Battle of Cape Ecnomus

256 BC

Battle Summary

The Battle of Cape Ecnomus was a massive naval battle in which the Romans sent more than 330 ships to Africa from Sicily in order to attack Carthaginian, who had sent a fleet of over 350 ships.

Structure of the Fleets

The Roman ships were built to hold over 140,000 men, and were put into a formation of four different quadrants. The fleet was set in the shape of an arrow; the first two quadrants making up the sides, the third making up the back, and the fourth lined directly behind the third.

The Carthaginian ships could supposedly hold up to 150,000 men, and were simply arranged into a straight line.

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Map of Battle

The Battle Begins

The Romans began the attack by striking the center of the Carthaginian's fleet, driving them to retreat. As they were pursuing the fleeing Carthaginians, the Roman fleets were separated. The 1st and 2nd fleets moved on to chase the enemy while the 3rd and 4th were left behind.

As soon as they felt they were far enough from the Roman fleets, the Carthaginian fleets turned around to continue the battle against their pursuers.

Roman Victory

Carthaginian ships flanked either side of the remaining 3rd and 4th Roman fleets in an attempt to avoid the corvus boarding device.

Although they were at an advantage, the Carthaginian fleets faced defeat and retreated.

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The corvus boarding device was a bridge that latched onto the deck of enemy vessels to allow the legionaries to board the ship


After the battle, the Roman fleets retreated back to Sicily for repairs. Soon after, they set sail to Africa to begin their punitive expedition against Carthage.