Punic Wars – 1st (264-241)

Table of Content:

  • I. The FIRST Punic War
  • I.001 Carthaginian Society
  • I-262BCE-A. Battle of Agrigentum
  • I-260BCE-A. Battle of the Lipari Islands
  • I-260BCE-B. Battle of Mylae
  • I-258BCE-A. Battle of Sulci
  • I-257BCE-A. Battle of Tyndaris
  • I-256BCE-A. Battle of Cape Ecnomus
  • I-255BCE-A. Battle of Adys
  • I-255BCE-B. Battle of the Bagradas River
  • I-250BCE-A. Battle of Panormus
  • I-250BCE-B. Siege of Lilybaeum
  • I-249BCE-A. Battle of Drepana
  • I-249BCE-B. Battle of Phintias
  • I-241BCE-A. Battle of the Aegates Islands

I. Punic Wars / First Punic War (264–241[*]BCE)

First Punic War
The First Punic War was the largest Navy War of Antiquity, primarily fought around the island of Sicily


VID-001: Carthage: The Fall of Rome’s Greatest Rival

VID-002: Punic Wars

VID-003: Total War History: The First Punic War (Part 1/4)

VID-004: Republican Fleet Tactics (Roman Navy)

VID-005: An Introduction to the Roman Navy

VID-006: Ancient Naval Artillery

VID-007: History and Development of Naval Battering Rams

VID-008: Battle of Ecnomus – Largest Naval Battle in History

POD-001: The Sicilian Wrestling Ground

POD-002: Punic War I

The First Punic War [264–241 BCE] was the first of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean in the mid-3rd century BC. For 23 years, in the longest continuous conflict and greatest naval war of antiquity, the two powers struggled for supremacy.

The war was fought primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa. After immense losses on both sides, the Carthaginians were defeated.

The war began in 264 BC with the Romans gaining a foothold on Sicily at Messana (modern Messina). The Romans then pressed Syracuse, the only significant independent power on the island, into allying with them and laid siege to Carthage’s main base at Akragas. A large Carthaginian army attempted to lift the siege in 262 BC, but was heavily defeated at the Battle of Akragas.

The Romans then built a navy to challenge the Carthaginians, and using novel tactics inflicted several defeats.

A Carthaginian base on Corsica was seized, but an attack on Sardinia was repulsed; the base on Corsica was then lost.

Taking advantage of their naval victories the Romans launched an invasion of North Africa, which the Carthaginians intercepted.

At the Battle of Cape Ecnomus the Carthaginians were again beaten; this was possibly the largest naval battle in history by the number of combatants involved.

The invasion initially went well and in 255 BC the Carthaginians sued for peace; the proposed terms were so harsh they fought on, defeating the invaders. The Romans sent a fleet to evacuate their survivors and the Carthaginians opposed it at the Battle of Cape Hermaeum off Africa; the Carthaginians were heavily defeated. The Roman fleet, in turn, was devastated by a storm while returning to Italy, losing most of its ships and over 100,000 men.

The war continued, with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage.

The Carthaginians attacked and recaptured Akragas in 255 BC, but not believing they could hold the city, they razed and abandoned it. The Romans rapidly rebuilt their fleet, adding 220 new ships, and captured Panormus (modern Palermo) in 254 BC.

The next year they lost 150 ships to a storm.

In 251 BC the Carthaginians attempted to recapture Panormus, but were defeated in a battle outside the walls.

Slowly the Romans had occupied most of Sicily; in 249 BC they besieged the last two Carthaginian strongholds – in the extreme west. They also launched a surprise attack on the Carthaginian fleet, but were defeated at the Battle of Drepana. The Carthaginians followed up their victory and most of the remaining Roman warships were lost at the Battle of Phintias.

After several years of stalemate, the Romans rebuilt their fleet again in 243 BC and effectively blockaded the Carthaginian garrisons. Carthage assembled a fleet which attempted to relieve them, but it was destroyed at the Battle of the Aegates Islands in 241 BC, forcing the cut-off Carthaginian troops on Sicily to negotiate for peace.

A treaty was agreed. By its terms Carthage paid large reparations and Sicily was annexed as a Roman province. Henceforth Rome was the leading military power in the western Mediterranean, and increasingly the Mediterranean region as a whole.

The immense effort of building 1,000 galleys during the war laid the foundation for Rome’s maritime dominance for 600 years.

The end of the war sparked a major but unsuccessful revolt within the Carthaginian Empire. The unresolved strategic competition between Rome and Carthage led to the eruption of the Second Punic War in 218 BC.

