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The Roman Fleet of the Republic
#61
Yep, persistence pays off. Another revision of Ecnomus undertaken. This time I had another look at Polybius’ claim of the Carthaginian fleet numbering 350 ships manned by more than 150,000 men.

 
Armed with the knowledge of how many men each Carthaginian quinquereme had, which has been tested more than once, the first mistake is not to divide the +150,000 men by 350 ships, a path I had followed for too long, and ended up nowhere. Polybius has given the details for two different Carthaginian fleets sizes, so +150,000 men are for a different sized fleet and also includes the crews for the Carthaginian casualties. With that information, it becomes clear how Polybius also arrived at 350 ships and from this, the actual size of the Carthaginian fleet can be obtained. It definitely is not 350 ships.
 
Again, a re-examination of the battle of Ecnomus according to Polybius still shows the Carthaginian left wing’s difficulty in attacking the Roman third squadron towing the horse transports and hem them in against the coastline. Polybius states the third squadron formed the base of the Roman formation, so the Carthaginian left wing would have the same number of ships to do this based on frontage, considering that Polybius does state the third squadron was in a single line and the Carthaginian fleet deployed in a single line.
 
Looking over my diagrams of the Roman wedge being formed, I had employed the squadron organisation and omitted the legion organisation of the Roman fleet, and there was my speed bump. The third legion forms the bottom of the right side of the wedge, and behind it the line of the third squadron. The third legion is made up of the first and second squadron. It is quite feasible for the Carthaginian left wing to attack the third legion and hem it in between the coast.
 
Polybius states there was three separate battles each of equal size and this is what I get in relation to the number of ships involved in these three battles. Hanno’s squadrons are to attack the rear of the Roman fourth squadron, and because the fourth squadron is in open order, due to having an extended line, the Carthaginian ships would be able to sail between the Roman ships, turn and hit the Roman ships in the stern. It would be the third squadron that must come to the support of the fourth squadron. While Hanno attacks the rear, Hamilcar’s squadron are attacking the wedge on both sides, which includes the third legion.
 
The only point I am in disagreement with Polybius, is that the Carthaginian left wing is attacking the third legion and not as Polybius states, the third squadron. I believe Polybius has confused this issue.
 
In his description of the Roman fleet organisation at Ecnomus, Polybius describes the Roman fleet as being divided “into four divisions, with each division having two names, called either the 1st Legion or the 1st Squadron, and the others accordingly.” I have found that a Roman fleet has two organisations, a squadron organisation and a legion organisation, which makes it possible for someone to confuse the two.
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#62
The revision into the naval actions of the First Punic War have been completed and finally put to bed. All casualty figures given for the various battles follow the same mathematical procedures. It seems some of the sources employed by the various ancient historians give accurate figures and others rounded figures, but within a zero point zero one margin. So basically, if some sources say 12 ships, others have in their calculations rounded this to 10 ships. This has result in the rounded numbers being interpreted as being different casualty numbers to the unround numbers and therefore has been included in the totals. This has resulted in a blow out of the casualties, both sunk and captured ship, and more especially in the number of sunken ships. As the Roman tactic was to board and capture a ship, the number of sunken ships should be lower than the number of captured ships. From my research, below are the losses incurred by a fleet given in percentages for the following six battles:

 
Mylae: Carthaginian losses 25%
Tyndaris: Carthaginian losses 23%
Ecnomus: Carthaginian losses 27%, Roman losses 9%
Cape Hemaeum: Carthaginian losses 33%
Drepana: Roman losses 53%
Aegates Island: Carthaginian losses 35%, Roman losses 10%
 
This makes Drepana the most costly naval battle. It would seem that when a third of the their fleet was lost, the Carthaginians bugged out.
 
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#63
I wrote:

The revision into the naval actions of the First Punic War have been completed and finally put to bed.
 
Well I got that wrong big time. Now back to doing a major naval revision. While investigating other references about praetors I came across a couple of references concerning naval matters, that has now grown into a bundle of them. The references of fifty ships and fifty five ships I mistook for rounding, that is fifty five was rounded to fifty ships. I regrouped all the fleet number references but this time included other data such as twenty five ships which is half of fifty and thirteen ships, which is around half of twenty five. Then went one step further and listed what their mission was in relation to each fleet number.
 
All this shows there are three doctrines, coastal protection, raiding and invasion, with each having a different number of men on the ship, which makes sense. However, in typical fashion, most invasion numbers omit the horse transports. All the types of troops placed on these ships vary depending on the mission. So, a little bit more of the primary sources is making sense, and a wonderful window into the Roman naval operations comes to light.
 
 
 
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