Geography > Aegates Islands

Aegates Islands

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration


The Aegates Islands are three islands that lie off the coast of Sicily and were the site of the Battle of the Aegates Islands in 241 BC where 400 Carthaginian ships were defeated by 200 ships from the Roman Republic led by Gaius Lutatius Catulus. This decisive battle would end the First Punic War. The Romans would end up taking 10,000 prisoners and sinking 120 Carthaginian ships.


The largest of the three, the island of Aegusa, known in modern times as Favignana was derived from the name "Goat Island" or Αιγούσα as it is known in Greek. The modern name for the island comes from Favonio which was the Italian name for the foehn wind. The first settlers to the island were Phoenicians who built a trading outpost on the island as part of their larger network. This would last until the defeat of the Carthaginians when the Romans would take possession.


The second largest island of the Aegates was known as Hiera, or in modern times Marettimo. The name is derived from the Greek name for the island Hierà Nèsos (Ιερά Νήσος) which means "Sacred Island". Following with this, the Latin named used for the island by Pliny was Sacra. The modern name Marettimo may come from the words mar (sea) and timo (thyme) although others suggest it comes from a local pronunciation of the word "maritimo". This island was an important observation point in Roman times where they monitored maritime traffic between Sicily and North Africa.


Called in modern times Levanzo, the island of Phorbantia was relatively minor and obscure during the ancient period.


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