Sunday 12 September 2021

4 bronze battering rams from First Punic War

Four bronze battering rams — each weighing 450lbs — have been recovered from Roman wrecks that sunk off the coast of Sicily in 241 BC. Originally attached to the bows of warships, the rams were used against the Carthaginian fleet during the Battle of the Aegates that ended the First Punic War. Fought in the waters around Sicily and North Africa, conflict between the Phoenicians and the Romans lasted 23 years. The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between the Phoenicians of Carthage and Rome in the early third century BC.
Accounts suggest that the Romans sunk 50 Carthaginian vessels and captured 70 more, although at the cost of 30 of their own ships and damage to 50 more. It is thought that the fleets of both sides originally numbered some 200 vessels. Carthaginian rams had inscriptions to the god Baal on them were less well made than the Roman rams. Roman rams have an inscription by a judge to verify that they had been made according to the rules and met standards.
The Battle of the Aegates was fought off the western coast of the island of Sicily on 10 March 241 BC. It was the final naval battle between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War. A unique bronze helmet discovered in the deep by marine archaeologists off the Sicilian coast has been dated to the sea battle. The helmet is a Montefortino, a Celtic style-helmet that had been worn across Europe, also popularly known as a "Roman helmet".
Diving to 120m, archaeologists are surveying an area of about five square kilometers, littered with the relics of this decisive war. Bronze helmets, amphora, weapons and ancient battle rams cast in bronze, were salvaged from the seabed.
The first Punic War, with some of the largest naval battles of antiquity, would drag on for more than 20 years. The battle of Egadi, in 241 BC was a turning point: the Carthaginians were defeated and forced to abandon Sicily. Rome also snatched Corsica and Sardinia.
Reconstruction of a Hellenic trireme
Artifacts continue to be pulled from the seafloor, offering clues to the battle. 11 of 19 rams found so far are Roman, but this may be explained by the fact the Carthaginians captured many Roman ships in a previous battle.
The many Montefortino helmets may have belonged to mercenaries from Gaul and Iberia, who fought for Carthage and were known to sometimes wear them.