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The Punic Wars


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Title: The Punic Wars

Roman Expansion
  • The Punic Wars

On the eve of the Punic Wars
  • By 264 BCE on eve of First Punic War Rome was in
    complete control of the Italian Peninsula

The Punic Wars
  • A series of three wars with Carthage.
  • Rome and Carthage came in conflict with each
    other as Rome expanded into Southern Italy and
    the Western Mediterranean.
  • First Punic War 264 BCE 241 BCE.
  • Second Punic War 218 BCE 202 BCE.
  • Third Punic War 148 BCE 146 BCE.

The Carthaginians
  • Originally Phoenician colonists from Tyre
    (Phoenicia) Spoke punic founded colonies along
    North African coast, founded Carthage ca. 814 BCE
  • Political system similar to Roman, an oligarchy
    (rule of the few) had smaller territory than
    Rome, less manpower, army primarily mercenaries
  • Established a commercial empire in the western
    Mediterranean including Sicily, North and West
    Africa, Iberian Peninsula (Spain)
  • Rome and Carthage came into conflict with each
    other as Rome expanded into Southern Italy and

Carthage and Phoenician Colonization
Sources for the Punic Wars
  • Punic wars are well documented.
  • Original primary sources only fragmentary but
    highly reliable usually eye-witnesses/participant
    s (esp. 2nd 3rd Punic Wars).
  • Q. Fabius Pictor (fl. Ca. 200 BCE), M. Porcius
    Cato (234-149 BCE), Polybius (200-118 BCE) all
    were either eye-witnesses or had access to
  • Polybius breaks off his account in 216 BCE
  • Livy (59 BCE 17 CE) extant is his coverage from
    219-167 BCE based his account largely on
  • Although sources reliable all are quite

Relations between Rome and Carthage before 270 BCE
  • Have records of several treaties 508 BCE, 348
    BCE, 279 BCE.
  • Treaties from 508 and 348 BCE for the
    protection of trade interests
  • Carthage wanted to prevent Rome from trading in
    its domain
  • Rome wanted to prevent Carthage from forming
    alliances with the Latins.
  • Third treaty was a military treaty directed
    against the common threat of king Pyrrhus of

Polybius 3.22 on the Treaty of 508 BCE
  • The first treaty between Rome and Carthage dates
    to the consulship of Lucius Junius Brutus and
    Marcus Horatius, the first consuls instituted
    after the expulsion of the kings, and by whom the
    temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was founded. This
    was 28 years before Xerxes crossing to Greece. I
    have recorded below as accurate an interpretation
    as I can. For the difference between the ancient
    language and that of the Romans todayis such that
    only some of it can be made out by the most
    intelligent men through careful examination. The
    treaty is bascially as follows On these terms
    there is to be friendship between Rome and the
    Romans allies and between the Carthaginians and
    the Carthaginians allies the Romans and the
    Romans allies are not to sail with long ships
    beyond the Fair Promontory, unless forced by
    storm or by enemies if anyone should be forcibly
    carried beyond it, he is not permitted either to
    buy or to take anything except for the repair of
    the ship or for sacrifice, and shall leave within
    five days. Those coming for trade shall do no
    business except in the presence of a herald or
    official secretary. The price of whatever is sold
    in their presence shall be owed to the seller by
    guarantee of the state, if sold in Libya or
    Sardinia. If any Roman comes to the part of
    Sicily, which is under Carthaginian control, he
    shall enjoy equal rights. The Carthaginians shall
    do no wrong to the people of Ardea, Antium,
    Laurentium, Circeii, Terracina, or any of the
    other Latins who are (Roman) subjects as to
    those who are not subjects, they shall keep their
    hands off of their cities if they take one, they
    shall hand it over undamaged to the Romans. They
    shall not build a fort in Latium. If they enter
    the country as enemies, they shall not spend the
    night in the country. (Dillon Garland, Doc.
  • Note Basic terms reiterated in 348 BCE (cf.
    Polybius, 3.24.1-15. Dillon Garland, Doc. 4.2)

Polybius 3.25.1-5 on the Treaty of 279 BCE
  • The Romans made another final treaty at the time
    of the invasion of Pyrrhus, before the
    Carthaginians had started the war in Sicily in
    this they maintain everything in the existing
    agreements, and add the following If they make
    an alliance with Pyrrhus, both shall make it a
    written condition that there shall be provision
    that they shall go to the assistance of each
    other in the country which is under attack
    whichever has the need for help, the
    Carthaginians shall provide the ships for
    transport and attack, but each shall provide the
    pay for their own men. The Carthaginians shall
    aid the Romans by sea if necessary. But no one
    shall force the crews to land against their
    will. (Dillon Garland, Doc. 4.3)

