Mediterranean Hegemon of Ancient Greece

Chapter 896: Naval Battle of Thermae (III)



Chapter 896: Naval Battle of Thermae (III)

However, the actual commander of this fleet was not Straphacus but Seclian. He was on the corvus warship at the forefront centre of the line. He stood at the prow with a steely and unwavering gaze. Behind, the captain barked our orders, “Increase speed! Stay on course!”

The lookout also shouted, “There are about forty enemy ships ahead and are in a double-column formation. In the distance, I could see enemy ships coming one after another!”

“Let's seize this time to eat this wave first!” Seclian muttered and looked up at the corvus bridge next to the front mast.

With the hastily arranged Phoenician warships also increasing their speed quickly, the distance between the two sides became closer.

Seclian stared without blinking at the enemy ship speeding ahead, with the corvus ship he was sitting on maintaining a high speed, but not a sprinting speed, as they charged straight towards the bow of the enemy ship.

When the two ships were only thirty metres apart, the enemy ship suddenly made a turn, showing that the Phoenicians knew the strength of the Theonian corvus warship.

With a sneer, Seclian didn't even bother with the evading Phoenician warship and continued advancing.

Just as the Phoenician warship bypassed the ship of Seclian, it suddenly saw the Theonian warship in front of it crash into its side like a swordfish at great speed.

The Phoenician warship had to make another turn and narrowly avoid getting rammed. However, when the two ships brush by each other, “Withdraw the oars!”

“Withdraw the oars!” Both sides ordered at the same time.

While the sailors of the Theonian warship were well prepared, the Phoenician sailors had just exerted themselves rowing to prevent themselves from sinking. As a result, they failed to react in time, and the Theonian warship ploughed straight into their oars, breaking them.

After the Theonian warship broke the enemy's oars, it abandoned them and continued sailing forward.

Just as the Phoenicians were still in shock, another Theonian warship appeared on another side. However, this one was a corvus warship, which took advantage of the Phoenician warship having no oars to drop its drawbridge to its deck. The soldiers of the reserve legion onboard weren’t like those from the friendly city-state who had rushed over the drawbridge and lost themselves in the heat of the moment. Instead, they followed the orders and returned to the ship swiftly under the leadership of their squad leader after cutting down most of the Phoenician sailors, and then they pulled up the drawbridge...

The Starry Night formation set up by Seclian was different from before. The traditional Starry Night formation had the corvus warships spaced out at the front with the fast-sailing triremes at the back, waiting for a chance to jump in the battle. He had arranged the corvus warship and fast-sailing triremes in intervals; its purpose was to speed up the rhythm of the attack to seize time in saving the besieged warships.

In the centre of the ship formation, the ship of Straphacus was hoisting a red flag high up, reminding the surrounding warships to fight to the death. At the same time, the ship of Seclian, who was sprinting at the forefront, encouraged the sailors to advance bravely.

Although the Eastern Phoenician fleet successfully launched a surprise attack, this was only the first time they fought a battle against the Theonian fleet. Hence, their traditional naval tactics had failed to adapt to the new naval tactics developed by Theonia after years of training. Thus, despite having many warships, their hasty formation could not withstand the attack of the Theonian squadron that had such a high level of morale. After fighting for some time, the Theonian squadron captured and sunk ten Phoenician ships while only paying the price of four damaged ships to crush the Phoenician formation in front of them completely. nÊw st𝒐ries at n𝒐/vel/b/i/n(.)co𝒎

Then, the Phoenician warships began retreating after seeing the situation turned south.

The Theonian fast-sailing triremes, however, didn't pursue the fleeing enemy. Before the battle, Seclian had already discussed with them how they couldn't split apart because they were outnumbered. If they were to advance further, it would lead to a situation where they would be surrounded. Therefore, while maintaining speed, Theonia's warships gradually regrouped and maintained formation.

The Phoenician ships, who were along the way, began to retreat westward after receiving the report, allowing some of the hidden Theonian ships to join the line of ships, increasing the number of vessels in the Theonian squadron. Thus, instead of their number of ships decreasing after going through a battle, it had increased and resulted in the number of ships reaching forty-five.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Cough! Cough!...” Miltiades coughed repeatedly, causing the nearby person to hurriedly help him by patting his back so that he could spit out the seawater smoothly.

“Commander Miltiades, are you okay?!” The man asked with concern.

Miltiades simply waved his hand, wishing not to speak. He turned to face the sea, gazing blankly at the surface where his flagship had once been. Now, only a section of the main mast protruded, resembling a floating rotten branch. Despite leading the flagship to circle the enemy for a while, they still failed to escape the enemy's siege and were eventually sunk. Fortunately, they were close to the beach, enabling them to swim straight to shore.

