Four ancient bronze battering rams, each weighing a whopping 200 kilograms, were retrieved from Roman ships that sank off the coast of Sicily in 241 BC.
Each of the rams was equipped with protruding sharp teeth that could pierce the wooden hulls of enemy ships. Damage found on some of the battering rams suggests that the ships collided head-on.
Battering rams were not the only underwater find discovered this summer by archaeologists off the coast of Sicily. They also found the wreckage of three merchant ships loaded with ceramic vessels.
Attached to the prow of warships, rams were used against the Carthaginian fleet during the Battle of the Aegates, which ended the First Punic War.
One of the battering rams recovered from the bottom of the sea
The first Punic War between the Phoenicians and the Romans, which was fought in the waters of Sicily and North Africa, lasted 23 years (from 264 to 241 BC). This is the longest naval war of antiquity. It became the first of three wars between Carthage and Rome at the beginning of the third century BC.
Fighting began when Roman troops established themselves in Sicily and, in alliance with the people of Syracuse, laid siege to the main Carthaginian base on the island of Akragas (now Agrigento).
Following this, Rome built a fleet and, after a series of minor victories, launched an invasion of North Africa, which was stopped at the Battle of Cape Eknomus. According to many experts, that battle in terms of the number of warriors could be the largest naval battle of all time.
Trieres model used by the Romans in the First Punic War
After this, the Roman troops deployed a successful blockade of the garrisons in Drepan and Lilybea. In 241, Carthage sent a fleet to free its outposts, but was intercepted and defeated at the Battle of Aegates, in which agile Roman ships used rams against their opponents. After the battle, Carthage demanded peace, eventually placing Sicily under Roman control.
The site of the battle was identified back in 2010 by the Italian archaeologist Sebastiano Tusa, after a local fisherman pulled out a ram used in the war and presented it to a Sicilian dentist. Since then, another 25 rams have been removed.
There is information that the Romans sank 50 Carthaginian ships and captured 70 more, although at the cost of 30 of their own ships and damage to another 50.
The archaeological research was led by the Sicilian Marine Archeology Unit in tandem with the American non-profit RPM Nautical Foundation. Read about how underwater archaeologists work in the ancient Greek city of Phanagoria.