Battle of Drepana
The naval Battle of Drepana took place in 249 BC during the First Punic War. It was between a Carthaginian fleet under Adherbal and a Roman fleet commanded by Publius Claudius Pulcher. The Roman fleet sailed by night to carry out a surprise attack but became scattered in the dark. The Romans were pinned against the shore, and after a day of fighting were heavily defeated by the more manoeuvrable Carthaginians.
About Battle of Drepana in brief
The naval Battle of Drepana took place in 249 BC during the First Punic War. It was between a Carthaginian fleet under Adherbal and a Roman fleet commanded by Publius Claudius Pulcher. The Roman fleet sailed by night to carry out a surprise attack but became scattered in the dark. The Romans were pinned against the shore, and after a day of fighting were heavily defeated by the more manoeuvrable Carthaginians. The details of the battle in modern sources are almost entirely based on interpretations of Polybius’s account. Since 2010 a number of artefacts have been recovered from the nearby site of the Battle of the Aegates, the final battle of the war, fought eight years later. In 260 BC the Romans built a large fleet and in the following ten years defeated the Carthaginians in a succession of naval battles. During this war the standard warship was the quinqumeo, meaning ‘five-five’ or ‘five cinquereme’ The expert suggests this could maintain 7,000 tons of cargo at sea, around 100 tons of which could be kept in the Mediterranean for a year or more. In 264 BC the states of Carthage and Rome went to war, starting the First Punic War. Rome had recently unified mainland Italy south of the River Arno under its control. Rome’s expansion into southern Italy probably made it inevitable that it would eventually clash with Carthage over Sicily on some pretext. By 241 BC the war had lasted 15 years, with many changes of fortune. It had developed into a struggle in which the Romans were attempting to defeat the Carthageians decisively and, at a minimum, control the whole of Sicily.
The Carthaginans were engaging in their traditional policy of waiting for their opponents to wear themselves out, in the expectation of then regaining some or all of their possessions and negotiating a satisfactory peace out of the conflict. In the end the Romans won the war and in 260 BC they built a large fleet and the following 10 years they also slowly gained control of Sicily, including the major cities of Akragas and Panormus. During this time the Romans also slowly won control of most of the most important cities in the western Mediterranean, such as Messana and Calabria. The war ended in 241 BC, with the Romans building a large naval fleet and a series of victories over Carthage in the subsequent ten years. In 250 BC, the Romans and Carthage fought a battle over the control of Messana, which was won by the Romans. This was Carthage’s greatest naval victory of the War; they turned to the maritime offensive after D repana and all but swept the Romans from the sea. It was seven years before Rome again attempted to field a substantial fleet, while Carthage put most of its ships into reserve to save money and free up manpower. Other sources include inscriptions, archaeological evidence, and empirical evidence from reconstructions such as the trireme Olympias.