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Roman setbacks

1st Punic war; Atilius Regulus

256-255 bc

After the introduction of the corvus the Romans put their focus at sea. The Puniers weren't prepared for this and had difficulties to adapt. But in this stage they were far from defeated. They still were superior in speed and maneuverability.

Failure meant crucifixion
Hannibal barely escaped when he lost a battle at sea and many of his ships. This time he also barely escaped crucifixion, but not long hereafter he lost again in a sued way and that time his men, who had escaped together with Hannibal, did crucify him.

Battle of Eknomus
Consul C. Atilius Regulus now planned to move the war to Carthago itself. He was aware that the Puniers still had a dangerous fleet, that would certainly try and stop him.
Together with his colleague
Cn.Cornelius Blasio he sailed with
a large fleet, many men and horses around Sicily where he met the Carthaginian fleet near Eknomus.

Invasion of North Africa
After the defeat of the Carthaginians in the sea battle, Regulus recuperated the fleet and sailed to North Africa where he landed at Hemaia at the headland near Carthago. From here he started to ravage the country and even conquered Tunis. Carthago recalled Hamilcar from Sicily and counter attacked the Romans. They did this in such a stupid way that they lost.

To surrender or not to surrender
Regulus, thought a complete victory was at hand in case the war was continued, but that would after his resign as consul. So the triumph would go to his successor. He now proposed peace negotiations. Carthago tired of the war already, gladly accepted. Atilius had very harsh demands, thinking Carthago had no choice. But the Carthaginians refused and the war continued. Carthago recruited mercenaries where they could find them. Among the new recruited soldiers was a man from Sparta named Xanthippos. A man with experience in warfare. When it was clear to the government he was a capable leader, they made him commander of their army

Xanthippus reorganized the army in a very short time. He attacked the Romans using his means in an excellent way. He defeated the Romans in a battle between Carthago and Tunis. Many Romans were killed or taken prisoner.Regulus was taken prisoner. A relatively small group escaped to Apsis. After this success Xanthippus disappeared, according to Polybius because of jealousy of the Carthaginian nobility. More likely they refused to give him a proper reward and refused to pay him more than was agreed on, when he was hired as a soldier. This attitude would plunge Carthago in deep trouble at the end of the war.

    remains of a Punic war ship    

Remains of a Punic war ship. Picture from:
Museo archeologico Baglio Anselmi di Marsala


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