Battle of the Aegates Islands, 242 BC
After the First Punic War had been
dragging on for some years
(since 263 BC in fact),
the Romans realized that they could never finally defeat Carthage without
ending their control of the sea. So via private funding efforts, they
managed to raise a fleet of 200 quinquiremes which was placed in command
of Gaius Lutatius. He appeared off the coast of Sicily in the summer and
the surprised Punic fleet was forced to sail home, allowing the Romans
to take the harbor at Drepana, where he installed siege-works and blockaded
the city, and the roadsteads near Lilybaeum. Meanwhile he drilled in
naval maneuvers every day.
Carthage, seeing that they would have to provision their besieged city,
loaded their ships with grain and sought to relieve Eryx. The fleet was
commanded by Hanno whose plan it was to sneak into Eryx, unload the corn
to lighten the ships and take on the mercenary troops of Hamilcar Barca
and then seek out the Roman fleet. This failed. Lutatius got word of
the arrival, embarked his best troops and sailed to the island of Aegusa
near Lilybaeum to intercept.
At daybreak he saw that the strong breeze favored Carthage and that
the seas were rough. He was unsure whether to engage but in the end decided
that this would be preferable to fighting the same force later after it
could be strengthened by Carthage. So upon seeing the enemy at full sail,
he put to sea at once, quickly maneuvering his fleet into a single line
facing the enemy.
Seeing this, the Carthaginians lowered their masts and closed. The Romans
benefited from removal of all heavy equipment from their vessels and their
training now paid off whereas the laden Carthaginian galleys were difficult
to maneuver and their marines merely raw recruits. The result was that
the Carthaginian ships experienced defeat after defeat. Fifty of their galleys
were sunk outright and seventy captured. The remainder raised their masts
and ran before the wind, which had veered around, and made their way back.
The Romans had taken nearly 100,000 prisoners of war and Carthage was forced
to sue for peace shortly thereafter.
To read more, see Polybius,
The Rise of the Roman Empire,
Book I, 61-63.
How the Game Compares:
- The game only shows 33 rather than 200 on a side.
- The Roman commander is called "Catulus" – actually his full name was
"Gaius Catulus Lutatius".
- The lightly manned and under trained Carthaginian marines are
reflected by giving its galleys
a manpower rating of 2 whereas the Roman galleys receive one of 5.
Because of this, a Carthaginian galley can only hit with missile fire
16% of the time while Romans hit 50% of the time.
Carthaginians successfully board and capture only 8% of the time
while Romans should do so 83% of the time.
- The heavily laden Carthaginian fleet is reflected by giving its galleys a
a crew rating of 1 whereas the Roman galleys receive one of 2.
Because of this, a Carthaginian galley can usually only ram successfully
42% of the time whereas Romans can do so 83% of the time.
Also because of this, Carthaginians retract from the rammed ship
about 14% of the time while Romans will be able to retract about
25% of the time.
- The rough seas are not really reflected in any way.
- The Romans are permitted to set up in a line, but not really forced to do so.
- Squadron commanders are added with made up names and ability ratings
as the real names of any such personalities are not really known.
- The wind changing direction is not really reflected.
- The Carthaginian fleet apparently begins with sails already down – actually
it is not stated.
- The possibility that Carthage might want to retreat is not really admitted.
August 20, 2005