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The Battle of the Aegates Islands: Discovery of the Battle Zone and Major Finds

Sebastiano Tusa

This paper briefly presents the story of my search for the Battle of the Aegates Islands. It begins with Cecè Paladino, a great spear fisherman and "the last of the Florios" (a famous dynasty of Sicilian entrepreneurs), who in the 1960s and 70s, reported hundreds of lead anchor stocks on the seabed along the eastern part of Levanzo island, in front of sheer cliffs. After hearing these reports from Cecè, I suspected that they belonged to the Roman fleet of C. Lutatius Catulus and gave important information about the location of the famous Battle of the Aegates Islands (241 B.C.). With this possibility in mind, I reread Polybius’ account of the battle and concluded that the action made more sense if the Carthaginian fleet (which was loaded with supplies for their troops on Mt. Erice) had set a course north of Levanzo Island toward Bonagia Bay, just north of Trapani (ancient Drepanum). In 2004, we found a further piece of evidence that helped refine the possibilities. In that year, we recovered a bronze rostrum from a local dentist, who had received it from trawler fishermen, who in turn had dragged it from the seafloor in their nets somewhere northwest of Levanzo. After further preliminary investigations, I entered into a research partnership with RPM Nautical Foundation to survey the entire region around Levanzo Island. Our work began in 2005, and led to the discovery of a concentration of artifacts that must be associated with the famous sea battle. By the end of the 2012 season, we had located nine bronze rams plus many other artifacts related to the two battle fleets. The paper concludes with a brief catalog of the most important finds located through the 2013 season of fieldwork.

Session/Panel Title:

The Battle of the Aegates Islands (241 B.C.)

Session/Paper Number

10.1

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