Drepana & Eryx Part 9.
The last convulsions.
Most of the commanders were not to blame (and not the most mercenaries) that
was going to lose this war. The inferior policy by Carthage Carthage
and perseverance of
has resulted so. In any case, there appears after 249 BC in Rome again such an energetic Carthaginian
commander: Hamilcar Barcas. He performs first a successful guerrilla war from
Heircte at Panormus and then suddenly relocated to Eryx. Sicily
Werner Huss (Die Karthager, p.177):
"After this time Hamilcar gave up Heirkte and conquered the city Eryx back - the Roman fort on the top and at the foot of the mountain, however, he could not take. With the relocation of the operational base of Heirkte to Eryx he probably had the purpose to provide Drepana an effective protection. "
(translated from german).
Polybius I, 58:
".... Although the Romans
itself at the top and at the basekept occupied, as I said, Hamilcar succeeded in conquering
the town Eryx that is situated between the top and the garrison at the foot.
The result was that the Roman occupiers of the summit with extraordinary
bravery had to endure the dangers of a siege, while the Carthaginians with
incredible force managed to survive, although the enemies attacked them from
all sides and the necessary supplies not could easily be brought to them,
because they were in one place and yhere was only one access road along to get
in contact with the shore .... " Mount Eryx
There are two remarkable things. Hamilcar knows how to accomplish in this impossible position that Drepana by the Romans can hardly be attacked itself and moreover, that the Carthaginian fleet is still able to provide him.
Hamilcar tried from this hiding place then three years to make the enemy senseless. He would have succeeded in this if the politicians home had sent a stronger force to
and if the Romans had not yet made a
last attempt at sea. Sicily
“It was Hamilcar’s success in defending Lilybaeum and Drepana that led
once more to build a fleet, in order to try to reduce them by blockade.” Rome
“In the winter of 243-2 two hundred ships were built on the model of a Carthaginian quinquereme captured in 250 BC, and were thus more seaworthy than the vessels of the earlier fleets. The effort took
by surprise, and when this fleet arrived off Drepana in the summer of 242 BC,
there was not a single Carthaginian ship there. It took eight months for their
fleet to be reactivated, and when it put to sea it was undermanned, the crews
were out of practice and it was burdened with supplies for the garrisons, who
by now were running short.” Carthage
Werner Huss, Die Karthager (p.178):
"With this fleet (200 Penteren) drove C.Lutatius Catulus, one of the consuls of the year 242, at the beginning of summer of this year to
Sicily He knew how to make
use of the surprise, that the emergence of the Roman fleet triggered, and
seized both the and the
roadsteed of Lilybaeum. How little one had counted on Carthaginian side with
the emergence of the Roman fleet, shows the fact that the Carthaginian fleet
had returned to port
of Drepana .
After his arrival Catulus began indeed met the siege Drepana, but gave up this
plan in favour of the expected confrontation with the Carthaginian fleet ". Carthage
"He (Hanno) had the plan from there (Holy Island), unnoticed by the enemy, to sail to (Tonnara di Bonagia) to the berth of Eryx, to unload the supply of goods, and to take on board Hamilcar and the most capable soldiers and then offer Catulus the battle. "
(translated from german).
Opinions are somewhat divided and also how the actual course of the battle fleets has expired. Warmington and Huss have a slightly different assessment thereof and the classical authors don’t give an exact course of events. Therefore, I give both versions for consideration.
“It (Carthaginian fleet) got safely to the
, and from there its commander
Hanno (not ‘the Great’) determined on a dash to Drepana with a westerly wind,
in the hope that the Roman consul, Lutatius Catulus, would never oppose him in
the teeth of a strong headwind. But Catulus had spent the winter in continued
training of his oarsmen, and drew up his ships, in spite of the heavy sea.
Outnumbered, undermanned, and deficient in training, the Carthaginians lost
seventy ships taken en fifty sunk, and the remainder (about fifty) escaped
owing to a sudden change of wind.” Aegates Islands
"This was their third (sea) offensive and when they thus gained the victory and shut down the Carthaginian camp at Eryx of receiving supply overseas, they put an end to the war as a whole."