The Carthaginians Prosperous
But next summer the new Consuls Gnaeus Servilius
B. C. 253. Coss. Gn. Servilius Caepio G. Sempronius Blaesus.
and Gaius Sempronius put again to sea with
their full strength, and after touching at Sicily
started thence for Libya
. There, as they coasted
along the shore, they made a great number of
descents upon the country without accomplishing anything of importance in any of them. At length they
came to the island of the Lotophagi called Mēnix, which is
not far from the Lesser Syrtis. There, from ignorance of the
waters, they ran upon some shallows; the tide receded, their
ships went aground, and they were in extreme peril. However,
after a while the tide unexpectedly flowed back again, and by
dint of throwing overboard all their heavy goods they just
managed to float the ships. After this their return voyage was
more like a flight than anything else. When they reached
and had made the promontory of Lilybaeum
anchor at Panormus
. Thence they weighed anchor for Rome
and rashly ventured upon the open sea-line as the shortest;
but while on their voyage they once more encountered so
terrible a storm that they lost more than a hundred and
The Romans after this misfortune, though they are eminently persistent in carrying out their undertakings, yet owing to the severity and frequency
of their disasters, now yielded to the force of circumstances
and refrained from constructing another fleet.
B. C. 251. Coss. Lucius Caecilius Metellus, G. Furius Pacilus.
All the hopes
still left to them they rested upon their land
forces: and, accordingly, they despatched the
Consuls Lucius Caecilius and Gaius Furius with
their legions to Sicily
; but they only manned
sixty ships to carry provisions for the legions.
The fortunes of the Carthaginians had in their turn considerably improved owing to the catastrophes I have described.
They now commanded the sea without let or hindrance,
since the Romans had abandoned it; while in their land
forces their hopes were high. Nor was it unreasonable
that it should be so. The account of the battle in Libya
had reached the ears of the Romans: they had heard that
the elephants had broken their ranks and had killed the large
part of those that fell: and they were in such terror of them,
that though during two years running after that time they
had on many occasions, in the territory either of Lilybaeum
, found themselves in order of battle within five or six
stades of the enemy, they never plucked up courage to begin
an attack, or in fact to come down upon level ground at all,
all because of their fear of an elephant charge.
And in these two seasons all they did was to
by siege, keeping close all the
while to mountainous districts and such as were difficult to
cross. The timidity and want of confidence thus displayed
by their land forces induced the Roman government to
change their minds and once more to attempt
success at sea.
Accordingly, in the second consulship of Caius Atilius and Lucius Manlius, we find them
ordering fifty ships to be built, enrolling sailors and energetically collecting a naval armament.