Second Punic War Battles > Battle of Lilybaeum

Battle of Lilybaeum

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration


The Battle of Lilybaeum was a naval engagement that took place during the First Punic War in 218 BC between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Empire. Lilybaeum (modern-day Marsala) was a strategic port city on the western coast of Sicily controlled by Carthage. At the outset of the First Punic War, both Rome and Carthage sought control over Sicily, a strategically vital island in the central Mediterranean. The Roman navy, despite lacking experience in naval warfare, sought to challenge Carthaginian dominance at sea to secure supply routes and gain control of key ports like Lilybaeum.

The Roman fleet, commanded by the consul Gaius Atilius Regulus, sailed to Lilybaeum to confront the Carthaginian navy. The Carthaginian fleet, under the command of Hannibal Gisco, was stationed at Lilybaeum to protect the city and maintain control over the waters surrounding Sicily.


The Battle of Lilybaeum began with a clash between the Roman and Carthaginian ships near the port city. Despite their lack of naval expertise, the Romans employed a tactic known as the corvus, a boarding bridge that allowed Roman soldiers to board and engage in hand-to-hand combat with Carthaginian sailors, effectively turning the naval battle into a land battle on ships. The Romans, with their superior infantry, proved to be more effective in close combat, and the Carthaginian fleet suffered heavy losses.


The Battle of Lilybaeum resulted in a decisive victory for the Roman Republic. The Carthaginian fleet was severely weakened, and Lilybaeum remained vulnerable to Roman attack. The Roman victory at Lilybaeum marked a significant turning point in the First Punic War, as it demonstrated the effectiveness of the corvus and gave Rome control over key naval routes in the western Mediterranean.

The Battle of Lilybaeum showcased the Roman Republic's ability to adapt and innovate in naval warfare, ultimately leading to its dominance over the Carthaginian navy in subsequent battles. The Roman victory at Lilybaeum paved the way for further Roman conquests in Sicily and ultimately contributed to Carthage's defeat in the First Punic War.

Second Punic War

+ Second Punic War Links

Goldsworthy, Adrian, The Fall of Carthage, p 151 ISBN 0-304-36642-0

Lazenby, J.F., Hannibal’s War, p 71 ISBN 0-8061-3004-0

Peddie, John, Hannibal’s War p 14, ISBN 0-7509-3797-1

Lazenby, J.F., Hannibal’s War, p 32 ISBN 0-8061-3004-0

Goldsworthy, Adrian, The Fall of Carthage, p 158 ISBN 0-304-36642-0

Dodge, Theodore A., Hannibal, p 172 ISBN 0-306-81362-9

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