As he scanned the sea surface, he spotted several 'rotten branches' like this, mainly near the beach. Further away, more shipwrecks were half-floating on the water, most being Theonian warships. The relatively few intact warships appeared unmanned and only drifting with the water, which were the Phoenician warships the corvus warship had attacked and immobilised.

Miltiades felt like something gripped his heart as he looked at the warship wreckage and the countless floating heads on the sea. He felt heartbroken as the Theonian fleet...and his fourth fleet...were all gone just like that...

He stood on the beach for a long time, letting the tide wash over his legs...

Most of the men around were like him, staring at the sunken flagship in which they had spent so many years together that it was difficult for them to part ways.

“Hey, are you from the Theonian fleet?!” Someone walked towards them.

“Yes, we belong to Theonia's Fourth Fleet, and this is our-” The man beside Miltiades blurted, causing Miltiades to smack him on the shoulder to stop him from continuing. As the person in charge of this transportation operation, Miltiades felt that he had a significant responsibility for this disastrous defeat and was somewhat ashamed.

Fortunately, he had just arrived in Sicily, so few knew him. The person only glanced at him and then spoke to the sailor, saying, “There are still many members of your Fourth Fleet there.”

Following the direction he pointed, Miltiades saw that over a thousand had already gathered on the beach to the east.

The person continued, “I am Phracas, the commanding strategos of the reinforcements from Gela. Since this place is too close to Selinus, we can't stay here for too long, or else we would be discovered by the Carthaginians. Thus, we must go east as soon as possible, pass through Thermae and reach the city of Minoa to ensure our safety.”

The sailor turned his head to look at Miltiades, who nodded. Then, he immediately said, “Okay, we'll go.”

Phracas glanced at the downcast Miltiades. He had already seen this expression on the faces of several Theonian captains who had swam ashore. After all, this would be another blow for the Theonian navy after just suffering from the destruction of their fleet due to the storm. Moreover, the shattering of the Theonian navy's myth as undefeatable had weighed heavily on the naval officer's morale. Phracas empathised with their plight, but at the same time, he couldn't shake off his worries, ‘With the Theonian army and navy in Sicily in trouble, what about Gela?’

He sighed inwardly and turned towards the large group.

The men trailing behind were occasionally looking back at the sea. Suddenly, someone said, “We can no longer see enemy ships on the sea. Have they already retreated?”

Miltiades nearly stumbled and fell to the ground upon hearing that. He would have preferred to see enemy ships still patrolling the sea, as it would indicate that there were still ships from the Theonian fleet engaged in battle. Now that all the enemy ships had departed, could it be that the Theonian fleet had been all but wiped out?

Miltiades turned pale, and the pain in his heart increased.

Suddenly, they could hear a clamour ahead, “Enemy! Enemy!!”

“The Carthaginians are coming! Run!!”

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The sailors were startled to see many Numidian cavalrymen sprinting out of the woods north of the beach, riding their horses down the gentle slope and charging towards the large army gathering ahead. Behind them, more fully armed Carthaginian infantry appeared...

After the last night raid, Mago intensified the patrols along the coast from Selinus to Thermae and thus naturally discovered the battle between the Theonian and Phoenician fleet on the sea near Thermae. And Mago, after receiving the report, immediately dispatched a mix of cavalry and infantry force of five thousand men to attack the Theonian sailors and soldiers who had gone ashore because of the ship's sinking, at the same time to guard against the Minoans who would leave their city to rescue the enemy.

Since most of the Theonians and soldiers from the friendly city-state on the beach were unarmed, they inevitably panicked. As the Numidian cavalry rushed closer, they threw their javelins towards the crowd and caused blood to splash and screams of pain to ring out, causing the people to panickily turn around and run.

The Numidian cavalry howled wildly. Then, they took the opportunity to charge towards the crowd to accelerate the scattering of the Theonian sailors and their allies...

“Commander, we must immediately flee to the sea to avoid the enemy's pursuit!” The captain of the flagship trembled as he said loudly to Miltiades.

“...you can go ahead,” said Miltiades with a grave expression as he continued to move forward.

The flagship's captain became so anxious that he grabbed Miltiades, shook him vigorously, and urgently shouted in his ears, “Miltiades, the enemy is here! We must escape!”

“There are enemies everywhere, and hiding in the sea will ultimately lead to becoming miserable prisoners...the Fourth Fleet is gone...it's all my fault...I had failed His Majesty!...” endless remorse filled Miltiades' words. He then raised his head and looked ahead, “...only by dying in battle on the sands can I reduce the mocking of the people...can I reduce the senator's questioning of His Majesty!”


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