Preparations for Battle
Now it was the purpose of the Romans to sail across
Preparations for the Battle of Ecnomus.
and transfer the war there, in order
that the Carthaginians might find the danger
affecting themselves and their own country
rather than Sicily
. But the Carthaginians were determined to
prevent this. They knew that Libya
was easily invaded, and
that the invaders if they once effected a landing would meet
with little resistance from the inhabitants; and they therefore
made up their minds not to allow it, and were eager rather to
bring the matter to a decisive issue by a battle at sea. The
one side was determined to cross, the other to prevent their
crossing; and their enthusiastic rivalry gave promise of a
desperate struggle. The preparations of the Romans were
made to suit either contingency, an engagement at sea or a
disembarkation on the enemy's soil. Accordingly they picked
out the best hands from the land army and divided the whole
force which they meant to take on board into four divisions.
Roman forces. 330 ships, with average of 420 men (300 rowers + 120 marines) = 138,600 men.
Each division had alternative titles; the first
was called the "First Legion" or the "First
Squadron,"—and so on with the others. The
fourth had a third title besides. They were
called "Triarii," on the analogy of land armies.
The total number of men thus making up
the naval force amounted to nearly one hundred and forty
thousand, reckoning each ship as carrying three hundred
rowers and one hundred and twenty soldiers. The Carthaginans, on the other hand, made their preparations almost exclusively with a view to a naval engagement. Their numbers,
if we reckon by the number of their ships, were
over one hundred and fifty thousand men.
Carthaginian numbers, 150,000 men.
mere recital of these figures must, I should
imagine, strike any one with astonishment at the magnitude of
the struggle, and the vast resources of the contending states.
An actual view of them itself could hardly be more impressive
than the bare statement of the number of men and ships.
Now the Romans had two facts to consider: First, that
The Roman order at Ecnomus.
circumstances compelled them to face the open
sea; and, secondly, that their enemies had the
advantage of fast sailing vessels. They therefore took every precaution for keeping their line unbroken
and difficult to attack. They had only two ships with six
banks of oars, those, namely, on which the Consuls Marcus
Atilius and Lucius Manlius respectively were sailing. These
they stationed side by side in front and in a line with each other.
Behind each of these they stationed ships one behind the other
in single file—the first squadron behind the one, and the
second squadron behind the other. These were so arranged
that, as each ship came to its place, the two files diverged
farther and farther from each other; the vessels being also
stationed one behind the other with their prows inclining outwards. Having thus arranged the first and second squadrons
in single file so as to form a wedge, they stationed the third
division in a single line at its base; so that the whole finally
presented the appearance of a triangle. Behind this base they
stationed the horse-transports, attaching them by towing-ropes
to the ships of the third squadron. And to the rear of them
they placed the fourth squadron, called the Triarii, in a single
line, so extended as to overlap the line in front of them at both
extremities. When these dispositions were complete the
general appearance was that of a beak or wedge, the apex of
which was open, the base compact and strong; while the
whole was easy to work and serviceable, and at the same time
difficult to break up.