corvus (weapon)

A corvus (meaning "raven" in Latin) or harpago (probably the correct ancient name [1]) was a Roman military boarding device used in naval warfare during the First Punic War against Carthage.

In the Book III of his History, Polybius describes this device as a bridge 1.2 m (4 ft) wide and 10.9 m (36 ft) long, with a small parapet on both sides. The engine was probably used in the prow of the ship, where a system of pulleys and a pole allowed the bridge to be raised and lowered. There was a heavy spike shaped as a bird's beak on the underside of the device. The spike was designed to pierce the enemy ship's deck when the boarding-bridge was lowered. This allowed a firm grip between the vessels and a route for the legionaries.

Enlarge picture
Boarding-bridge diagram


In the 3rd century BC, Rome was not a naval power and had little or no experience in war at sea. Before the first Punic war, the Roman Republic had not campaigned outside the Italian Peninsula. The Republic's military strength was on land, and her greatest assets were the discipline and courage of her soldiers. The boarding-bridge allowed her to use her marines against the superior Carthaginian naval skills. The Romans' application of boarding tactics worked; they won several battles, most notably those of Mylae, Sulci, Tyndaris, and Ecnomus.

Despite its advantages, the boarding bridge had serious drawbacks: it could not be used in rough seas since the stable connection of two working ships endangered each others structure. So with the Carthaginians operating in rough seas the device became useless and was abandoned. [2] According to Bonebaker, Professor of Naval Architecture at Delft, with the estimated weight of one ton for the boarding bridge, it is "most improbable that the stability of a quinquireme with a displacement of about 250m³ would be seriously upset".[3]

Some other historians believe that its weight on the prow compromised the ship's navigability and the Romans lost almost two entire fleets to storms in 255 and in 249 BC, largely due to the instability caused by the device. These losses were probably the main reason for the abandonment of the boarding-bridge in ship design by the end of the war. As Roman Naval tactics improved and her crews became more experienced, the boarding-bridge was no longer used in battle. It is not mentioned in period sources after the battle of Ecnomus and apparently the battle of the Aegates Islands that decided the first Punic war was won without them.

An evolution of the boarding bridge, called arpax, was used in the battle of Naulochus.

Notes

1. ^ Wallinga p.73-75
2. ^ Wallinga p.77-90
3. ^ Wallinga p.77-90

References

  • Wallinga, Herman Tammo (1956) The boarding-bridge of the Romans, J.B. Wolters Groningen, Djakarta
  • Goldsworthy, Adrian (2004). The Fall of Carthage. Cassel Publications. ISBN 0-304-36642-0.
  • Gonick, Larry (1994). "The Cartoon History of the Universe II". Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-26520-4.

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Latin}}} 
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Official language of: Vatican City
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Regulated by: Opus Fundatum Latinitas
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Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea.
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First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) was the first of three major wars fought between Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea.
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State Party  Tunisia
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, vi
Reference 37
Region Arab States

Inscription History
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
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Polybius (ca. 203–120 BC, Greek Πολύβιος) was a Greek historian of the Mediterranean world famous for his book called The Histories or The Rise of the Roman Empire,
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1 metre =
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The metre or meter[1](symbol: m) is the fundamental unit of length in the International System of Units (SI).
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1 foot =
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0 yd 0 in
A foot (plural: feet or foot;[1] symbol or abbreviation: ft or, sometimes,
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A parapet consists of a barrier at the edge of a structure employed to prevent persons or vehicles from falling over the edge.

Building parapets

A building parapet consists of a dwarf wall along the edge of a roof, or round a lead flat, terrace walk, etc.
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pulley (also called a sheave or block) is a wheel with a groove between two flanges around its circumference. The groove normally locates a rope, cable or belt. Pulleys are used to change the direction of an applied force, transmit rotational motion, or realize a mechanical
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The beak, bill or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds which, in addition to eating, is used for grooming, manipulating objects, killing prey, probing for food, courtship, and feeding their young.
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miles ("soldier") or legionarius in Latin, the Roman legionary was (usually) a Roman citizen under 45 years of age. The soldier enlisted in a legion for twenty-five years of service, a change from the early practice of enlisting only for the duration of a campaign.
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The 3rd century BC started the first day of 300 BC and ended the last day of 201 BC. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period.

The first few decades of the century are characterized by a balance of power between the Greek Hellenistic kingdoms
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Battle of Mylae took place in 260 BC during the First Punic War and was the first real naval battle between Carthage and the Roman Republic. This battle was key in the Roman victory of Mylae (present-day Milazzo) as well as Sicily itself.
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Battle of Sulci was a naval battle fought in 258 BC between the Roman and Carthaginian navies of the coast near the town of Sulci. It was a minor Roman victory, obtained by consul Gaius Sulpicius Paterculus.
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Battle of Tyndaris is a naval battle of the First Punic War, which took place off Tyndaris (modern Tindari) in 257 BC. Tyndaris was a Sicilian town founded as a Greek colony in 396 BC located on the high ground overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea in the Gulf of Patti.
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battle of Cape Ecnomus (256 BC) was a naval battle, fought offshore Cape Ecnomus (modern day Poggio di Sant'Angelo, Licata, Sicily), between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic, during the First Punic War.
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A quinquereme is a warship propelled by oars, developed from the earlier trireme. It was used by the Greeks of the Hellenistic period and later by the Carthaginians and Romans, from the 4th century BC to the 1st century.
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3rd century BC - 2nd century BC
280s BC  270s BC  260s BC - 250s BC - 240s BC  230s BC  220s BC 
258 BC 257 BC 256 BC - 255 BC - 254 BC 253 BC 252 BC

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3rd century BC - 2nd century BC
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An explanation of naval tactics in the age of galleys, from antiquity to the early 17th century when sailing ships replaced oared galleys.

Weapons in the age of galleys

Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages until the 16th century, the weapons relied on were:

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Battle of the Aegates Islands or Aegusa (Aegadian Islands, off the western coast of the island of Sicily, 10 March 241 BC) was the final naval battle fought between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War.
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Battle of Naulochus was fought on 3 September 36 BC between the fleets of Sextus Pompeius and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, off Naulochus, Sicily. The victory of Agrippa, admiral of Octavian, marked the end of the Pompeian resistance to the Second Triumvirate.
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