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 civiltÓ romana, Roma (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
Polybius; cast from a lost monument in Cleitor (Greece) (Museo nazionale della civiltÓ romana, Rome) 

Book 1, chapter 38

[254 BCE] The Carthaginians, on hearing of the destruction of the Roman fleet, conceiving themselves to be now a match for the Romans both on land owing to their recent success and at sea owing to this disaster, were encouraged to make more extensive military and naval preparations. They at once dispatched Hasdrubal to Sicily, giving him the troops they previously had and a force which had joined them from Heraclea, together with a 140 elephants. After dispatching him they began to get ready for sea 200 ships and to make all other preparations for a naval expedition. Hasdrubal, having crossed in safety to Lilybaeum, occupied himself in drilling unopposed his elephants and the rest of his force, and plainly intended to dispute the possession of the open country.

The Romans, on receiving full information about the disaster from the survivors of the shipwreck, were deeply grieved, but being resolved on no account to give in, they decided to put on the stocks a fresh fleet of 220 ships. In three months they were completed -a thing difficult to believe- and the new consuls, Aulus Atilius [Caiatinus] and Gnaeus Cornelius [Scipio Asina], having fitted out the fleet, put to sea, and passing the straits picked up at Messana the ships that had escaped shipwreck.

Descending with their total fleet of 300 sail on Panormus, the most important city in the Carthaginian province, they undertook its siege. They threw up works in two places and after making the other necessary preparations brought up their battering-rams. The tower on the sea shore was easily knocked down, and, the soldiers pressing in through this breach, the New Town was stormed, and the part known as the Old Town being now in imminent danger, its inhabitants soon surrendered it. Having taken possession of it the consuls sailed back to Rome leaving a garrison in the town.






to book 1, chapter 39




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