1. The Romans having destroyed all rival pretensions at home, began to pant after foreign conquests. 2. The Carthagin’ians were at that time in possession of the greatest part of Sicily, and, like the Romans, only wanted an opportunity of embroiling the natives, in order to become masters of the whole island. 3. This opportunity at length offered. Hi’ero, king of Sy’racuse, one of the states of that island, which was as yet unconquered, entreated their aid against the Mam’ertines, an insignificant people of the same country, and they sent him supplies both by sea and land. 4. The Mam’ertines, on the other hand, to shield off impending ruin, put themselves under the protection of Rome. 5. The Romans, not thinking the Mam’ertines worthy of the name of allies, instead of professing to assist them, boldly declared war against Carthage; alleging as a reason, the assistance which Carthage had lately sent to the southern parts of Italy against the Romans. In this manner a war was declared between two powerful states, both too great to continue patient spectators of each other’s increase.
6. Carthage, a colony of the Phoeni’cians, was built on the coast of Africa, near the place where Tunis now stands, about a hundred and thirty-seven years before the foundation of Rome. 7. As it had been long growing into power, so it had extended its dominions all along the coasts: but its chief strength lay in its fleets and commerce. 8. Thus circumstanced, these two great powers began what is called the First Punic war. The Carthagin’ians were possessed of gold and silver, which might be exhausted; the Romans were famous for perseverance, patriotism, and poverty, which gathered strength by every defeat.
9. But there seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle to the ambitious views of Rome, as they had no fleet, or at least none that deserved the title; while the Carthagin’ians had the entire command at sea, and kept all the maritime towns in obedience. 10. In such a situation, under disadvantages which nature seemed to have imposed, any people but the Romans would have rested; but nothing could conquer or intimidate them. 11. A Carthagin’ian vessel happened to be driven on shore, in a storm, and this was sufficient to serve as a model. They began to apply themselves to maritime affairs; and though without shipwrights to build, or seamen to navigate a fleet, they resolved to surmount every obstacle with inflexible perseverance. 12. The consul Duil’ius was the first who ventured to sea with his new-constructed armament; he proceeded in quest of the enemy, whom he met near the Lipari islands; and by means of grappling-irons, he so connected the ships of the Carthaginians with his own, that the combat became a sort of land-fight. By this manoeuvre, though his own force was far inferior to that of the enemy, he gained for Rome her first naval triumph, taking from the Carthaginians fifty ships, and what they valued still more, the undisturbed