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The Punic Wars (264-146 BCE) marked the beginning of Rome as a major political power. These three wars took place as a battle between the powerful Phoenician city-state Carthage, and the “dominant power of the Italian peninsula” Rome (Punic 2015).
Before the Punic Wars began, Carthage, a Phoenician city-state located in North Africa, was a major military power, particularly in the navy. Carthage mostly fought Greece and at the time was peaceful with Rome. They had several peace treaties between them and everything was fine until Rome overstepped their bounds into Carthage territory (Punic 2015).
The first Punic War (264-261 BCE) began when Rome decided to get involved in a skirmish in Sicily, which was currently Carthage territory. Rome brought in an army to settle the dispute and Carthage took that as an act of war. This war was over who would control the island of Sicily. Neither Carthage nor Rome successfully won the battle over Sicily on land, but Rome managed to pull out a naval defeat and seize control of Sicily. Three years later, Rome attacked again before Carthage could recover and they took control of two other Carthaginian territories, Sardinia and Corsica, ending the first Punic War. This angered General Hamilcar Barca of Carthage so much that he taught his son, Hannibal, to hate the Romans (SpeilVogel 2015).
Decades past before Rome and Carthage recovered enough to go at it again. Carthage replaced the territory they had lost by seizing control of Spain under General Hamilcar Barca. When Hamilcar died he made his son, Hannibal, general. The second Punic War (218-201 BCE) began two years later when Hannibal declared war on the Roman territory of Saguntum. Hannibal brought a vast number of troops, horses, and elephants to wage war against the Romans. The Romans were vastly outnumbered and outsmarted as Hannibal went undefeated for many battles. Rome, however, held on and attacked Spain and North Africa under General Scipio, claiming these territories and absorbing them into the Roman Republic. Hannibal had to backtrack to defend these territories and suffered great losses in doing so (Punic 2015). Hannibal killed himself rather than be taken and tortured to death by the Romans. The second Punic War was at an end and the Carthaginian Empire was no more.
There was, however, a small in-your-face skirmish started by the Romans that utterly destroyed the Carthaginians. This was known as the third Punic War (149-146 BCE) even though it wasn’t really a war. Carthage and Rome had signed a peace treaty and were at a period of rest until a politician named Cato started stirring the pot and claiming that Rome needed to destroy Carthage one and for all. So the Romans looked for anything they could use against the Carthaginians to start another war and they found a small skirmish being fought between Carthage and one of Rome’s allies in North Africa. Rome used this dispute to say that Carthage broke the peace treaty and the declared their third war on Carthage. Carthage was utterly destroyed, even the ground was salted so that nothing could grow there anymore (SpeilVogel 2015). The Punic Wars were over.
The three Punic Wars, started by the Carthaginians and won by the Romans ushered in a new political era in which the Roman Republic gradually transformed into the Roman Empire. Rome became the next great power in the Middle East.
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