(Source: Wikipedia)

I.001 Carthaginian Society (~814-146[*]BCE)

Terracotta.statue.of.Baal-Hammon.on.a.throne – source: Wikimedia commons.


VID-001: History of the Phoenicians

VID-002: The Entire History of the Phoenicians (2500 – 300 BC)

VID-003: Carthage’s Wars of Expansion

VID-004: The Tragic Love Story of Carthage’s First Queen

VID-005: Blood on the Altar

VID-006: The Government of Ancient Carthage

VID-007: The Religion of Ancient Carthage

POD-001: Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean

POD-002: The Rise of Carthage

POD-003: Rise of the Phoenicians

POD-004: Setting Up Shop in the Central Med

POD-005: Go West, O Tyre, Go West

POD-006: Carthage – A New City

POD-007: The Founding of Carthage

POD-008: The Early Kings

POD-009: Phoenician, Carthage

Ancient Carthage was a city in modern Tunisia, and also the name given to the city-state and empire it eventually gained.

The settlement was founded by the Phoenicians in the ninth century BC and the city-state was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, though they later rebuilt the city lavishly. At its height in the fourth century BC, the city-state was one of the largest metropolises in the world, and the centre of the Carthaginian Empire, a major power in the ancient world that dominated the western Mediterranean.

Carthage was settled around 814 BC by colonists from Tyre, a leading Phoenician city-state located in present day Lebanon.

In the seventh century BC, following Phoenicia’s conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Carthage became independent, gradually expanding its economic and political hegemony across the western Mediterranean.

By 300 BC, through its vast patchwork of colonies, vassals, and satellite states, Carthage controlled the largest territory in the region, including the coast of northwest Africa, southern Iberia (Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar) and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Malta, and the Balearic archipelago.

Among the ancient world’s largest and richest cities, Carthage’s strategic location provided access to abundant fertile land and major maritime trade routes.

Its extensive mercantile network reached as far as west Asia, west Africa and northern Europe, providing an array of commodities from all over the ancient world, in addition to lucrative exports of agricultural products and manufactured goods. This commercial empire was secured by one of the largest and most powerful navies in the ancient Mediterranean, and an army composed heavily of foreign mercenaries and auxiliaries, particularly Iberians, Balearics, Celtic Gauls, Sicilians, Italians, Greeks, Numidians and Libyans.

As the dominant power of the western Mediterranean, Carthage inevitably came into conflict with many neighbours and rivals, from the indigenous Berbers of North Africa to the nascent Roman Republic.

Following centuries of conflict with the Sicilian Greeks, its growing competition with Rome culminated in the Punic Wars (264–146 BC), which saw some of the largest and most sophisticated battles in antiquity. Having narrowly avoided destruction in the Second Punic War, the Romans destroyed Carthage in 146 BC after the third and final Punic War, later founding a new city in its place.

All remnants of Carthaginian civilization came under Roman rule by the first century AD, and Rome subsequently became the dominant Mediterranean power, paving the way for its rise as a major empire.

In spite of the cosmopolitan character of its empire, Carthage’s culture and identity remained rooted in its Phoenician-Canaanite heritage, albeit a localized variety known as Punic.

Like other Phoenician people, its society was urban, commercial, and oriented towards seafaring and trade; this is reflected in part by its more famous innovations, including serial production, uncolored glass, the threshing board, and the cothon harbor.

Carthaginians were renowned for their commercial prowess, ambitious explorations, and unique system of government, which combined elements of democracy, oligarchy, and republicanism, including modern examples of checks and balances.

Despite having been one of the most influential civilizations of antiquity, Carthage is mostly remembered for its long and bitter conflict with Rome, which threatened the rise of the Roman Republic and almost changed the course of Western civilization.

Due to the destruction of virtually all Carthaginian texts after the Third Punic War, much of what is known about its civilization comes from Roman and Greek sources, many of whom wrote during or after the Punic Wars, and to varying degrees were shaped by the hostilities.

Popular and scholarly attitudes towards Carthage historically reflected the prevailing Greco-Roman view, though archaeological research since the late 19th century has helped shed more light and nuance on Carthaginian civilization.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-262BCE-A. Battle of Agrigentum

Victorem Exercitum Romanum


The Battle of Agrigentum (Sicily, 262 BC) was the first pitched battle of the First Punic War and the first large-scale military confrontation between Carthage and the Roman Republic.

The battle was fought after a long siege which started in 262 BC and resulted both in a Roman victory and the beginning of Roman control of Sicily.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-260BCE-A. Battle of the Lipari Islands


POD-001: Let the Punic Wars begin

The Battle of the Lipari Islands or Battle of Lipara was a naval encounter fought in 260 BC during the First Punic War.

