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Corvus – Roman method of fighting at sea

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Corvus - Roman method for sea combat
Corvus - Roman method for sea combat

The basic method of attack Roman fleet was boarding. As Rome developed its power based on a land army, fighting at sea for a long time was a problem, and lack of skills often led to failure. The solution became a crow (corvus), i.e. a ramp equipped with two or one spike, used for boarding. It allowed the introduction of the tactic of quickly jumping to the enemy and using the strength of the land army at sea.

Corvus was first used in 260 BCE during the battle near Cape Mylae. Carthaginian commanders, confident in their navigational abilities, which were lacking in the slow and inexperienced Roman fleet, disregarded the mysterious constructions towering on enemy ships. However, their confidence soon turned into horror as the bridges dropped down holding down the Punics, and the Roman naval forces that were dominant in their numbers turned the naval battle into an almost land-based battle.

  • Corvus, ""
  • Goldsworthy Adrian, The Fall of Carthage, 2004
  • Polibius, Histories

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