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Operations in Sicily

As for Gaius Duilius, he no sooner heard of the
Victory of Duilius at Mylae, B. C. 260.
disaster which had befallen the commander of the navy than handing over his legions to the military Tribunes he transferred himself to the fleet. There he learnt that the enemy was plundering the territory of Mylae, and at once sailed to attack him with the whole fleet. No sooner did the Carthaginians sight him than with joy and alacrity they put to sea with a hundred and thirty sail, feeling supreme contempt for the Roman ignorance of seamanship. Accordingly they all sailed with their prows directed straight at their enemy: they did not think the engagement worth even the trouble of ranging their ships in any order, but advanced as though to seize a booty exposed for their acceptance. Their commander was that same Hannibal who had withdrawn his forces from Agrigentum by a secret night movement, and he was on board a galley with seven banks of oars which had once belonged to King Pyrrhus. When they neared the enemy, and saw the "crows" raised aloft on the prows of the several ships, the Carthaginians were for a time in a state of perplexity; for they were quite strangers to such contrivances as these engines. Feeling, however, a complete contempt for their opponents, those on board the ships that were in the van of the squadron charged without flinching. But as soon as they came to close quarters their ships were invariably tightly grappled by these machines; the enemy boarded by means of the "crows," and engaged them on their decks; and in the end some of the Carthaginians were cut down, while others surrendered in bewildered terror at the battle in which they found themselves engaged, which eventually became exactly like a land fight. The result was that they lost the first thirty ships engaged, crews and all. Among them was captured the commander's ship also, though Hannibal himself by an unexpected piece of luck and an act of great daring effected his escape in the ship's boat. The rest of the Carthaginian squadron were sailing up with the view of charging; but as they were coming near they saw what had happened to the ships which were sailing in the front, and accordingly sheered off and avoided the blows of the engines. Yet trusting to their speed, they managed by a manœuvre to sail round and charge the enemy, some on their broadside and others on their stern, expecting by that method to avoid danger. But the engines swung round to meet them in every direction, and dropped down upon them so infallibly, that no ships could come to close quarters without being grappled. Eventually the Carthaginians turned and fled, bewildered at the novelty of the occurrence, and with a loss of fifty ships.

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Mylae (Italy) (2)
Sicily (Italy) (1)
Agrigentum (Italy) (1)

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260 BC (1)
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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), NAVIS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CARTHA´GO
    • Smith's Bio, Ha'nnibal
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