A squadron of 20 Carthaginian ships commanded by Boödes encountered 17 Roman ships commanded by the senior Roman consul for the year, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, in Lipara Harbor. The Romans’ lack of naval experience resulted in their entire fleet of their ships being captured (along with their commander).

The Romans had built a fleet in order to contest the Carthaginians’ maritime control of the western Mediterranean, and Scipio had impetuously ventured to the Liparas with the advance squadron.

The battle was little more than a skirmish, but is notable as the first naval encounter of the Punic Wars and the first time Roman warships had engaged in battle.

Scipio was ransomed after the battle and known thereafter as Asina (Latin for “female donkey”).

(source: Wikipedia)

I-260BCE-B. Battle of Mylae


POD-001: The Corvus and The Waste Land

The Battle of Mylae took place in 260 BC during the First Punic War and was the first real naval battle between Carthage and the Roman Republic.

This battle was key in the Roman victory of Mylae (present-day Milazzo) as well as Sicily itself.

It also marked Rome’s first naval triumph and also the first use of the corvus in battle.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-258BCE-A. Battle of Sulci


The Battle of Sulci was a naval battle fought in 258 BC between the Roman and Carthaginian navies on the coast near the town of Sulci, Sardinia.

It was a Roman victory, obtained by consul Gaius Sulpicius Paterculus.

The Carthaginian fleet was largely sunk, and the rest of the ships were abandoned on land. The Carthaginian commander Hannibal Gisco was crucified or stoned to death by his mutinying army.

The Romans were subsequently defeated by a certain Hanno in Sardinia, and the Roman attempt to capture the island failed.

The loss of ships prevented the Carthaginians from mounting major operations from Sardinia against the Romans.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-257BCE-A. Battle of Tyndaris


POD-001: Those Regulii sure do get around

The Battle of Tyndaris was a naval battle of the First Punic War that took place off Tyndaris (modern Tindari) in 257 BC.

Tyndaris was a Sicilian town founded as a Greek colony in 396 BC located on the high ground overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea in the Gulf of Patti.

Hiero II, the tyrant of Syracuse, allowed Tyndaris to become a base for the Carthaginians.

The battle took place in the waters between Tyndaris and the Aeolian Islands, with Gaius Atilius Regulus in command of the Roman fleet.

Subsequently, the town fell to Rome.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-256BCE-A. Battle of Cape Ecnomus


VID-001: Battle of Cape Ecnomus

POD-001: The Greatest Naval Battle of All Time

POD-002: Ecnomus and the African Invasion

PRIM-001: Polybius on the Battle of Cape Ecnomus

The Battle of Cape Ecnomus was a naval battle, fought off southern Sicily, in 256 BC, between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic, during the First Punic War (264–241 BC).

The Carthaginian fleet was commanded by Hanno and Hamilcar; the Roman fleet jointly by the consuls for the year, Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus. It resulted in a clear victory for the Romans.

The Roman fleet of 330 warships plus an unknown number of transports had sailed from Ostia, the port of Rome, and had embarked approximately 26,000 picked legionaries shortly before the battle. They planned to cross to Africa and invade the Carthaginian homeland, in what is now Tunisia. The Carthaginians were aware of the Romans’ intentions and mustered all available warships, 350, off the south coast of Sicily to intercept them.

With a combined total of about 680 warships carrying up to 290,000 crew and marines, the battle was possibly the largest naval battle in history by the number of combatants involved.

When the fleets met, the Carthaginians took the initiative and the battle devolved into three separate conflicts, where the Carthaginians hoped that their superior ship-handling skills would win the day.

After a prolonged and confusing day of fighting, the Carthaginians were decisively defeated, losing 30 ships sunk and 64 captured to Roman losses of 24 ships sunk.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-255BCE-A. Battle of Adys

Immortales Legionair Romanus


The Battle of Adys (or Adis) took place in 255 BC during the First Punic War between a Carthaginian army jointly commanded by Bostar, Hamilcar and Hasdrubal and a Roman army led by Marcus Atilius Regulus.

Earlier in the year, the new Roman navy established naval superiority and used this advantage to invade the Carthaginian homeland, which roughly aligned with modern Tunisia in North Africa.

After landing on the Cape Bon Peninsula and conducting a successful campaign, the fleet returned to Sicily, leaving Regulus with 15,500 men to hold the lodgement in Africa over the winter.

Instead of holding his position, Regulus advanced towards the Carthaginian capital, Carthage.

The Carthaginian army established itself on a rocky hill near Adys (modern Uthina) where Regulus was besieging the town.

