Roman/ Carthage Conflict issues

Published by Radrook in the blog Flash Fiction 1. Views: 140

The contest that ensued between Rome and Carthage has always intrigued me. Here is one issue I found perplexing. Why didn’t Carthage stop Rome’s ascendency when it had the chance?

Carthaginian Indifference?

Rome didn't spring full-blown as a major Mediterranean power. Even after throwing off its Etruscan yoke it was vulnerable to attack by the Gauls. So it's ascension was a slow gradual one which also involved the conquest of neighboring cities and bringing them into alliances followed by the subjugation of the Greek colonies in southern Italy with the defeat of Pyros which finally brought the entire Italian Penninsula under its control.

In short, at first sight Rome might appear to have been carelessly allowed to transformed itself into Carthage's worse nightmare right under the noses of the Carthaginians when they might have easily nipped it at the bud.

What such a view ignores, however, is that Carthage’s control of the Mediterranean was being challenged by another power, the Greeks. So the efforts were being directed at an existing threat as opposed to a potential one. In fact, prior to its confrontation with Rome Carthage had fought three wars in Sicily against the Greeks. Then a fourth one when Pyrrhus invaded Sicily. So it had its hands too full of Greek challenges to pay attention to an emerging Rome. Only after the Greeks in Sicily appealed to Rome for help against Carthage and Rome intervened did the danger become clear.

Carthaginian Lack of ingenuity?

Yet another quirk that still stands out is the Carthaginian inability to find a way to counter the corvus, the ramp deployed from the Roman ships in order to make a battle art sea a land battle.

One would expect that all the minds at Carthage would have concentrated on nullifying the corvus in order to give Carthage the advantage at sea once more. Strangely that effort never seems to have been made. Was it because the Corvus wasn’t really as effective as some historians claim? Some say it was totally abandoned because of its instability in rough seas and that the last battle the finally won it for Rome it was not a factor. Still I wonder why no effort to counter it was ever made? Strange!


The Corvus

The corvus was an unusual naval weapon used by the Romans during the First Punic War to help make up for the Carthaginian prowess at sea. The corvus was a boarding bridge, probably 36 feet long and 4 feet wide, with a parapet on each side. This was attached to a pole on it's own ship, and could be pulled up at an angle. Underneath the far end was a heavy spike. The idea was the ship with the corvus moved close to the enemy, and then released it. The spike would dig into the enemy vessel and pin it in place, while the Roman soldiers would charge onto the enemy ship. This allowed the Romans to take advantage of their superior infantry. The corvus was first used at the battle of Mylea, where it helped bring about the first major Roman naval victory of the war. Long considered implausible, modern reconstructions have proved that the corvus was indeed possible with the technology of the time.
Comments are disabled for this entry