Battle of the Lipari Islands
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|Battle of the Lipari Islands|
|Part of the First Punic War|
the Lipari islands, also known as the Aeolian Islands
|Commanders and leaders|
|Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina|
|About 20 ships||About 17 ships|
|Casualties and losses|
|4 ships||Fleet captured|
The Battle of the Lipari Islands or Lipara (Lipara harbour, 260 BC) was the first encounter between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War. The Carthaginian victory was a result of an ambush, rather than a fixed battle.
After the land successes in Sicily such as the conquest of Agrigentum, the Romans felt confident enough to build and equip a fleet that would allow them to control the Mediterranean Sea. The Republic ordered, built and drilled the crews of a fleet of about 150 quinqueremes and triremes in a record two months. The patrician Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio (the year's senior consul) was given the command of the first 17 ships produced and sailed to Messana to prepare for the fleet's arrival and the crossing to Sicily.
While Scipio was at the strait, he received information that the garrison of Lipara was willing to defect to the Roman side. What happened next is usually described as a treacherous act of the Carthaginians, but the sources do not give much detail and are usually pro-Roman. Though at sea most likely to let the crews gain some experience, the consul could not resist the temptation of conquering an important city without a fight and sailed to Lipara. As the Romans entered the harbour with their brand new ships, a part of the Carthaginian fleet, commanded by Hannibal Gisco (the general defeated in Agrigentum) and Boodes, was either waiting in ambush (pro-Roman sources), or received word of the Roman fleet's position and surprised them. Boodes led about 20 ships to block the Romans inside the harbour. Scipio and his men offered little resistance. The inexperienced crews panicked and fled and the consul himself was captured. His credulity earned him the pejorative cognomen Asina, which means donkey in Latin. This cognomen was all the more insulting because "asina" was the feminine form of the word donkey, as opposed to the masculine form "asinus".
The Lipara incident did not put an end to the First Punic War or Scipio Asina's career. Shortly afterwards, the junior consul, Gaius Duilius, avenged the humiliation by winning the battle of Mylae at the head of the rest of the fleet.