Regulus had his forces execute a night march to launch twin dawn assaults on the Carthaginians’ fortified hilltop camp. One part of this force was repulsed and pursued down the hill. The other part then charged the pursuing Carthaginians in the rear and routed them in turn. At this the Carthaginians remaining in the camp panicked and fled.

The Romans advanced to and captured Tunis, only 16 kilometres (10 mi) from Carthage.

Despairing, the Carthaginians sued for peace.

The terms offered by Regulus were so harsh that Carthage resolved to fight on.

A few months later, at the Battle of the Bagradas River (Battle of Tunis), Regulus was defeated and his army all but wiped out.

The war continued for a further 14 years.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-255BCE-B. Battle of the Bagradas River (Battle of Tunis)

Marcus Attilius Regulus – A True Hero
Marcus Attilius Regulus – A True Hero who lost an important battle and yet in defeat displayed a level of Virtus and Dignitas equal to that of the Spartans who stood at Thermopylae.


PRIM-001: Polybius – Histories

PRIM-002: Attalus – Xanthippus

PRIM-003: Attalus – Marcus Attilius Regulus

The Battle of the Bagradas River (the ancient name of the Medjerda), also known as the Battle of Tunis, was a victory by a Carthaginian army led by Xanthippus over a Roman army led by Marcus Atilius Regulus in the spring of 255 BC, nine years into the First Punic War.

The previous year, the newly constructed Roman navy established naval superiority over Carthage.

The Romans used this advantage to invade Carthage’s homeland, which roughly aligned with modern-day Tunisia in North Africa. After landing on the Cape Bon Peninsula and conducting a successful campaign, the fleet returned to Sicily, leaving Regulus with 15,500 men to hold the lodgement in Africa over the winter.

Instead of holding his position, Regulus advanced towards the city of Carthage and defeated the Carthaginian army at the Battle of Adys. The Romans followed up and captured Tunis, only 16 kilometres (10 mi) from Carthage.

Despairing, the Carthaginians sued for peace, but Regulus’s proposed terms were so harsh the Carthaginians decided to fight on. They gave charge of the training of their army, and eventually operational control, to the Spartan mercenary general Xanthippus.

In the spring of 255 BC, Xanthippus led an army strong in cavalry and elephants against the Romans’ infantry-based force.

The Romans had no effective answer to the elephants.

Their outnumbered cavalry were chased from the field and the Carthaginian cavalry then surrounded most of the Romans and wiped them out; 500 survived and were captured, including Regulus.

A force of 2,000 Romans avoided being surrounded and retreated to Aspis.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-250BCE-A. Battle of Panormus

Romanus Miles Incurrens


PRIM-001: Polybius – Histories (End of the Punic Wars)

PRIM-002: Diodorus Sicilus – The Library of History (Vol. XI)

PRIM-003: Attalus – Lucius Caecilius Metellus in Ancient Sources

PRIM-004: Florius – The Punic Wars

The Battle of Panormus was fought in Sicily in 250 BC during the First Punic War between a Roman army led by Lucius Caecilius Metellus and a Carthaginian force led by Hasdrubal.

The Roman force of two legions defending the city of Panormus defeated the much larger Carthaginian army of 30,000 men and between 60 and 142 war elephants.

The war had commenced in 264 BC with Carthage in control of much of Sicily, where most of the fighting took place.

In 256–255 BC the Romans attempted to strike at the city of Carthage in North Africa, but suffered a heavy defeat by a Carthaginian army strong in cavalry and elephants.

When the focus of the war returned to Sicily, the Romans captured the large and important city of Panormus in 254 BC.

Thereafter they avoided battle for fear of the war elephants which the Carthaginians had shipped to Sicily.

In late summer 250 BC Hasdrubal led out his army to devastate the crops of the cities of Rome’s allies.

The Romans withdrew to Panormus and Hasdrubal pressed on to the city walls.

Once he arrived in Panormus, Metellus turned to fight, countering the elephants with a hail of javelins from earthworks dug near the walls.

Under this missile fire the elephants panicked and fled through the Carthaginian infantry.

The Roman heavy infantry then charged the Carthaginian left flank, which broke, along with the rest of the Carthaginians.

The elephants were captured and later slaughtered in the Circus Maximus.

This was the last significant land battle of the war, which ended nine years later in a Roman victory.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-250BCE-B. Siege of Lilybaeum

Romae Gloria Aeterna


The siege of Lilybaeum lasted for nine years, from 250 to 241 BC, as the Roman army laid siege to the Carthaginian-held Sicilian city of Lilybaeum (modern Marsala) during the First Punic War.

