First Punic War > Battles > Siege of Lilybaeum (250 BC)

Siege of Lilybaeum (250 BC)

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Battle of Adys

Combatants

Military Forces

  • 15,000 Infantry
  • 500 Cavalry
  • 5,000+ Infantry
  • 500 Cavalry
  • War Elephants (Unknown Number)

Aftermath

  • Minimal casualties
  • 3,700 Infantry
  • 300 Cavalry
  • War Elephants escaped
Siege of Lilybaeum Part of the First Punic War First Punic War Sicily 7 248-241BC.svg Sicily circa 241 BC after the decisive Battle of the Aegates Islands. Date 250 BC Location Marsala, Sicily, Italy Result Carthaginian Victory Belligerents Spqrstone.jpg Roman Republic Carthage standard.svg Carthage Commanders and leaders Spqrstone.jpg Gaius Atilius Regulus Serranus Spqrstone.jpg Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus Spqrstone.jpg Publius Claudius Pulcher Spqrstone.jpg Lucius Junius Pullus Carthage standard.svg Himilco Carthage standard.svg Hamilcar Barca Strength ~100,000 ~10,000

Background

The Siege of Lilybaeum (250 BC) was a battle of the First Punic War that pitted a Roman Consular army led by Gaius Atilius Regulus Serranus and Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus against a Carthaginian army under the command of the general Himilcon. The battle resulted in a Roman retreat from the siege after the destruction of their fleet at Drepana. After their victory at the Battle of Panormus of the previous year, the Roman Senate decided to raise an army to decisively put an end to the fighting in Sicily. To this end, a new fleet was commissioned to be made up of 240 ships. The two consuls that year were sent to Sicily at the head of four legions. The Roman forces were likely made up of up to 100,000 men, including the crews of galleys and the auxiliary troops that normally accompanied the legions. Caius Atilius Regulus Serranus and Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus both had significant military experience having both previously served as consuls. The Romans arrived at Lilybaeum and began their siege of the city, building siege works around the city including rams, walls, trenches, catapults and siege towers. They further attempted to mine underneath the city walls and to block the city's port with their fleet.

Conflict

The Carthaginian force was up to this point, based almost exclusively on a force of 10,000 mercenaries inside the city. Historically, Carthage had typically relied on mercenary armies and did not maintain its own standing army. According to the historian Polybius, many of the mercenary captains gathered together and decided to desert to the Roman side after fears were raised that they did not stand a chance against the Romans. The Carthaginian command gained knowledge of this plot and the traitors were not allowed to return to the city once they entered the Roman camp. The loyalty of the remaining mercenaries was thereafter not in question and the city was shortly thereafter reinforced by fresh troops from Carthage. The fleet that brought these reinforcements sailed to the Carthaginian base at modern day Trapani (then called Drepana) and were able to consistently run the Roman blockade of Lilybaeum to bring supplies to the town. After a storm destroyed the Roman defensive works protecting their siege craft, the Carthaginians came out of the city on sorties and set most of the Roman siege weapons on fire, destroying them. This damage could have been repaired with time, but a second blow befell the Roman camp. The following year, new and non battle tested consuls arrived at the siege with reinforcements. The senior consul, Publius Claudius Pulcher, decided to launch an attack against the Carthaginian fleet at the First Battle of Drepana which turned into the worst naval disaster for the Roman fleet in the entire war. 93 of their ships were captured by the Carthaginian navy, with a mere 30 Roman ships escaping destruction or capture. Publius Claudius Pulcher was disgraced and called back to Rome where he was fined for his incompetence. Shortly after the defeat at Drepana, another Roman fleet under the second new consul, Lucius Junius C. f. C. n. Pullus, was destroyed by the Carthaginians.

Aftermath

The Romans attempted to reroute all trade away from the city in an effort to isolate Drepana. In response, Carthage designated Hamilcar Barca, the Carthaginian chief of Sicily in 247 BC to concentrate his forces elsewhere on the island. Attempts to take Lilybaeum by the Romans did not stop until their decisive victory at the Battle of the Aegates Islands in 241 BC. This defeat finally forced Carthage to negotiate a peace on Roman terms. One of the terms that Carthage was obliged to agree to was the complete abandonment of Sicily which included Lilybaeum.

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First Punic War

MessanaAgrigentum SiegeAgrigentum BattleLipari IslandsMylaeSulciTyndarisCape EcnomusAspisAdisTunisPanormus1st DrepanaLilybaeum2nd DrepanaBattle of Mount ErcteBattle of Mount Eryx (1)Battle of Mount Eryx (2)Aegates IslandsTreaty of Lutatius

Mercenary War

Utica Bagradas River Hamilcar's victory with Naravas Carthage "The Saw" Tunis

Second Punic War

Saguntum Crossing of the Alps Lilybaeum Rhone Ticinus Trebia Cissa Lake Trasimene Ebro River Ager Falernus Geronium Cannae 1st Nola Dertosa 2nd Nola Cornus 3rd Nola 1st Beneventum Syracuse 1st Tarentum 1st Capua 2nd Beneventum Silarus 1st Herdonia Upper Baetis 2nd Capua 2nd Herdonia Numistro Asculum 2nd Tarentum Baecula Grumentum Metaurus New Carthage Ilipa Guadalquivir Carteia Crotona Utica Great Plains Cirta Po Valley Zama

Third Punic War

Lake Tunis 1st Nepheris Port of Carthage 2nd Nepheris Carthage

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Polybius. The Histories. The Loeb Classical Library. Translated by W. R. Paton. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Diodorus Siculus. The Library of History. The Loeb Classical Library. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Secondary Sources

Walbank, F.W. (1957). A Historical Commentary on Polybius. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Freeman, E.A. (1894). The History of Sicily. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Morrison, J.S. (1996). Greek and Roman Oared Warships, 399-30 B.C. Oxford: Oxbow Books.