No distinct body of marines
was formed, but land troops were employed, when required, for this
maritime service. In one instance as many as 120 legionaries fought
in each ship on occasion of a great naval battle; in that case however
the Roman fleet had at the same time a landing-army on board.
In this way the Romans created a fleet which was a match for the
Carthaginians. Those err, who represent this building of a Roman
fleet as a fairy tale, and besides they miss their aim; the feat must
be understood in order to be admired.
The construction of a fleet by
the Romans was in very truth a noble national work--a work through
which, by their clear perception of what was needful and possible, by
ingenuity in invention, and by energy in resolution and in execution,
they rescued their country from a position which was worse than at
first it seemed.