The Source of the Conflict

  • Sicily was quickly becoming Rome’s breadbasket (it supplied the many thousands of tones of grain)
  • The Carthaginians maintained a commercial empire controlling Sicily, Present day Spain, and Portugal

The First Punic War 264-241 BC

  • First arose because of trouble in Sicily (one side appealed to Rome and the other to Carthage)
  • Neither side was interested in war but did not want to look like they were backing down
  • Rome was very strong on land and Carthage on water
  • When the Romans were able to get aboard enemy galley they could usually defeat the ship, however they were poor sailors (clumsy)
  • SOLUTION – build a “Raven” – a drop bridge with a big spike that could be dropped onto the enemy ship and legionnaires could easily come aboard
  • The war was evenly matched and lasted 23 years before Carthage admitted defeat and was forced to give up her claims to Sicily
  • Rome took the entire island and Carthage also had to pay money to Rome

Carthage wanted revenge. General Hamilcar took his army to Spain, took over cities, and found colonies to make up for Sicily.

Meanwhile Rome took the islands of Sardinia and Corsica.

The Second Punic War 218-202 BC

  • Hamilcar’s son Hannibal deliberately attacked the Greek colony Sagunturn, which had been promised protection by Rome.
  • The roman navy was now stronger than the Carthaginian navy, so Hannibal realized he had to take his army over land to Italy – Surprise tactic (40,000 men and 8,000 cavalry)
  • He crossed the Alps, lost 15,000 – 20,000 soldiers and 36 elephants (only one lived)
  • Romans thought the army would be extremely weak. They underestimated the brilliance of Hannibal: Three main battles
  • Trebia: Sent a weak unit across the river. Romans rushed across the river and were easily defeated
  • Lake Trasimere: Carthage waited until the Romans marched into the narrow valley. Two hours later 15,000 Romans were dead.
  • Cannae: Rome sent an army three times as bit as Hannibal’s. At the end of the day 76,000 men died and only 6,000 were Hannibal’s men!
  • Romans appointed Fabius as a dictator to try to cut down Carthage. The followed Carthaginians trying to cut down small parties of soldiers and cut off food. Each time Hannibal turned on them, the Roman’s scuttled off into the hills – “Fabian tactic.”
  • Hannibal sent word – “ransom for prisoners” Rome refused; they had no use for men who surrendered.
  • Hannibal still didn’t have enough forces to take city of Rome. Romans continued “Fabian tactics,” and began to capture cities in Sicily and Italy (sided with Carthage) and conquered Spain.
  • Hannibal didn’t receive reinforcements as the government feared he was becoming too powerful.
  • At last, the Romans found a daring general named Scipio (24 years old) He:
    • Rid Spain of Carthaginians
    • Wrestled parts of Sicily away from Carthage
    • Took an army to Africa and began to attack Carthage. Hannibal was sent for
    • Romans won at the battle of Zama, Scipio was elected censor, and became a leading man in the Senate and awarded the name “Africanus.” Consul twice!
    • Scipio supported the Greek way of life. The Romans were apprehensive and subjected to Scipio to a series of humiliating trials. He soon retired from the city and died soon after.
    • Carthage had to accept Rome’s terms. Carthage must give up:
      • All Roman prisoners, all but 10 warships, all war elephants, all control of neighbouring African peoples
      • Carthage must never make war without permission from Rome and must always help Rome when required
      • Had to pay war reparations in 50 annual installments
      • Romans were still nervous, Hannibal was still alive, and gaining power in the Carthage government.
      • 195 BC Romans sent envoys to arrest Hannibal and bring him to Rome
      • Hannibal fled and became guest of Greek Kings in Asia Minor. Romans kept trying to catch him. Eventually, he killed himself by poison.
      • Romans still weren’t satisfied. Cato wanted revenge and the hatred for Carthage wasn’t allowed to die.

The Third Punic War

  • Rome picked a quarrel with Carthage. Carthage tried to comply, but Rome kept demanding more until Carthaginians fought.
  • War was simply a siege of Carthage by the Roman army
  • They city of Carthage was savagely plundered, burned and ploughed under! Ritual salt was poured on site to symbolize eternal sterility!
  • “We have made a desert and called it peace.”
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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