Caius Lutatius Catulus belonged to the distinguished Catulus family of ancient Rome. Not much is known of his life and he only comes to fame during the First Punic War. In the year 245 BC, during the consulate of Caius Lutatius Catulus and Aulus Posthumius Albinus, and already twenty-three years into the First Punic war, he was sent by the senate with a fleet of 200 to 300 ships to Sicilian waters.
At first Caius Lutatius Catulus took, almost without opposition, great parts of Sicilian harbours when Carthage fitted out almost four hundred ships against the Roman fleet. Caius Lutatius Catulus met with them at the harbors of Lilybaeum and Drepanum.
Lutatius Catulus embarked in poor health, having been wounded in a previous battle. The hurriedly equipped fleet sent out from Carthage under Hanno was intercepted by the praetor Publius Valerius Falto opposite Lilybaeum, a city of Sicily. With the greatest valor on the part of the Romans, seventy-three of the Carthaginian ships were taken, and a hundred and twenty-five sunk; thirty-two thousand of the enemy were made prisoners, and thirteen thousand slain; and a vast sum in gold and silver fell into the hands of the Romans. Of the Roman fleet twelve ships were sunk. The battle, a complete victory for Rome, was fought on the 10th of March (battle of the Aegates Islands, 10 March 245 BC).
Lutatius Catulus, who had been wounded at Drepanum, took no part in the operations, but on his return to Rome was accorded the honor of a triumph, which against his will he shared with Valerius. The Carthaginians immediately sued for peace, and peace was granted them. The Roman prisoners who were in the hands of the Carthaginians were restored; the Carthaginians also requested permission to redeem such of the Africans as the Romans kept in captivity.
The senate decided that those who were state prisoners should be restored without ransom; but that those who were in the hands of private persons should return to Carthage on the payment of a sum to their owners; and that such payment should be made from the public treasury, rather than by the Carthaginians.
Did you know...?
Hamilcar Barca fortified Drepanum and made it a naval base for the Carthaginians. In BC 249 the Romans suffered a severe defeat near by, at the hands of Adherbal at the great sea battle of Drepanum.