Ancient finds off the Coast of the Aegadian Islands – Part 2

After a series of battles the Roman fleet was eventually destroyed, the war stalled as the Carthaginians never capitalised on their victory over their enemy’s naval forces. What followed were a series of land skirmishes on Sicily with very little progress made. After two decades of war the Roman Republic had run out of funds and it had become impossible for them to create a new fleet. Because of this movement was formed that resulted in the wealthier Roman citizens funding the building of a ship each in order to show their patriotism. A new fleet was constructed that consisted of a total of 200 quinqueremes, each of which was also equipped and crewed out. Improvements were made, making them more resilient to harsh weather conditions and crews were now drilled in exercises and manoeuvres, there was no more room for error.

With the fleet ready the Roman forces attacked the two ports of Drepana and Lilybaeum (now Marsala), cutting their connection with Carthage, halting both supply and communications. Eventually the Carthaginian fleet arrived in order to relive the blockade, Roman scouts spotted them and so the Romans abandoned the blockade and advanced to meet them. After their previous losses they were eager to claim every advantage they could, before heading out they stripped their ships of their masts, sails and other equipment in order to make them more seaworthy in rough conditions and more manoeuvrable in battle.

The fleets met at the Aegadian Islands and the Romans quickly gained the upper hand thanks to their decision to unburden the ships. The Carthaginians were loaded with their equipment, men and provisions slowing them down immensely in comparison. The Roman forces used their superior mobility to ram the enemy vessels. Though they lost thirty ships with another fifty being damaged, roughly fifty Carthaginian ships were sunk with a further seventy captured along with somewhere between 4000 and 6000 men. This not only put an end to the battle but caused a decisive victory for the Roman Republic, ending the war and setting the stage for future Roman Empire.

Over 2,200 years later all sorts of left-overs from the battle are being discovered between the Egadi Islands. The discovery began with a series of warship rams or ‘rostrums’ from the great quinqueremes that were piloted over the waves during the battles. Since then a total 13 bronze rostrums have been discovered, with only two of those showcasing a Punic inscription. As well as rostrums a series of Roman helmets have been discovered, one of which is particularly notable. It displays a rather interesting motif of a lion’s skin draped over the peak of the helmet. Examples of this have been seen in later history, the Praetorian Guards were said to sometimes adorn their helmets with real lion skins however this is the first example found of anything earlier than that. Decorative items such as pots and bowls have also been discovered here and who knows what else will be found in the years to come here at this major discovery between the Aegadian Islands.