|Do not fly Iberia
Display Latin text
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXI Chapter 50: The Carthagians beaten at Lilybaeum.[218 BC]
Return to index
When they had advanced into the open sea, the Romans wished to come to close fight, and to make a trial of strength hand to hand. The Carthaginians, on the contrary, eluded them, and sought to maintain the fight by art, not by force, and to make it a battle of ships rather than of men and arms: for though they had their fleet abundantly supplied with mariners, yet it was deficient in soldiers; and when a ship was grappled, a very unequal number of armed men fought on board of it. When this was observed, their numbers increased the courage of the Romans, and their inferiority of force diminished that of the others. Seven Carthaginian ships were immediately surrounded; the rest took to flight: one thousand seven hundred soldiers and mariners were captured in the ships, and among them were three noble Carthaginians. The Roman fleet returned without loss to the harbour, only one ship being pierced, and even that also brought back into port. After this engagement, before those at Messana were aware of its occurrence, Tiberius Sempronius the consul arrived at Messana. As he entered the strait, king Hiero led out a fleet fully equipped to meet him; and having passed from the royal ship into that of the general, he congratulated him on having arrived safe with his army and fleet, and prayed that his expedition to Sicily might be prosperous and successful. He then laid before him the state of the island and the designs of the Carthaginians, and promised that with the same spirit with which he had in his youth assisted the Romans during the former war, he would now assist them in his old age; that he would gratuitously furnish supplies of corn and clothing to the legions and naval crews of the consul; adding, that great danger threatened Lilybaeum and the maritime states, and that a change of affairs would be acceptable to some of them. For these reasons it appeared to the consul that he ought to make no delay, but to repair to Lilybaeum with his fleet. The king and the royal squadron set out along with him, and on their passage they heard that a battle had been fought at Lilybaeum, and that the enemy's ships had been scattered and taken.
Event: Battle of Sicily