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Mary Macgregor

The Battle of Ecnomus

The Romans no sooner saw the Carthaginian fleet than they knew that it would be necessary to fight before they could sail on their way.

As the enemy's ships were drawn out in a long weak line, the Consuls determined to charge through its centre.

No sooner had the Romans begun the attack, than Hamilcar ordered his ships to row away, as though they had been put to flight.

As the Carthaginian had foreseen, two divisions of the Roman fleet followed, one of them having Regulus on board.

On sped the Punic ships, eager to separate the Roman divisions from the rest of the fleet. When the enemy was some distance off, Hamilcar ordered his ships to turn, to attack the vessels that had followed them.

But at close quarters, as the Carthaginians should have known, the Romans were more than a match for their foe.

The bridges of the Roman ships fell, grappling the enemy's vessels to their own, and in a fierce hand-to-hand fight Hamilcar and his ships were soon overpowered.

Regulus then hastened to the help of his fourth division, which had been attacked by Hanno, and was now fighting desperately between two divisions of the enemy. Here, too, the Consul was successful, and forced Hanno to retreat.

Meanwhile, the third division of the Roman fleet had been driven toward the coast, but had suffered little damage, for the Carthaginians feared to approach too near lest they should find themselves grappled by the Roman bridges. These they were learning to dread.

The two Consuls soon set the third division free, and before long they had taken sixty-four of the Carthaginian ships with their crews, while more than thirty vessels had been sunk.

As for the Romans, they had lost only twenty-four ships, and these were sunk not captured.

The victory of Ecnomus left the way to Africa open, and after putting in on the Sicilian coast for repairs, the Roman fleet sailed away toward the Gulf of Carthage.