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The Punic Wars were the consequences of the expansion of Roman rule southward; bitter rivals with competing interests, Rome and Carthage pitted their military powers against each other. The strength of the Romans (which was their army) matched wits and strategies against the strength of the Carthaginians (which was their navy).
The First Punic War (264-241 B.C.E.) was caused by the debate over which of the two powers would control Sicily. It would be settled by bloodshed. The Roman cavalry was successful in capturing the eastern half of Sicily, but the western part remained in Carthaginian control thanks to the efforts of its might navy. However, this changed in 260 B.C.E., when Rome mobilized a worthy navy of their own, and after blockading their enemy’s ports on Sicily, they swiftly defeated Carthage in a great battle. The war continued until the year 241 when Rome fought and overcame another Carthaginian fleet. Almost 100,000 prisoners were taken by Rome. Carthage surrendered all remaining control of Sicily to the Romans and even agreed to pay a large indemnity to them. A treaty was reached between the empires to never engage in war with each other again.
In 238 B.C.E. that treaty was violated when Rome laid seized of the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, and then demanded that Carthage pay them an additional indemnity. It was during this time that Carthage had begun measures to extend their empire to the north of Spain, and improve their military power and presence as well there. The command of the Carthaginian army came into the hands of Hannibal; a respected leader with strong military ties down through his lineage. With Hannibal leading the charge of Carthage’s army moving north of Spain, Rome perceived this as a threat and immediately declared war. Thus, the Second Punic War was born and continued from 218 to 201 B.C.E. This time though, the Romans did not fare so well in their imperial endeavors.
At the command of the brilliant Hannibal, about 40,000 of Carthaginian troops swarmed through Spain and France, invaded Italy, and soundly vanquished the poorly prepared Roman armies. The worst defeat in Rome’s history of battles came in 216 B.C.E. when Hannibal’s troops killed an entire army of 80,000 Roman men at Cannae. Hannibal would go on to occupy the greater part of Italy for fifteen years, but with his supply lines running thin he was not able to overcome all of Italy’s cities.
In 204 B.C.E. the Romans strategized on how they would exploit Hannibal’s overstretched supplies as a weakness and conquer Italy back. The culmination of their scheming and planning was them launching a direct attack on Carthage. A Roman army (headed by the general Scipio Africanus) entered Africa just south of Carthage and made warfare against the city. Rome conquered Carthage in 202 and all of its overseas domains, like Spain. At first Rome was much divided on what they should do with Carthage. They decided they would seize total control of all Carthaginian territory but would allow the people within the city-state to continue their trading.
This decision worked comfortably for Rome until they started seeing signs of the economy of Carthage rebounding. The Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.E.) would be the final battle between Rome and Carthage. Roman soldiers swept through the city destroying everyone and everything in their paths, including the very fields around Carthage. Carthage would some time later be revived as a Roman colony, and eventually one of Rome’s wealthiest and most populated cities.
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