The Punic Wars began as a clash between the largely land-based Roman Empire and the great naval power of Carthage, but Rome won control of the seas during the First Punic War and never really lost it. The key questions examined here are thus: how did Rome so quickly overtake a long-established naval power; why was Carthage unable to respond to the Roman challenge and what impact did Roman control of the seas have on the course of the wars.
The bulk of the book covers the First and Second Punic Wars, and the two sections have rather different material to work with. The First Punic War saw a series of major naval battles (almost all Roman victories), and ended after yet another Carthaginian defeat at sea, so this section focuses on those battles and the associated campaigns. In contrast the Second Punic War lacked any real naval conflict, with the vast majority of the battles taking place in Italy or Spain. Here the focus is on the impact of Roman sea power – how did that alter Roman strategy, what impact did it have on the Carthaginian war effort – supported by a general narrative of the land fighting. The key difference is the ease with which the Romans could move troops between the various theatres of war and the problems faced by the Carthaginians if they wished to do the same (one of the reasons that Hannibal rarely received reinforcements once he was in Italy).
A lot of the questions are very difficult to answer, mainly because of the limits of our sources. Any Carthaginian histories have now totally disappeared, so what little we know of their side of the war comes from Roman or generally pro-Roman historians. The sort of technical matters that interest modern naval historians generally didn't interest the ancient authors, so we have very few real details of such crucial issues as the nature of the Roman 'Corvus', and often very little idea of the course of quite major battles.
As a result most authors on this topic have to speculate. Desantis is no different, but he does make it clear when he is doing so, and links his thoughts to the available sources. His suggests tend to make sense, and are always contrasted with what the sources suggest happened (if anything), so the reader is able to form their own judgement. The result is an interesting study of one of the most important aspects of the long series of wars between Rome and Carthage.
1 - Sources
2 - The Contestants
3 - Sicily: Theatre of War, History of Blood
4 - War at Sea in the Age of the War Galley
5 - Breaking Athens: A Case Study
Part II: The First Punic War
6 - Trouble at the Toe of Italy
7 - Opening Moves
8 - Mylae, 260 BC: Rome's Fleet Sails in Harm's Way
9 - After Mylae
10 - Ecnomus, 256 BC
11 - The Battle of Cape Hermaeum, 255 BC
12 - Rome Tries Again
13 - Drepana, 249 BC
14 - The Debut of Hamilcar Barca
15 - Endgame: The Battle of the Aegates Islands, 241 BC
16 - Peace
17 - Was Seapower Worth The Cost?
Part III: Conflicts Between the Wars
18 - Illyria and Gaul
19 - The Mercenary Revolt 240-238 BC
Part IV: Strangling Carthage
20 - The Second Punic War, 218-202 BC
21 - A Second War with Carthage
22 - Hannibal in Italy
23 - Holding the Line in the Adriatic: The War with Macedonia
24 - Sicily and Sardinia
25 - Carthage's Spanish Ulcer
26 - Africa
27 - Seapower in the Second Punic War
Part V: Destroying Carthage
28 - Roman Naval Operations in the East
29 - A Third War with Carthage
Author: Marc G. Desantis
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military