Roman battering ram found off Sicily

It’s a rostrum. The Romans used to affix them to the prow of their ship to batter the sides of enemy vessels.

This particular rostrum was found off the coast of Sicily and seems to have been used in the last naval battle of the First Punic War against Carthage. (The first one was the one without Hannibal and his elephants.)

The ram was attached to the bow of a ship that was used in a 241 B.C. skirmish called the Battle of the Egadi Islands, off a body of water that has been a shipping pathway dating back to the time of the Roman Empire. The Romans traveled the waterway on their way to and from North Africa, Royal said.

The Battle of Egadi Islands pitted 200 Roman ships against 100 Carthaginian ships. The battle was one of the last of the first Punic War and led to the Carthaginian’s surrender, Royal said.

I don’t know how the archaeologists made this determination, but it’s a majorly big deal to find a rostrum in the first place (only 4 others are known) and completely unique that it can be traced to a specific battle.

I pictured them shaped like rams heads, thanks to excessive consumption of Hollywood sword-and-sandal cinemascope epics, but instead they’re rather pointy and scary and eminently well-adapted to their function.

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10 Comments »

Comment by Clutch
2008-07-09 19:18:12

Great story!

Comment by livius drusus
2008-07-09 20:52:08

Yup. And I didn’t even get into the interesting meta-narrative about private archaeological recovery companies versus national marketing.

 
 
Comment by Graham Nickerson
2008-07-31 09:22:10

Hey,
Great site!
I am actually part of the survey team that found this rostrum. I am interested in publishing a paper on the technical aspects of the survey (I am a surveyor, not archaeologist).
I have anecdotal evidence of another rostrum being found by fishermen in the area, but I can only find info on a find made by a dredging company.

Anyone have any more info?

I must say that the immense historical fabric behind this type of work has me hooked. The thrill of treasure hunting without the moral complications. Or the money :( (Just kidding)

Comment by livius drusus
2008-08-14 12:26:44

Oh wow, how exciting! I would love to hear about your experiences on the survey team. If you’re ever in the mood to write up an anecdote or two, or maybe a summary, I would be thrilled to bits to post it here. :yes:

I have also read that another rostrum was found by fishermen off the coast of Trapani, so basically the same area as the Egadi islands. It was recovered by the Carabinieri in 2004 and is now in the Pepoli museum.

Unfortunately the Pepoli has no website and I couldn’t find any more information about the Trapani rostrum. I wanted to include a picture of it just for comparison, but there was none to be found.

Lots of cool majolica and coral in that museum, though. :)

 
 
Comment by Dr. Jeff Royal
2008-11-10 16:57:30

Greetings,
I am the Archaeological Director for RPM Nautical Foundation, and wanted to write to clear up a few mis-statements in the blog. In a project partnership with the Sopr. Office of Underwater Archaeology for Sicily, we discovered this bronze warship ram during the summer of 2008. The date of the ram has not been determined conclusively; Dr. Tusa and I have speculated this battle event as it is well attested in this area. RPMNF is not a “private archaeological recovery company”; we are a non-profit archaeological research institution. Please see our website (www.rpmnautical.org) for continuing updates on the ram and other finds, as well as more information about RPMNF.
Thank you.

 
Comment by Anonymous
2010-05-14 22:38:10

thats all really cool :lol: :lol: :lol: :giggle: :yes: :yes: :yes:

 
Comment by Pat Frank
2012-04-12 20:34:00

The Acqualadroni ram, found in September 2008, has now been 14C dated to 277(+/-)83 BCE. The date and its location of discovery place it in the Battle of Mylae (now Milazzo), 260 BCE. This was the first large naval engagement of the First Punic War.

The rostrum included an extraordinary amount of the original wood support. This wood provided the 14C date, and was preserved only because of burial in anoxic sediments and colonization by sulfate reducing anaerobic bacteria.

I had the privilege of working on a bit of the wood to assay the amount and types of sulfur present.

 
Comment by Mike M
2012-08-07 20:38:48

Way cool! Three people working on this project replied to your article, and the last comment gives us an update in April of this year that confirms the approximate date of the rostrum!

Makes me want to start a blog of my own…..

Comment by livius drusus
2012-08-08 00:21:42

You should! I think you’d be great at it. :)

 
 
Comment by Mike M
2012-08-08 13:13:20

Thanks. :yes:

If only I had the time (and the inclination) to write articles in a timely and consistent manner.

That, and coming up with a subject to write about. Mostly, I am interested in history, computers, politics, and sports.

Hmmm….could be a lot of fun! I’ll see.

 
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