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The Romans Once More Build a Fleet

So it was with the Romans and Carthaginians. They
The Romans once more fit out a fleet.
were worn out by the labours of the war; the perpetual succession of hard fought struggles was at last driving them to despair; their strength had become paralysed, and their resources reduced almost to extinction by war-taxes and expenses extending over so many years. And yet the Romans did not give in. For the last five years indeed they had entirely abandoned the sea, partly because of the disasters they had sustained there, and partly because they felt confident of deciding the war by means of their land forces; but they now determined for the third time to make trial of their fortune in naval warfare. They saw that their operations were not succeeding according to their calculations, mainly owing to the obstinate gallantry of the Carthaginian general. They therefore adopted this resolution from a conviction that by this means alone, if their design were but well directed, would they be able to bring the war to a successful conclusion. In their first attempt they had been compelled to abandon the sea by disasters arising from sheer bad luck; in their second by the loss of the naval battle off Drepana. This third attempt was successful: they shut off the Carthaginian forces at Eryx from getting their supplies by sea, and eventually put a period to the whole war. Nevertheless it was essentially an effort of despair. The treasury was empty, and would not supply the funds necessary for the undertaking, which were, however, obtained by the patriotism and generosity of the leading citizens. They undertook singly, or by two or three combining, according to their means, to supply a quinquereme fully fitted out, on the understanding that they were to be repaid if the expedition was successful. By these means a fleet of two hundred quinqueremes were quickly prepared, built on the model of the ship of the Rhodian.
B. C. 242. Coss. C. Lutatius Catulus, A. Postumius Albinus.
Gaius Lutatius was then appointed to the command, and despatched at the beginning of the summer. His appearance on the coasts of Sicily was a surprise: the whole of the Carthaginian fleet had gone home; and he took possession both of the harbour near Drepana, and the roadsteads near Lilybaeum. He then threw up works round the city on Drepana, and made other preparations for besieging it. And while he pushed on these operations with all his might, he did not at the same time lose sight of the approach of the Carthaginian fleet. He kept in mind the original idea of this expedition, that it was by a victory at sea alone that the result of the whole war could be decided. He did not, therefore, allow the time to be wasted or unemployed. He practised and drilled his crews every day in the manoeuvres which they would be called upon to perform; and by his attention to discipline generally brought his sailors in a very short time to the condition of trained athletes for the contest before them.

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