Aulus Atilius Calatinus

     Aulus Atilius Calatinus was Gaius Sulpicius Paterculus‘ consular counterpart in 258. It seems likely that another consular army was mustered over the previous fall and winter and given to Calatinus’ command as the previously mentioned land army was still engaged in Sicily. They had not returned to Italy over winter as Gaius Aquillius Florus continued to lead them in their siege against Mytistraton. It was here that Calatinus combined strength with Florus which would create a force consisting of two consular armies (somewhere around 40,000 men). Florus continued on in an official capacity being granted the status of a proconsul, a rarity in this war. In the Roman Republic, a proconsul was granted the power of imperium just like a normal consul.



     With the combined army Mytistraton’s days were numbered. The city resisted several Roman assaults with the original citizens and Carthaginians prevailing, even after Aulus Atilius Calatinus reinforced Florus. It was only “when the women and children were moved to tears and laments, they abandoned resistance.” (Zonaras 8.11)1 Several months of siege had probably depleted most of the reserves and foodstuffs of the town as well as dwindle the manpower defending the walls. The Carthaginians were once again able to withdraw under the cover of nightfall. (The Romans really seem to be needing lessons in actually encircling and cutting off a besieged objective.)

     In the morning the original citizens of the city voluntarily surrendered and opened the city to the Roman army. Here the Romans dishonorably slaughtered many of the inhabitants of the surrendered town and enslaved the rest. All the sources agree that Mytistraton was thoroughly sacked and razed afterwards, perhaps because of its strong position which required multiple sieges to take.


Advancing Onward

     Aulus Atilius Calatinus and presumably Florus continued on to regain territory that had ceded to Hamilcar in the previous year, as well as to challenge him directly. Garrisoned in Panormus (the modern Palermo), situated on the northern coast of western Sicily, Hamilcar stood ready against the Romans. Calatinus and Florus, however, were not inclined to invest the city in a siege; especially not a siege that would be more costly and difficult than the one they had just ended. According to Polybius, “The Consuls, when they got close up to the city, offered battle with their whole forces, but as the enemy did not come out to meet them they left Panormus and went off to attack Hippana.” (1.24)2
     Without Hamilcar offering himself up to a pitched battle, the Romans decided to go on to easier pickings elsewhere in Sicily. Hippana, some miles south of Panormus was assaulted and taken. The towns of Enna and Camarina, the latter after a brief siege with engines perhaps borrowed from King Hiero,3 were once again taken. Along with the recapturing of some unnamed towns, much of what was lost to Hamilcar had been reclaimed. 
     One last attempt was also made at capturing an enemy position. Polybius simply states that “they undertook the siege of Lipara.” (1.24)4 However, other sources indicate that there may have been more than a failed blockade/siege of this island town. Somehow Hamilcar must have gained information on the Romans plans to take the Lipari islands and decided to preempt them. Most likely arriving before the Romans did, the Romans may not have realized his presence or perhaps underestimated his force on the island. It was at this time that Hamilcar “making a sudden sortie, he killed many of the Romans.” (Zonaras 8.12)5 The ordeal against Lipara is left at that so it seems likely that Romans decided not pursue this further after meeting some form of loss against the Carthaginians. 

     This campaigning year shifted the balance of power probably more to the Romans again, though in all reality, as long as Carthage held the strongholds of Lilybaeum, Drepana, and Panormus they could always lead a successful counterattack just like in many previous wars against the Greeks. Still the Roman people seemed pleased at any form of progress and Gaius Aquillius Florus was awarded a triumph for his efforts as proconsul. Aulus Atilius Calatinus was not forgotten either. He would earn a triumph in the next year while holding office of praetor. However, we will now turn to some of the strange legends and deeds surrounding Calatinus including his own band of 300 men making a last stand. As we will see, Calatinus clearly had a great public relations team.


  1. Cassius Dio and Zonaras. Roman History. Translated by Earnest Cary. 1914.
  2. Polybius. The Histories. Translated by W. R. Paton. 1922.
  3. Diodorus Siculus. Library of History. Translated by Francis Walton. 1957.
  4. Polybius. The Histories. Translated by W. R. Paton. 1922.
  5. Cassius Dio and Zonaras. Roman History. Translated by Earnest Cary. 1914.