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The Roman Fleet of the Republic
Thank you Steven! Smile
Steven wrote:
"Polybius' figure of 330 Roman ships for Ecnomus is incorrect especially as Polybius claims they picked the best ships and crew before heading to Africa. Polybius is here describing Roman protocol, so there is no way the Romans had 330 ships at Ecnomus. The number of men in the army that landed in Africa reveals the real size of the fleet at Ecnomus.  At Ecnomus, Polybius claims the Carthaginian squadrons that attacked the third and fourth squadrons were the same size. Taking that into account, and the fact there were three Carthaginian divisions, my reconstruction of the battle would indicate the Carthaginian fleet numbered around 180 ships, facing a Roman fleet with a frontage of 30 ships."
Now I know you are not fond of Polybius, but he is still reckoned our most reliable source for the period of which he writes. Nevertheless, that does not make him immune to the occasional error!
There is another way of reckoning/estimating the Roman naval force, which as you say can be worked out from the army figures.
He describes Ecnomus from I.25 ff. Firstly, Polybius does not say they selected the best ships and crews. He simply says they set off with a fleet of 330 'kataphractois'/decked warships, meaning quinqueremes/penteres [I.25.7]. He says only that the Romans selected "the best men from their Land Forces" [I.26.5].
Now the force from which these troops were selected is the armies of the two Consuls, who would have 2 Legions each of 4,200 or so, and an equivalent number of Allies/Socii ( 33,600 total aprox, excluding cavalry). The Consuls seem to have selected half of these, amounting to 4 Legions(16,800 aprox, again excluding cavalry – later Regulus would be left with approximately 15,000 infantry and 500 cavalry [I.29.9] which is entirely consistent, allowing some losses.), and divided the fleet into four squadrons, each of which transported a Legion [Poly I.26.6]. Not including the ship’s permanent marines ( who may have been proletarii), 40 strong, it appears that 80 legionaries were allocated to each quinquereme, which would be one century of soldiers (60) plus their attached light infantry/velites ( 20). Each Legion consisted of 60 centuries ( though the last line, the 'Triarii' probably only had half as many men per century). The fourth squadron, being at the rear like the ‘Triarii’ in the Army, was also nicknamed ‘Triarii.’[I.26.15]. This would imply that the Roman fleet numbered some 240 quinqueremes, including perhaps some quadriremes which would also count as 'kataphractois'. Now we know that there were Horse transports present, and the cavalrymen will probably have been on these to look after their mounts, and invariably there were some light galleys for scouting, courier vessels etc, plus probably other transports/supply vessels.

The possible error that Polybius may have made is that having found the figure of “330” in his sources, he has assumed that this referred to just the ‘battleships/quinqueremes’, rather than the entire fleet.

Of course these deductions are rather speculative, but they are plausible and consistent with the numbers Polybius gives for the Army.

A second probable error is that Polybius then assumes the Carthaginian fleet also carried 120 marines on this occasion, when arriving at a total of over 150,000 Carthaginians present [I.26.8]. This is hardly likely in the slightest, for the Punic fleet was not transporting an army. Support for this comes from the fact that the Romans lost 24 ships sunk, but none captured ( which would involve boarding), whilst the Carthaginians lost “more than thirty”, with 64 captured, thanks to the Roman ‘corvi/ravens’ boarding bridges and the high number (120) of troops/marines carried .[I.28.14].
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff

Messages In This Thread
The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by Steven James - 09-18-2016, 01:38 PM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by Alecto - 09-20-2016, 08:36 AM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by Alecto - 09-20-2016, 08:48 AM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 09-20-2016, 02:02 PM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 09-23-2016, 02:12 PM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 09-24-2016, 05:47 AM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 09-25-2016, 08:17 AM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by Paullus Scipio - 09-25-2016, 10:12 PM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 09-30-2016, 01:28 PM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 10-01-2016, 07:23 AM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 10-01-2016, 05:03 PM
RE: The Roman Fleet of the Republic - by JaM - 10-03-2016, 12:45 PM

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