First Punic War > First Punic War Naval Battles

First Punic War Naval Battles

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration


The First Punic War saw the most naval battles out of all the Punic Wars and saw the eventual defeat of the mighty Carthaginian navy at the hands of the innovative and adaptive Romans.

Due to the difficulty of operating in Sicily, most of the First Punic War was fought at sea, including the most decisive battles.[19] But one reason the war bogged down into stalemate on the landward side was because ancient navies were ineffective at maintaining seaward blockades of enemy ports. Consequently, Carthage was able to reinforce and re-supply its besieged strongholds, especially Lilybaeum, on the western end of Sicily. Both sides of the conflict had publicly funded fleets. This fact compromised Carthage and Rome's finances and eventually decided the course of the war.[68]Despite the Roman victories at sea, the Roman Republic lost countless ships and crews during the war, due to both storms and battles. On at least two occasions (255 and 253 BC) whole fleets were destroyed in bad weather; the disaster off Camarina in 255 BC counted two hundred seventy ships and over one hundred thousand men lost, the greatest single loss in history.[69] One theory is that the weight of the corvus on the prows of the ships made the ships unstable and caused them to sink in bad weather. Later, as Roman experience in naval warfare grew, the corvus device was made attachable and detachable due to its impact on the navigability of the war vessels.[70]

List of Battles

Battle of Cape Ecnomus

See Battle of Cape Ecnomus

In order to initiate its invasion of Africa, the Roman Republic constructed a major fleet, comprising transports for the army and its equipment, and warships for protection. Carthage attempted to intervene with a fleet of 350 ships (according to Polybius),[48] but was defeated in the Battle of Cape Ecnomus.[49]

Battle of Drepana

See Battle of Drepana

Battle of the Aegates Islands/h3>

See Battle of the Aegates Islands

Battle of the Lipari Islands

See Battle of the Lipari Islands

Battle of Mylae

See Battle of Mylae

The Roman fleet under the command of Gaius Duilius, engaged the Carthaginians under general Hannibal Gisco, off northern Mylae in 260 BC. Polybius states that the Carthaginians had 130 ships, but does not give an exact figure for the Romans.[38] The loss of 17 ships at the Lipari Islands from a starting total of 120 ships suggests that Rome had 103 remaining. However, it is possible that this number was greater, thanks to captured ships and the assistance of Roman allies.[39] The Carthaginians anticipated victory, due to their superior experience at sea.[38]The corvi were very successful, and helped the Romans seize the first 30 Carthaginian ships that were close enough. In order to avoid the corvi, the Carthaginians were forced to navigate around them and approach the Romans from behind, or from the side. The corvus was usually still able to pivot and grapple most oncoming ships.[40] After an additional 20 Carthaginian ships had been hooked and lost to the Romans, Hannibal Gisco retreated with his surviving ships, leaving Duilius with a clear victory.Instead of pursuing the remaining Carthaginians, Duilius sailed to Sicily to retrieve control of the troops. There he saved the city of Segesta, which had been under siege from the Carthaginian infantry commander Hamilcar.[41] Modern historians have wondered at Duilius’ decision not to immediately follow up with another naval attack, but Hannibal Giscos’s remaining 80 ships were probably still too strong for Rome to conquer.[42]Hamilcar's counterattack[edit]Hamilcar's attack.The Roman advance now continued westward from Agrigentum to relieve in 260 BC the besieged city of Macella,[43] which had sided with Rome and attacked by the Carthaginians for doing so. In the north, the Romans, with their northern sea flank secured by their naval victory at Battle of Mylae, advanced toward Thermae. They were defeated there by the Carthaginians under Hamilcar (a popular Carthaginian name, not to be confused with Hannibal Barca's father, with the same name) in 260 BC.[44] The Carthaginians took advantage of this victory by counterattacking, in 259 BC, and seizing Enna. Hamilcar continued south to Camarina, in Syracusan territory, presumably with the intent to convince the Syracusans to rejoin the Carthaginian side.[45]

Battle of Sulci

See Battle of Sulci

Battle of Tyndaris

See Battle of Tyndaris

First Punic War

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