Hanno, Messana garrison commander

Hanno the Messana garrison commander was a Carthaginian general prominent in the events leading to the start of the First Punic War (264 to 241 BC). Hanno was a very common name amongst the Carthaginians hence the need to refer to him in this way, his surname being unknown.

Satellite photo of the Strait of Messina.
The Strait of Messina, Italian mainland in the distance.

Appeal for assistance from the Mamertines

In 265 BC the Mamertines who were occupying Messana were being threatened by Hiero II of Syracuse. Consequently, they sent appeals for assistance to Rome and Carthage.[1] The Carthaginians were first to respond dispatching a small force commanded by Hanno to occupy the citadel of Messana and patrol the strait of Messina.[2] The Roman consul Appius Claudius Caudex desiring personal glory persuaded the Roman People with promises of profit to vote in favour of intervening in Messana.[3] Gaius Claudius, a military tribune was sent in advance by the consul Appius Claudius Caudex with a few ships to Rhegium, a city allied to the Romans on the opposite side of the strait on the Italian mainland.[4]

Expulsion from Messana

Gaius Claudius commenced negotiations with Hanno but negotiations must have broken down and Gaius unsuccessfully tried to force passage across the strait in the process losing some triremes to the Carthaginians who were skillful sailors.[2] Hanno understanding the gravity of the situation and not wanting to be blamed for starting a war with the Romans, as a gesture returned the captured vessels to the Romans and urged them to opt for peace.[5] Gaius Claudius, it would seem, ignored the gesture and tried again to cross the strait to Messana; this time successfully. The Mamertines urged Hanno to descend from the citadel and parley with the Romans. Hanno reluctantly agreed but again the talks failed. The Romans seized Hanno and imprisoned him. Hanno was thus compelled to withdraw the Carthaginian garrison from Messana.[5] These events triggered the beginning of the First Punic War.


The Carthaginians subsequently crucified Hanno for what was regarded as cowardice and lack of judgement in leaving the citadel of Messana.[6]


  1. Adrian Goldsworthy, The Fall Of Carthage, Page 67
  2. 1 2 Ioannes Zonaras, An Epitome Of The Lost Books Of Dio, 11.8
  3. Adrian Goldsworthy, The Fall Of Carthage, Page 71
  4. Adrian Goldsworthy, The Fall Of Carthage, Page 72
  5. 1 2 Ioannes Zonaras, An Epitome Of The Lost Books Of Dio, 11.9
  6. Polybius, The Histories, 1:11.5
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