AIA Lecture by William M. Murray: "The Anatomy of an Ancient Naval Battle"

March 18, 2021 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Toward the end of the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.), the Romans made a final effort to gain control of Western Sicily. They built new ships to make up for the losses of previous years and redoubled their efforts to gain control of Carthaginian strongholds, which they placed under siege. In response, the Carthaginians outfitted a relief fleet of warships and transports, which they loaded with supplies. On 10 March, 241 B.C., the Roman fleet destroyed this relief force as it sailed in from the west in what proved to be the last sea battle of the First Punic War. ​

Guided by a fisherman's recovery of a single bronze warship ram, the Sicilian Soprintendenza del Mare initiated a joint underwater project with RPM Nautical Foundation in 2005 and, together, they found the ancient debris field of the battle—the first ever discovered from an ancient sea battle. After two decades of research, only a portion of the full battle zone has been discovered and mapped. Rich in finds (23 bronze rams, 30+ helmets, multiple sword concretions, hundreds of amphoras destined for the troops ashore, etc.), this site allows us to attempt what has never before been possible, the analysis of an actual sea battle with reference to both historical texts and physical evidence. Guided by this goal, the lecture will detail the stages of a typical naval battle before introducing the peculiarities and problems posed by the new Egadi evidence. 

Learn more about Dr. William A. Murray, the Mary and Gus Stathis Professor of Greek History at the University of South Florida, here.