Rostra from the Battle of the Aegates Islands

The naval battle of the Aegestes Islands was a victory for the Romans - Gaius Lutatius Catulus routed the Carthaginian fleet off the west coast of Sicily, and so ended the First Punic War on the 10th March 241 BC.

This Catulus was a novus homo, like Gaius Marius, who took charge of the navy in 241 (he was the consul for 242 BC, so his command in 241 was a proconsular one). Unfortunately by Marius' day the Lutatii were noble, so his colleague Quintus Lutatius Catulus was a disaster as a general at Vercellae.

The Carthaginian Admiral was Hanno the Great - this epithet comes from his earlier African conquests. Not from his many defeats by the Romans; before the battle of the Aegates Islands, he had been beaten by them at the of Agrigentum (261 BC) and the battle of Cape Ecnomus (256 BC). Oh, and he's the one who failed to send Hannibal reinforcements after Cannae, so Hannibal couldn't capitalise on his victory, so ... well, in a way it's thanks to him really that we had that whole Roman civilization thing.

Today the Italians announced that a rostrum from the battle had been found off the islands - photo above. AN earlier rostrum, possibly from the same battle, was found off Trapani, the port of Eryx, which is on the northern part of the westernmost tip of Sicily.


Ancient Roman ramming tool found - ANSA:
Bronze rostrum found in sea off Sicily may be from Punic War
ANSA) - Palermo, July 1 - An extremely rare Roman bronze rostrum used for ramming enemy ships - which may have been used in the last great naval battle in the First Punic War - has been found off the northwest coast of Sicily.
The rostrum, a single piece of fused bronze, would have been positioned at the ship's bow and was smashed with force into enemy boats in order to sink them fast.
Divers working for Sicily's maritime affairs department recovered the rostrum near the Egadi Islands in water 70 metres deep with the aid of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
''At the moment this is the fifth extant rostrum in the world,'' said department head Sebastiano Tusa, adding that Sicily is the only region to possess two.
The second rostrum was recovered by art police in 2004 after fishermen discovered it in water near Trapani, not far from the Egadi Islands.
The Trapani rostrum is now conserved in the city's Pepoli Museum.
Tusa said that the Egadi rostrum confirms his theory that a battle took place north-east of the island of Levanzo between fleets from Rome and its great enemy, Carthage, during the Battle of the Egadi in 241 BC.
The battle, won by the Romans, ended the First Punic War and saw the Carthaginians hand control of Sicily to the Roman Empire.
The word rostrum was later used for the main speaking platform in the Roman Forum. This was because it was decorated with the prows of captured ships.


For more information about the Punic Wars, the best book is Adrian Goldsworthy's - he brings the period to life, and is surprisingly easy-reading for such a brilliant academic:
Adrian Goldsworthy, The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (Cassell Military Paperbacks) - Amazon.co.uk
Adrian Goldsworthy, The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (Cassell Military Paperbacks) - Amazon.com

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