A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

6. C.Duilius, probably a grandson of No. 4, was consul with Cn. Cornelius Asina in B. C. 260. In that year the coast of Italy was repeatedly ravaged by the Carthaginians, against whom the Romans could do nothing, as they were yet without a navy. The Romans then built their first fleet of one hundred quinqueremes and twenty triremes, using for their model a Carthaginian vessel which had been thrown on the coast of Italy. The sum total of the Roman ships is stated differently, for, according to Orosius (4.7), it amounted to 130, and according to Florus (2.2) to 160. This fleet is said to have been built in the short space of sixty days. According to some authorities (Zonar. 8.10; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Illustr. 38; Oros. l.c.), Duilius obtained the command of this fleet, whereas, according to Polybius (1.22), it was given to his colleague Cn. Cornelius. The same writer states, that at first Cn. Cornelius sailed with 17 ships to Messana, but allowed himself to be drawn towards Lipara, and there fell into the hands of the Carthaginians. (Comp. Polyaen. 6.16.5.) Soon after, when the Roman fleet approached Sicily, Hannibal, the admiral of the Carthaginians, sailed out against it with 50 ships, but he fell in with the enemy before he was aware of it, and, after having lost most of his ships, he escaped with the rest. The Romans then, on hearing of the misfortune of Cn. Cornelius, sent to Duilins, who commanded the land army, and entrusted to him the command of their fleet. According to Zonaras (8.11), Duilius, who commanded the fleet from the beginning, when he perceived the disadvantages under which the clumsy ships of the Romans were labouring, devised the well-known grappling-irons (Κόρακες), by means of which the enemy's ships were drawn towards his, so that the sea-fight was, as it were, changed into a land-fight. (Plb. 1.22, &c.; Frontin. Strateg. 2.3.24.) When Duilius was informed that the Carthaginians were ravaging the coast of Myle in Sicily, he sailed thither with his whole armament, and soon met the Carthaginians, whose fleet consisted of 130, or, according to Diodorus (23.2, Excerpt. Vatic.), of 200 sail. The battle which ensued off Myle and near the Liparean islands, ended in a glorious victory of the Romans, which they mainly owed to their grappling-irons. In the first attack the Carthaginians lost 30, and in the second 50 more ships, and Hannibal escaped with difficulty in a little boat. According to Eutropius and Orosius, the loss of the Carthaginians was not as great as Polybius states. After the victory was completed, Duilius landed in Sicily, relieved the town of Egesta, which was closely besieged by the enemy, and took Macella by assault. Another town on the coast seems likewise to have been taken by him. (Frontin. Strateg. 3.2.2.) Here-upon he visited the several allies of Rome in Sicily, and among them also king Hiero of Syracuse; but when he wanted to return home, the Carthaginians endeavoured to prevent his sailing out of the harbour of Syracuse, though without success. (Frontin. Strateg. 1.5.6.)

On his return to Rome, Duilius celebrated a splendid triumph, for it was the first naval victory that the Romans had ever gained, and the memory of it was perpetuated by a column which was erected in the forum, and adorned with the beaks of the conquered ships (Plin. Nat. 34.5; Sil. Ital. Pun. 6.663, &c.; Quint. Inst. 1.7.12), while Duilius himself shewed his gratitude to the gods by erecting a temple to Janus in the forum Olitorium. (Tac. Ann. 2.49; comp. a somewhat different account in Servius, on Virg. Georg. 3.29, who says, that Duilius erected two columnae rostratae, one in the forum and the other at the entrance of the circus.) The column in the forum existed in the time of Pliny and Quintilian, but whether it was the original one has been questioned. It is generally believed that the original inscription which adorned the basis of the column is still extant. It was dug out of the ground in the 16th century, in a mutilated condition, and it has since often been printed with attempts at restoration. There are, however, in that inscription some orthographical peculiarities, which suggest, that the present inscription is a later restoration of the original one. This suspicion was expressed by the first editor, P. Ciacconius, and has been repeated by Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, iii. p. 579), who, in a later publication (Lectures on Rom. Hist. i. p. 18, ed. Schmitz) remarks, "The present table which contains the inscription is not the original one, for it is a piece of Greek marble, which was unknown at Rome in the time of Duilius. The original column was struck by lightning in the time of Tiberius, and was faithfully restored by Germanicus." Duilius was further rewarded for this victory, by being permitted, whenever he returned home from a banquet at night, to be accompanied by a torch and a flute-player. One more interesting fact is mentioned in connexion with his consulship, viz. in that year the senate of Rome forbade the interment of dead bodies within the city. (Serv. ad Aen. 11.206.) According to the Capitoline Fasti, Duilius was censor in B. C. 258, and in 231 dictator for the purpose of holding the comitia.