Battle of the Aegates Islands
Infobox Military Conflict
caption=Location of the "Aegates" (modern Aegadian) Islands
conflict=Battle of the Aegates Islands
First Punic War
March 10, 241 BC
Aegadian Islands, western Sicily
result=Decisive Roman victory;
Marks end of First Punic War
Gaius Lutatius Catulus
Hanno the Great
strength1=About 200 ships
strength2=About 250 ships
casualties1=30 ships sunk
casualties2=50 ships sunk
70 ships capturedThe Battle of the Aegates Islands or Aegusa (
Aegadian Islands, off the western coast of the island of Sicily, 10 March 241 BC) was the final naval battle fought between the fleets of Carthageand the Roman Republicduring the First Punic War. The result was a decisive Roman victory which forced an end to the protracted conflict, to the advantage of Rome.
The years preceding the battle were relatively quiet within the First Punic War. Rome lacked a fleet — the ships it had possessed at the beginning of the war had been largely destroyed in the
Battle of Drepanaand in the storm that followed. However, Carthage took little advantage of this situation. Hostilities between Roman and Carthaginian forces gradually stalled, becoming concentrated in small scale land operations in Sicily. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barcawas slow to complete his advantage on the island and, probably due to this, from 242 BCRome eventually decided to build another fleet and regain naval supremacy.
This resolution notwithstanding, after 20 years of war the finances of the Republic were in a calamitous state and the treasury was empty. A popular movement was formed to counter this difficulty in a typically Roman manner: wealthy citizens, either alone or in groups, decided to show their
patriotismand finance the construction of one ship apiece. The result was a fleet of approximately 200 quinqueremes, built, equipped and crewed without public expense.
The new fleet was completed in
242 BCand entrusted to the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, assisted by the praetorQuintus Valerius Falto. The reversals of fortune and difficulties suffered in past naval defeats served as invaluable acquired experience. The Roman ships were now more resistant to adverse weather conditions, with the "corvus" having been abandoned. Catulus and Falto also endeavoured to drill the crews in manoeuvres and exercises before leaving secure waters. The result was a fleet at the peak of condition and fighting ability.
In Carthage meanwhile, the news of enemy activity was not allowed to be left unanswered. A new Carthaginian fleet was also built, numbering about 250 warships (although probably undermanned), and launched in the Mediterranean under the command of Hanno (the general defeated at Agrigentum and Cape Ecnomus). Fact|date=February 2007
Catulus' first move was to besiege the Sicilian port city
Lilybaeum(at the western tip of Sicily, nowadays called Marsala) once more, by blockading its harbour and the connection to Carthage. The intent was seemingly to cut Hamilcar Barca's supply and communication lines. For the rest of the year Catulus waited for the Carthaginian response. The senate granted him a proconsulship for 241 BC.
The Carthaginian fleet arrived to relieve the blockade the following year (
241 BC). Hanno called a halt near the Aegates Islands to wait for a favourable breeze that would speed him to Lilybaeum. However, the Carthaginian fleet was spotted by Roman scouts and Catulus abandoned the blockade to meet his enemy.
On the morning of
March 10, the wind favoured the Carthaginians and Hanno immediately set sail. Catulus measured the risk of attacking with the wind in his bow versus the risk of letting Hanno reach Sicily to relieve Hamilcar Barca and Lilybaeum. Despite unfavourable conditions, the consul decided to intercept the Carthaginians and ordered his fleet into battle formation. He had the Roman ships stripped of their masts, sails and other unnecessary equipment in order to make them more seaworthy in the rough conditions. Catulus himself was unable to join the actual battle due to injuries suffered in an earlier engagement, so in the actual battle the ships were commanded by his second in command, Quintus Valerius Falto.
In the ensuing battle the Romans enjoyed a far greater mobility, since their vessels were carrying only the bare necessities, while the Carthaginians were lumbered with men, equipment and provisions. Carthaginian crews were also hurriedly levied and inexperienced. The Roman fleet quickly gained the upper hand, using their greater manoeuvrability to ram the enemy vessels. About half of the Carthaginian fleet was either destroyed or captured. The rest were only saved by an abrupt change in the direction of the wind, allowing them to flee from the Romans who had left their masts and sails on shore.
End of the First Punic War
Upon achieving decisive victory over the Carthaginian fleet, Catulus renewed the siege and captured Lilybaeum, isolating Barca and his army in Sicily, scattered among the few strongholds that Carthage still retained. Without the resources to build another fleet or to reinforce its land troops, Carthage admitted defeat and signed a peace treaty with Rome, bringing the First Punic War to a conclusion.
To celebrate his victory, Lutatius Catulus built a temple to
Juturnain Campus Martius, in the area currently known as Largo di Torre Argentina.
* cite book
last = Goldsworthy
first = Adrian
authorlink = Adrian Goldsworthy
title = The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146 BC
publisher = Cassell
year = 2007
isbn = 0304366420
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Battle of Lilybaeum — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of 218 BC partof=the Second Punic War date= Summer, 218 BC place= Near Lilybaeum, Sicily result=Roman victory combatant1=Carthage combatant2=Roman Republic commander1=Unknown commander2=Amellius, Praetor… … Wikipedia
Battle of Carthage (c. 149 BC) — Battle of Carthage Part of the Third Punic War … Wikipedia
Aegates Isles — noun islands west of Sicily (now known as the Egadi Islands) where the Romans won a naval victory over the Carthaginians that ended the first Punic War in 241 BC • Syn: ↑Aegadean Isles • Instance Hypernyms: ↑naval battle • Part Holonyms: ↑Punic… … Useful english dictionary
Aegadian Islands — The Aegadian Islands (Italian: Isole Egadi ; Latin: Aegates Insulae ), are a group of small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily, Italy, near the city of Trapani, with a total area of… … Wikipedia
Campaign history of the Roman military — This article is part of the series on: Military of ancient Rome (portal) 753 BC – AD 476 Structural history Roman army (unit types and ranks … Wikipedia
Egadi Islands — ▪ islands, Italy Italian Isole Egadi, also called Aegadian Islands, Latin Aegates Insulae, small mountainous group of islets belonging to Italy, in the Mediterranean just off the western coast of Sicily, with a total area of 15… … Universalium
List of Roman battles — The following is a list of Roman Battles fought by the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, and sometimes the Byzantine Empire, organized by date. The list is not exhaustive. For the complete list see List of battles, for other… … Wikipedia
Hellenistic-era warships — The famous 2nd century BC Nike of Samothrace, standing atop the prow of an oared warship, most probably a trihemiolia. From the 4th century BC on, new types of oared warships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, superseding the trireme and… … Wikipedia
Treaty of Lutatius — The Treaty of Lutatius officially ended the First Punic War. It received its name from Gaius Lutatius Catulus, the Roman consul and victor of the Battle of the Aegates Islands who negotiated it with a subordinate of Hamilcar Barca in 241 BC.… … Wikipedia
First Punic War — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=First Punic War partof=the Punic Wars caption= date=264 ndash; 241 BC casus= dispute between Carthage and Rome over the Mamertine city Messana place=Mediterranean Sea, Sicily, Sardinia, North Africa… … Wikipedia