The Weapon That Changed History

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Republication from the Archaeology Magazine



Roman legionaries board on a Carthaginian warship during the First Punic War. Artwork by Peter Connolly.

by Andrew Curry

Evidence of Rome’s decisive victory over Carthage is discovered in the waters off Sicily

In his work The Histories, the second-century B.C. Greek historian Polybius chronicles the rise of the Romans as they battled for control of the Mediterranean. The central struggle pits the Romans against their archenemies the Carthaginians, a trading superpower based in North Africa. For 23 years, beginning in 264 B.C., the two rivals fought what became known as the First Punic War.


THE SELINUNTIAN WARS of the 6th cent.BC.


By  Periklis Deligiannis

segestaA pure Greek-type temple in Segesta (main temple of the city).


In 580 BC the Selinuntians finally resigned from claiming the disputed land from Gela (in which land, Acragas was founded) in exchange for aid by Dorian settlers coming from Rhodes and the Anatolian Greek colony Cnidos (Knidos), who arrived in western Sicily through Gela. Pentathlos, the leader of the Rhodian and Cnidian colonists, was a Cnidian like most of his men.

Athena Promachos1

A beautiful reenactment of Archaic Greek hoplites by the Spanish Historical Association Athena Promakhos (copyright: Anna Belen Rubio). Note the double crest of two snakes facing each other on the Corinthian helmet of the hoplite on front, and his arm-protector with the sculpted emblem of  Gorgo (gorgonion). The same gorgonion emblem  is depicted in his Argive shield.  The two snakes facing each other are sculpted in his bell-type cuirass as well.  In the Orient, the hoplites were known as brazen (bronze) warriors.  The Siciliot and Italiot Greek warriors did not differ from those of mainland Greece.

The Selinuntians used the Cnidian and Rhodian reinforcements in their ongoing war against the Elymians and the Phoenicians. They helped them to establish a new Greek colony at Cape Lilybaion (Latin Lilybaeum), just 10 kilometers south of Motya. They were trying to establish a new Doric power against Motya (the main Punic colony on the island) and Carthage, while they would deal with the subjugation of Segesta which resisted stubbornly their expansion. The Selinuntians, Cnidians and Rhodians joined forces against the Elymi, Sicilian-Phoenicians and Carthaginians.