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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.

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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 41

[250 BCE] When news of this success reached Rome it caused great rejoicing, not so much because of the enemy being weakened by the loss of their elephants as because of the confidence which the capture of these gave to their own troops. They were consequently encouraged to revert to their original plan of sending out the consuls to the campaign with a fleet of naval force; for they were eager by all means in their power to put an end to the war.

When all that was required for the expedition was ready, the consuls set sail for Sicily with 200 ships. This was in the fourteenth year of the war. Anchoring off Lilybaeum, where they were joined by their land forces, they undertook its siege, thinking that if it fell into their possession it would be easy for them to transfer the war to Africa. On this matter at least the Carthaginian government agreed more or less with the Romans, sharing their estimate of the place's value; so that, shelving all other projects, they devoted their whole attention to the relief of this city and were ready to undertake every risk and burden for this purpose; for if it fell, no base was left for them, as the Romans were masters of all the rest of Sicily except Drepana.

To prevent my narrative from being obscure to readers owing to their ignorance of the geography, I will try to convey briefly to them an idea of the natural advantages and exact position of the places referred to. 






to book 1, chapter 42




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