Battle of Mylae, 260 BC

Naval battle of the First Punic War. After the defeat and capture of Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio at Lipara, his co-consul Caius Duilius took command of the Roman fleet. News reached him that the Punic fleet was raiding the area of Mylae, on the northern coast of Sicily. Immediately he took out the Roman fleet to face them. Both fleets were probably of about the same size, with around 120-130 ships each, but the Romans had added a new weapon, the corvus, a form of boarding bridge, with which they hoped to make up for the otherwise inferior quality of their sailors at this period. The Carthaginian fleet appears to have got out of control very quickly at the start of the battle, and the forward elements charged towards the Roman fleet. The first thirty or so galleys to make contact were pinned by the corvus and boarded by the Roman marines. This included the Carthaginian flagship, and their admiral was forced to flee. The remaining Carthaginian ships used their superior speed to mount an attack on the rear of the Roman fleet, but many were also pinned. Finally, the remains of the Punic fleet escaped.
The Roman victory was substantial. Some fifty Carthaginian ships were either captured or sunk, and the balance of power at sea began to swing towards the Romans. Duilius was able to celebrate the first naval triumph in Rome, and began the tradition of displaying the prows of captured ships in the forum. The battle was won by the superior Roman soldiers, with the corvus helping to reduce the Carthaginian advance at sea.
cover The Punic Wars, Adrian Goldsworthy. An excellent work which covers all three Punic wars. Strong on both the land and naval elements of the wars.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (14 December 2001), Battle of Mylae, 260 BC,

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