by their Libyan allies in North Africa.

Following this, the general Hasdrubal, son of Hanno the Great was sent to Sicily to apply the expertise gained following the Battle of Bagradas/Tunis. Based on the account from the Greek historian Polybius, Hasdrubal would have free reign around the cities of Selinus and Lilybaeum for around two years where the Romans just kept to the highground and their defensive positions.

However, eventually Hasdrubal would eventually attempt to engage the Roman consular army under the command of Lucius Caecilius Metellus while they were gathering the crops at harvest around the city of Panormus. Hasdrubal would march his infantry, cavalry and war elephants through the Orethus Valley and began to attack the Romans.

Conflict

The sight of the opposing army and marching war elephants caused the Romans to retreat behind their walls. After the Romans fled the countryside the Carthaginians seized their crops and plundered the countryside. Next they would come within striking distance of the city by marching across the Orethus River. At this point Matellus ordered his light infantry troops to hurl their javelins into the war elephants to attempt to wound them.

In order to do this the Romans had to take cover in the defensive fortification ditches that surrounded the city. In order to quash this small threat the Carthaginians moved their forces in. However, this exposed the elephants and they were attacked by a barrage of javelins from both the trenches as well as the city walls.

This surprise attack caught the Carthaginians off guard and the war elephants turned and ran back into the infantry lines. The Roman legions were stationed right outside the city to the Carthaginian left flank and upon the sight of the fleeing elephants they attacked. This attack would be remarkably successful and end up routing the Carthaginian army.

However, the Romans would not pursue the fleeing Carthaginians but rather capture all of the elephants they could. These would later be killed in the circus back in Rome.

Aftermath

Following the horrendous defeat of the Carthaginians the general Hasdrubal was recalled and executed. His successor, named Adhubal ordered the town of Selinus destroyed. Following this defeat the Carthaginians would not pursue any other major land based campaigns during the First Punic War besides the guerrilla tactics of Hamilcar Barca.

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Bibliography

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

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

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