First Punic War 264–241 BCE


Map Code: Ax00807

In 264 BCE, Carthage, then the dominant power in the western Mediterranean, intervened in Sicily to support the city of Messina in a dispute with the tyrant of Syracuse. Fearing this to be a prelude to a Carthaginian takeover of the island, the Romans invaded, taking both Messina and Syracuse, plus smaller Carthaginian dependencies. War ensued, for which Rome had to build a navy virtually from scratch. They innovated with the introduction of the corvus, or boarding bridge, which proved its worth in naval victories including Mylae (260) and Ecnomus (254). On land, Roman forces proved superior, occupying most of Sicily and then invading the Carthaginian homelands before having to pull back. After a final naval defeat in the battle of the Aegates Islands (241 BCE), Carthaginian forces were stranded in their final Sicilian stronghold, Lilybaeum, and sued for peace. By the Treaty of Lutatius, Sicily was ceded to Rome.

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