Rome and Carthage had been at war since 264 BC, fighting mostly on the island of Sicily or in the waters around it, and the Romans were slowly pushing the Carthaginians back.

By 250 BC, the Carthaginians held only the cities of Lilybaeum and Drepana; these were well-fortified and situated on the west coast, where they could be supplied and reinforced by sea without the Romans being able to use their superior army to interfere.

In mid-250 BC the Romans besieged Lilybaeum with more than 100,000 men but an attempt to storm Lilybaeum failed and the siege became a stalemate.

The Romans then attempted to destroy the Carthaginian fleet but the Roman fleet was destroyed in the naval Battles of Drepana and Phintias; the Carthaginians continued to supply the city from the sea.

Nine years later, in 242 BC, the Romans built a new fleet and cut off Carthaginian shipments.

The Carthaginians reconstituted their fleet and dispatched it to Sicily loaded with supplies.

The Romans met it not far from Lilybaeum and at the Battle of the Aegates in 241 BC the Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet.

The Carthaginians sued for peace and the war ended after 23 years with a Roman victory.

The Carthaginians still held Lilybaeum but by the terms of the Treaty of Lutatius, Carthage had to withdraw its forces from Sicily and evacuated the city the same year.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-249BCE-A. Battle of Drepana (249[*]BCE)


POD-001: Carthage finally wins at sea

The naval Battle of Drepana (or Drepanum) took place in 249 BC during the First Punic War near Drepana (modern Trapani) in western Sicily, between a Carthaginian fleet under Adherbal and a Roman fleet commanded by Publius Claudius Pulcher.

Pulcher was blockading the Carthaginian stronghold of Lilybaeum (modern Marsala) when he decided to attack their fleet, which was in the harbour of the nearby city of Drepana.

The Roman fleet sailed by night to carry out a surprise attack but became scattered in the dark.

Adherbal was able to lead his fleet out to sea before it was trapped in harbour; having gained sea room in which to manoeuvre he then counter-attacked.

The Romans were pinned against the shore, and after a day of fighting were heavily defeated by the more maneuverable Carthaginian ships with their better-trained crews. It was Carthage’s greatest naval victory of the war; they turned to the maritime offensive after Drepana and all but swept the Romans from the sea.

It was seven years before Rome again attempted to field a substantial fleet, while Carthage put most of its ships into reserve to save money and free up manpower.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-249BCE-B. Battle of Phintias


The naval Battle of Phintias took place in 249 BC during the First Punic War near modern Licata, southern Sicily between the fleets of Carthage under Carthalo and the Roman Republic under Lucius Junius Pullus.

The Carthaginian fleet had intercepted the Roman Fleet off Phintias, and had forced it to seek shelter.

Carthalo, who heeded the warning of his pilots about impending storms, retired to the east to avoid the coming weather.

The Roman fleet did not take any precautions and subsequently was destroyed with the loss of all but two ships.

The Carthaginians exploited their victory by raiding the coasts of Roman Italy until 243 BC.

The Romans did not mount a major naval effort until 242 BC.

(source: Wikipedia)

I-241BCE-A. Battle of the Aegates Islands


POD-001: The end of the First Punic War

PRIM-001: End of the First Punic War – Polybius (Histories)

PRIM-002: Polybius – The Histories (Book III)

PRIM-003: Polybius – The Histories (Book III)

Polybius: I II III IV VI

The Battle of the Aegates was a naval battle fought on 10 March 241 BC between the fleets of Carthage and Rome during the First Punic War. It took place among the Aegates Islands, off the western coast of the island of Sicily. The Carthaginians were commanded by Hanno, and the Romans were under the overall authority of Gaius Lutatius Catulus, but Quintus Valerius Falto commanded during the battle. It was the final and deciding battle of the 23-year-long First Punic War.

The Roman army had been blockading the Carthaginians in their last strongholds on the west coast of Sicily for several years. Almost bankrupt, the Romans borrowed money to build a naval fleet, which they used to extend the blockade to the sea. The Carthaginians assembled a larger fleet which they intended to use to run supplies into Sicily. It would then embark much of the Carthaginian army stationed there as marines. It was intercepted by the Roman fleet and in a hard-fought battle, the better-trained Romans defeated the undermanned and ill-trained Carthaginian fleet, which was further handicapped by being laden with supplies and having not yet embarked its full complement of marines.

As a direct result, Carthage sued for peace and agreed to the Treaty of Lutatius, by which Carthage surrendered Sicily to Rome and paid substantial reparations. Henceforth Rome was the leading military power in the western Mediterranean, and increasingly the Mediterranean region as a whole.

(source: Wikipedia)

Sicilian Wars

Pyrrhic War