Battle of the Aegusian Islands
That the Romans should have a fleet afloat once more,
The Carthaginians send Hanno with a fleet.
and be again bidding for the mastery at sea, was
a contingency wholly unexpected by the Carthaginians. They at once set about fitting out
their ships, loaded them with corn and other provisions, and
despatched their fleet: determined that their troops round
should not run short of necessary provisions. Hanno,
who was appointed to command the fleet, put to sea and
arrived at the island called Holy Isle. He was eager as
soon as possible, if he could escape the observation of the
enemy, to get across to Eryx
; disembark his stores; and having
thus lightened his ships, take on board as marines those of the
mercenary troops who were suitable to the service, and Barcas
with them; and not to engage the enemy until he had thus
reinforced himself. But Lutatius was informed of the arrival
of Hanno's squadron, and correctly interpreted their design.
He at once took on board the best soldiers of his army, and
crossed to the Island of Aegusa, which lies directly opposite
. There he addressed his forces some words
suitable to the occasion, and gave full instructions to the
pilots, with the understanding that a battle was to be fought
on the morrow.
10th March B. C. 241. A strong breeze is blowing.
At daybreak the next morning
Lutatius found that a strong breeze had sprung
up on the stern of the enemy, and that an advance towards them in the teeth of it would be
difficult for his ships. The sea too was rough and boisterous:
and for a while he could not make up his mind what he had
better do in the circumstances. Finally, however, he was decided by the following considerations. If he boarded the enemy's
fleet during the continuance of the storm, he would only have
to contend with Hanno, and the levies of sailors which he had
on board, before they could be reinforced by the troops, and with
ships which were still heavily laden with stores: but if he waited
for calm weather, and allowed the enemy to get across and
unite with their land forces, he would then have to contend
with ships lightened of their burden, and therefore in a more
navigable condition, and against the picked men of the land
forces; and what was more formidable than anything else,
against the determined bravery of Hamilcar.
Lutatius however decides to fight.
He made up
his mind, therefore, not to let the present opportunity slip; and when he saw the enemy's ships
crowding sail, he put to sea with all speed. The
rowers, from their excellent physical condition, found no
difficulty in overcoming the heavy sea, and Lutatius soon
got his fleet into single line with prows directed to the