Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Rome vs. Carthage: The Day the World Trembled

Rome vs. Carthage: The Day the World Trembled:
I subscribe to Military History Magazine and recommend it heartily. This article appeared in a recent issue and it is a very nice overview of the Punic Wars:

"That the two greatest powers of the Mediterranean should come into mortal conflict was inevitable. Both were vigorous, aggressive, exceptionally organized and well-led. As each expanded its boundaries, ultimately there was no way that a clash of arms could be avoided. The titanic struggle between the two superpowers of the ancient world lasted more than 60 years before one side emerged the indisputable victor.

The showdown came over fair, fertile and rich Sicily, which stood in the path of Rome's expansion toward the south and that of Carthage toward the north. In 264 bc the two mighty empires collided, and for nearly a quarter century, they tore Sicily apart in inconclusive combat. Gradually, Rome gained the upper hand, but several years before the end of the struggle a military genius arose on the Punic side: Hamilcar, surnamed Barca -- "the thunderbolt." His brilliant tactics restored the military balance, and the war slowly ground down to an exhausted stalemate.

In the end, the outcome was decided at sea. The Romans initially had been no match for the Carthaginians in naval warfare, but with typical Roman ingenuity they overcame their deficiency by the invention of the corvu (crow), a long plank with a heavy spike protruding from the end that, when dropped, effectively pinned two warships together. This transformed a sea battle into a land battle, and Roman soldiers -- in essence the world's first marines -- could rush over the plank and fight the enemy hand to hand. The First Punic War came to an end at the naval battle of Aegusa in 241 bc. The Roman navy won a decisive victory over the Carthaginians, and the remaining Punic strongholds on Sicily could now be blockaded."
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