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The 1st Punic War

264-241 BC
Carthaginian territory in the 3rd century BC
Carthage, Then
and Now
Carthage, then
Carthage, now
First Punic War
• Rome vs. Carthage (N. Africa)
• Large scale naval battles
• Failed Roman invasion of Africa
• Introduction (and disappearance of the
• Sacred Chickens
• Hamilcar Barca
Major Events
• Roman interests brought her to Sicily and formed
a peace with Hiero of Syracuse.
• 264-257 BC Sicilian towns were taken by Rome:
Carthage strongholds were Panormus (251),
Lilybaeum (surrendered 241), Drepana (242) and
Agrigentum (262).
• Rome invades Africa (Carthage) in 256/55, hoping
to end the war.
• Naval Battle of Ecnomus en route to Carthage
Carthagianian Strongholds
Battle of
Romans take a wrecked quinquireme
Ecnomus and adds a corvus to turn a sea battle
into a land battle.
Records stop mentioning after 255 BC
• 256 BC, as the invasion force to Africa is en route
• 330 Carthaginian/350 Roman—Roman victory
• Avg 400 crew + soldiers (500 on quinquireme) X 680 ships =
272,000 men
• 54 ships sunk total = 21,600 drowned/killed
• Consul, Marcus Atilius
Regulus lands 15,000
infantry, 500 cavalry and is
outside the walls of Carthage.
• Spartan Xanthippus organizes
the defense/Battle of Tunis—
Carthaginian victory.
Regulus as a Hostage
• 2,000 Romans escape, most are slaughtered
• Regulus, on his honor, goes back to Rome
to ask peace for Carthage.
• Regulus asks the Senate to refuse and
continue on.
• Regulus returns (250) and is executed; put
in a spiked barrel and rolled downhill.
1415 Medieval Manuscript Depicting Regulus’ Death
Battle of Drepana, 249 BC
• Roman fleet arrives at Drepana in morning,
sailing from the East.
• Sacred Chickens will not eat the grain; the
consul Publius Claudius Pulcher throws
them overboard.
– ut biberent, quando esse nollent
– ‘if they won’t eat, let them drink’
Results of Drepana
• As the Romans come in one entrance to the harbor
(supposed sneak attack) the Carthaginians go out
another entrance.
• Pulcher discovers that the enemy is behind him,
and in the confusion, looses 93 of the ~120 ships.
93 X 400 = 37,200 men lost
• He returns to Rome/tried for being impious to the
gods, convicted, exiled, but dies shortly after trial
Hamilcar Barca
• Father of Hannibal
• Took over supreme
command in Sicily in
• Guerilla defense
from Mt. Eryx—still
there when the final
battle and peace is
signed in 241.
Final Push—Battle of the
Aegates Islands
• Patricians penny up for one last fleet.
• Roman naval victory—Carthage sues for
peace, leaves Sicily, pays 2,200 talents over
10 years, and 1,000 talents upfront and in
• Carthage deals with a Mercenary War
afterwards/Hamilcar crushes it.