The Celtic deserters from the Carthaginian army who were stationed by the Romans at the forlorn post of the temple--a reckless pack of marauders, who in the course of this siege plundered the temple and perpetrated every sort of outrage --defended the summit of the rock with desperate courage; but Hamilcar did not allow himself to be again dislodged from the town, and kept his communications constantly open by sea with the fleet and the garrison of Drepana. The war in Sicily seemed to be assuming a turn more and more unfavourable for the Romans. The Roman state was losing in that warfare its money and its soldiers, and the Roman generals their repute; it was already clear that no Roman general was a match for Hamilcar, and the time might be calculated when even the Carthaginian mercenary would be able boldly to measure himself against the legionary. The privateers of Hamilcar appeared with ever- increasing audacity on the Italian coast: already a praetor had been obliged to take the field against a band of Carthaginian rovers which had landed there. A few years more, and Hamilcar might with his fleet have accomplished from Sicily what his son subsequently undertook by the land route from Spain.

A Fleet Built By The Romans Victory Of Catulus At The Island Aegusa

The Roman senate, however, persevered in its inaction; the desponding party for once had the majority there. At length a number of sagacious and high-spirited men determined to save the state even without the interposition of the government, and to put an end to the ruinous Sicilian war. Successful corsair expeditions, if they had not raised the courage of the nation, had aroused energy and hope in a portion of the people; they had already joined together to form a squadron, burnt down Hippo on the African coast, and sustained a successful naval conflict with the Carthaginians off Panormus. By a private subscription--such as had been resorted to in Athens also, but not on so magnificent a scale--the wealthy and patriotic Romans equipped a war fleet, the nucleus of which was supplied by the ships built for privateering and the practised crews which they contained, and which altogether was far more carefully fitted out than had hitherto been the case in the shipbuilding of the state. This fact --that a number of citizens in the twenty-third year of a severe war voluntarily presented to the state two hundred ships of the line, manned by 60,000 sailors--stands perhaps unparalleled in the annals of history. The consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, to whom fell the honour of conducting this fleet to the Sicilian seas, met there with almost no opposition: the two or three Carthaginian vessels, with which Hamilcar had made his corsair expeditions, disappeared before the superior force, and almost without resistance the Romans occupied the harbours of Lilybaeum and Drepana, the siege of which was now undertaken with energy by water and by land. Carthage was completely taken by surprise; even the two fortresses, weakly provisioned, were in great danger. A fleet was equipped at home; but with all the haste which they displayed, the year came to an end without any appearance of Carthaginian sails in the Sicilian waters; and when at length, in the spring of 513, the hurriedly-prepared vessels appeared in the offing of Drepana, they deserved the name of a fleet of transports rather than that of a war fleet ready for action. The Phoenicians had hoped to land undisturbed, to disembark their stores, and to be able to take on board the troops requisite for a naval battle; but the Roman vessels intercepted them, and forced them, when about to sail from the island of Hiera (now Maritima) for Drepana, to accept battle near the little island of Aegusa (Favignana) (10 March, 513). The issue was not for a moment doubtful; the Roman fleet, well built and manned, and admirably handled by the able praetor Publius Valerius Falto (for a wound received before Drepana still confined the consul Catulus to his bed), defeated at the first blow the heavily laden and poorly and inadequately manned vessels of the enemy; fifty were sunk, and with seventy prizes the victors sailed into the port of Lilybaeum. The last great effort of the Roman patriots had borne fruit; it brought victory, and with victory peace.

Conclusion Of Peace

The Carthaginians first crucified the unfortunate admiral--a step which did not alter the position of affairs--and then dispatched to the Sicilian general unlimited authority to conclude a peace. Hamilcar, who saw his heroic labours of seven years undone by the fault of others, magnanimously submitted to what was inevitable without on that account sacrificing either his military honour, or his nation, or his own designs. Sicily indeed could not be retained, seeing that the Romans had now command of the sea; and it was not to be expected that the Carthaginian government, which had vainly endeavoured to fill its empty treasury by a state-loan in Egypt, would make even any further attempt to vanquish the Roman fleet He therefore surrendered Sicily. The independence and integrity of the Carthaginian state and territory, on the other hand, were expressly recognized in the usual form; Rome binding herself not to enter into a separate alliance with the confederates of Carthage, and Carthage engaging not to enter into separate alliance with the confederates of Rome,--that is, with their respective subject and dependent communities; neither was to commence war, or exercise rights of sovereignty, or undertake recruiting within the other's dominions.(8) The secondary stipulations included, of course, the gratuitous return of the Roman prisoners of war and the payment of a war contribution; but the demand of Catulus that Hamilcar should deliver up his arms and the Roman deserters was resolutely refused by the Carthaginian, and with success. Catulus desisted from his second request, and allowed the Phoenicians a free departure from Sicily for the moderate ransom of 18 -denarii- (12 shillings) per man.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book