Columna rostrata: the victory monument, dedicated by the emperor Augustus, to Duillius, a victorious naval commander in the First Punic War.
In 264, the First Punic War broke out, the longest and greatest war from Antiquity. Without interruption, it lasted until 241, and this length is partially explained because Rome was superior on the land, whereas Carthage had superior naval forces. However, the Romans developed a secret weapon, the corvus , a movable bridge with a metal prong that could be dropped onto the deck of a Carthaginian ship. Once the two ships were tied to each other, the naval battle had changed into a land battle.
The Roman historian Livy writes that in 260, at Mylae,
the Roman consul Gaius Duillius successfully fought against the Carthaginian navy, and was the first Roman leader to celebrate a a naval triumph. Therefore, he was given a lasting right to have himself accompanied by a torch carrier and a flutist when he returned home from dinner".note[Livy, Periochae 17.2.]
Before this, Duillius had already expelled the Carthaginian commander Hamilcar from Segesta, a town he was besieged.
At the end of the first century BCE, the Roman emperor Augustus restructured the Forum Romanum. Because he had won a naval victory in the Sicilian waters, he erected a honorific column to himself. A second column was erected next to it, commemorating Duillius's victory. The inscription, in fake archaic spelling, is now in the Capitoline Museums. It is known as CIL I.2.
[Consol Secest]ano[s socios p.r. Cartaciniensiom]
[opsidione]d exemet lecione[sque Cartacinensis omnis]
[ma]ximosque macistratos l[uci palam post dies]
[n]ovem castreis exfociont; Mace[lamque opidom]
[p]ucnandod cepet. Enque eodem mac[istratud bene]
[r]em navebos marid consol primos c[eset copiasque]
[c]lasesque navales primos ornavet pa[ravetque]
[c]umque eis navebos claseis Poenicas omn[is item ma-]
[x]umas copias Cartaciensis praesente[d Hanibaled]
dictatored olorem inaltod marid pucn[ad vicet],
vique naveis cepet cum socieis septer[esmom I quin-]
[queresm]osque triresmosque naveis X[XX merset XIII].
[Aur]om captom numei MMDCC[....]
[Arcen]tom captom praeda numei Ø [....]
[Omne] captom aes ØØØØØØØØ [ØØØØ]
[ØØØ] ØØØØØØØØØØ [ØØØØØØØ]
[triumpod]que navaled praedad poplom [donavet]
[multosque] Cartacinie[nsis incenuos d[uxit ante]
The consul delivered the Segestans, allies of the republic, from a Carthaginian blockade and all the Carthaginian units, including their supreme commander, after nine days fled in broad daylight from their camp. He also captured the city of Macela by storm. And in the same command he as consul performed an exploit in his ships at sea, the first Roman to do so: the first he was to equip and train crews and fleets of fighting ships; and with these ships he defeated in battle on the high seas the Carthaginian fleets and likewise all the most mighty troops of the Carthaginians in the presence of Hannibal, their admiral. And by force, he captured ships with their crews: 1 septireme, 30 quinqueremes and triremes; 13 he sank.
Gold taken: 3,600 [and more] pieces.
Silver taken, together with booty: 100,000 [and more].
Total sum: 3,200,000 aes.
He celebrated a naval triumph, bestowed a gift of money on the people, and led many Carthaginian captives in front of his chariot.