Roman Naval Warfare

Definition

Military supremacy of the seas could be a crucial factor in the success of any land campaign, and the Romans well knew that a powerful naval fleet could supply troops and equipment to where they were most needed in as short a time as possible. Naval vessels could also supply beleaguered ports under enemy attack and, in turn, blockade ports under enemy control. A powerful navy was also indispensable to deal with pirates, who wreaked havoc with commercial sea-traders and even, on occasion, blockaded ports. Naval warfare had its own unique dangers, though, with adverse weather being the biggest threat to success, which is why naval campaigns were largely limited to between April and November.

More about: Roman Naval Warfare

Timeline

  • 264 BCE - 241 BCE
    First Punic War. Carthage cedes Sicily to Rome.
  • 260 BCE
    First Roman naval victory against Carthage off Mylae in the First Punic War.
  • 260 BCE
    Rome builds a fleet of 120 ships in just 60 days to fight the First Punic War.
  • 258 BCE
    Rome wins a naval battle against Carthage at Sulcis during the First Punic War.
  • 256 BCE
    Roman naval victory against Carthage off Ecnomus during the First Punic War.
  • 255 BCE - 253 BCE
    Roman fleets are wrecked by storms off Pachynus and Palinurus during the First Punic War.
  • 249 BCE
    Carthage defeats Rome in a naval battle at Drepanum during the First Punic War.
  • 242 BCE
    A Roman fleet besieges the Carthaginian stronghold of Drepana on Sicily during the First Punic War.
  • 241 BCE
    Roman naval victory off the Aegates Islands leads to victory over Carthage, ending the First Punic War.
  • 229 BCE - 228 BCE
    Rome fights Illyrian pirates. Queen Teuta pays tribute to Rome.
  • 67 BCE
    Pompey assembles a naval fleet and attacks Pamphylia and Cilicia, principally to repress piracy.
  • 56 BCE
    The navies of Rome and the Veneti Gauls clash resulting in a Roman victory. This is the first recorded naval battle in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 55 BCE - 54 BCE
    Julius Caesar's expeditions in Britain.
  • 38 BCE
    Octavian amasses a naval fleet to defeat Sextus Pompey.
  • 36 BCE
    Agrippa defeats the naval fleet of Sextus Pompey in the battle of Naulochos.
  • 43 CE
    Claudius commences the Roman conquest of Britain.
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