241 BC: How did Roman Legionnaires Win Naval Battles?

241 BC: How did Roman Legionnaires Win Naval Battles?
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 10. March 241 BC
  • The Romans were traditionally more skilled in land warfare, while the Carthaginians had the edge in naval combat. However, the Romans invented a way to transfer their land combat skills to the ships. Namely, they equipped their ships with mobile bridges, which allowed Roman legionnaires to board enemy ships and fight in a similar manner as if they were on land.

On this day back in the year 241 BC, the Romans won a great military victory, defeating their main rivals – the Carthaginians – on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is important to know that on the eve of that war – the First Punic War – Carthage was the dominant power of the Western Mediterranean, significantly more powerful than the Roman Republic. Still, as the war wore on, the Romans managed to build a powerful naval fleet and eventually triumph over their enemies.

The Romans were traditionally more skilled in land warfare, while the Carthaginians had the edge in naval combat. However, the Romans invented a way to transfer their land combat skills to the ships.

Namely, they equipped their ships with mobile bridges, which allowed Roman legionnaires to board enemy ships and fight in a similar manner as if they were on land. The Romans called such a bridge “corvus”.

The decisive battle of the First Punic War took place on this day. It occurred near the coast of the island of Sicily, near the so-called Egadi Islands. All in all, around 450 ships participated in the battle, which was won by the Romans under Consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus.

Carthage was forced to make peace on unfavorable terms. Namely, it had to leave the island of Sicily and pay 1,000 talents of silver as well as an additional 2,200 talents over the course of the next 10 years. This amounted to a total of 96,000 kilograms of silver, a truly substantial amount even today.

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