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Hanno (3)

Map of ancient Sicily. Map design Jona Lendering. Hanno (†241 BCE): Carthaginian admiral, defeated by the Roman at the Aegatean Islands.

The main issue of the First Punic War between the Romans and Carthaginians was the possession of the island of Sicily. The conflict started in 264, and had, after twenty years, ended in a stalemate. Rome had conquered Messana, Acragas, and Panormus, but its possession of these cities was not safe as long as Carthage had a bridgehead in the very west of the island, where the Carthaginian commander Hamilcar Barca was waging a guerilla.

Rome was now convinced that the war had to be decided at sea, and built a fleet. In the summer of 242, two hundred ships sailed under consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus to Drepana, one of the Carthaginian ports in western Sicily, besieged by the Romans. His attack failed, but as provisions were running out in the city, the Carthaginians were forced to ask for reinforcements. This was difficult, because Carthage was almost bankrupt after twenty-two years of war.

However, in March 241, the Carthaginian fleet was ready. Its commander Hanno, the subject of this article, sailed to the east, and was intercepted near the Aegatean Islands, which are immediately west of Drepana. His 250 warships outnumbered the Roman navy, but he had heavy transports to defend, which handicapped him. Lutatius defeated him. Fifty Carthaginian ships sank, seventy were captured. There was no hope to reinforce, relieve, or recall the soldiers of Hamilcar. Hanno returned to Carthage, where he was crucified.

This meant the end of the First Punic War. According to the Greek historian Polybius of Megalopolis, it had been "the longest and most severely contested war in history" (World History, 1.63.4-5).

Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 16 March 2008
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