home  :   index   :   ancient Carthage   :   ancient Rome   :   First Punic War   :   article by Polybius of Megalopolis

Polybius: the First Punic War


Map of ancient Sicily. Map design Jona Lendering.

According to the Greek historian Polybius of Megalopolis (c.200-c.118), the First Punic War (264-241) between Carthage and Rome was "the longest and most severely contested war in history". And indeed, it lasted almost a quarter of a century and probably, a million people lost their lives. In the end, Rome had conquered the island of Sicily, and had become a Mediterranean superpower.

Polybius' World History was translated by W.R. Paton.

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Polybius. Museo nazionale della civiltą romana, Roma (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
Polybius; cast from a lost monument in Cleitor (Greece) (Museo nazionale della civiltą romana, Rome) 

Book 1, chapter 24

[260 BCE] When the Romans had thus, contrary to all expectation, gained the prospect of success at sea their determination to prosecute the war became twice as strong. On this occasion they put in on the coast of Sicily, raised the siege of Segesta which was in the last stage of distress, and in leaving Segesta took the city of Macella by assault.

After the battle at sea Hamilcar, the Carthaginian commander of their land forces, who was quartered in the neighborhood of Panormus, heard that in the Roman camp the allies and the Romans were at variance as to which had most distinguished themselves in the battles, and that the allies were encamped by themselves between the Paropus and the Hot Springs of Himera. Suddenly falling on them with his whole force as they were breaking up their camp he killed about four thousand.

After this action Hannibal with the ships that escaped sailed away to Carthage and shortly after crossed from there to Sardinia, taking with him additional ships and some of the most celebrated naval officers. Not long afterwards he was blockaded in one of the harbors of Sardinia by the Romans and after losing many of his ships was summarily arrested by the surviving Carthaginians and crucified. The Romans, I should explain, from the moment they concerned themselves with the sea, began to entertain designs on Sardinia.

[259 BCE] The Roman troops in Sicily did nothing worthy of note during the following year; but at its close when they had received their new commanders the consuls of next year [258 BCE], Aulus Atilius [Caiatinus] and Gaius Sulpicius [Paterculus], they started to attack Panormus, because the Carthaginian forces were wintering there.

 
Henna today.
Henna today (©!!!)

The consuls, when they got close up to the city, offered battle with their whole forces, but as the enemy did not come out to meet them they left Panormus and went off to attack Hippana. This city they took by assault and they also took Myttistratum which withstood the siege for long owing to its strong situation. They then occupied Camarina which had lately deserted their cause, bringing up a siege battery and making a breach in the wall. They similarly took Enna and several other small places belonging to the Carthaginians, and when they had finished with these operations they undertook the siege of Lipara.





to book 1, chapter 25




 home   :    index    :    ancient Carthage    :    ancient Rome   :   First Punic War