Causes for the First Punic War(264-242 BCE)
  • Three-way struggle between Rome, Carthage and
    Syracuse over the control of the strait of
    Messana (modern Messina) important strategic

(No Transcript)
The strait of Messana
Events leading up to the First Punic War
  • 289 BCE death of tyrant of Syracuse, Agathocles,
    had opposed Carthage some of his mercenary
    troops, the Mamertines from Campania, seized
    Messana and plundered the countryside
  • Hiero of Syracuse defeated Mamertines in the 260s
    and besieged Messana
  • Mamertines turned for aid to Carthage, received
    troops but also Carthaginian garrison in Messana
    upset over garrison asked for help from Rome
  • In 264 BCE Roman consul Appius Claudius Caudex
    takes army to Sicily meanwhile Mamertines expel
    Carthagenian garrison
  • Carthaginian commander Hanno executed for his
  • Mamertines form alliance with Rome
  • Carthage is offended Hiero of Syracuse and
    Carthage form alliance, blockade Messana with a
    fleet and besiege city.

Fear in Politics
  • The Mamertines, who had previously lost their
    support from Rhegium, as I stated above, had now
    suffered a total defeat on their home territory
    for the reasons I have just mentioned, and some
    of them had recourse to the Carthaginians,
    offering to put themselves and their citadel
    under their protection, while others sent an
    embassy to Rome, offering to hand over the city
    and begging them as people of the same race to
    give them assistance. The Romans were for a long
    time undecided because of the obvious
    illogicality of giving them assistance. Only a
    short while earlier, the Mamertines fellow
    citizens had suffered the ultimate penalty for
    breaking their treaty with the people of Rhegium,
    and now, to try to help the Mamertines, who had
    done exactly the same not only at Messana, but at
    Rhegium as well, was an injustice which it was
    hard to excuse. The Romans were not only aware of
    this, but they saw that the Carthaginians had
    subjugated not only Libya, but also large parts
    of Spain, and that they possessed all the islands
    in the Sardinian and Tyrhennian seas, and were
    worried that, if they also gained control of
    Sicily, they might be very difficult and
    formidable neighbours, encircling them on every
    side and threatening every part of Italy.
    (Polybius, 1.10.1-6. )

The first Punic WarThe nature of the war
  • A naval war
  • At first Carthage had the advantage with one
    of the most powerful fleets in Mediterranean
  • As Carthage prepared fleet, Romans invaded
    Sicily with army
  • 263 BCE Romans attacked Syracuse, king Hiero
    surrendered, treaty with Rome
  • 262 BCE Romans captured Agrigentum
  • Carthage used fleet to isolate Roman troops in
    Sicily and raided the coast of Italy
  • The war didnt go anywhere - Rome unable to
    expel Carthaginians from Sicily
  • Rome needed navy

Polybius on the Character of Roman and
Carthaginian Military Strength
  • To pass to the details, such as the conduct of
    war to start with, the Carthaginians are superior
    at sea, as is natural, both in training and
    equipment because from olden times this practice
    has been their national pastime and they have had
    much more to do with the sea than any other
    people, while the Romans are much better
    exponents of war on land than the Carthaginians.
    For the Romans devote themselves to this
    entirely, while the Carthaginians completely
    neglect their infantry, though they do pay some
    small attention to their cavalry. The reason for
    this is that they employ foreign and mercenary
    troops, while the Romans use natives and
    citizens. (Polybius 6.52.1-4)

The end of the First Punic WAr
  • Rome built fleet and trained crews with
    assistance from Greek allies
  • 261-256 BCE Rome with new navy (250 warships
    and 80 transporters corbitae) established
    naval superiority
  • 256 BCE M. Atilius Regulus invades Africa ca.
    12,000 men Carthage hired a mercenary force
    under command of the Spartan Xanthippus.
  • 255 BCE Roman invasion failed Regulus is
    defeated, 10,000 Romans killed, 2,000 (including
    Regulus) captured.
  • 254-247 BCE Romans drive Carthaginians out of
    Sicily but much of Sicily devastated
  • 247 BCE Hamilcar Barca invades Sicily, another
    set-backs for Roman
  • 244 BCE new government in Carthage fewer
    resources available for fleet.
  • 242 BCE Roman fleet (200 strong) destroys
    Carthaginian fleet
  • 241 BCE Carthage sues for peace

Coin issued by Tiberiusshowing the corbita
(heavy merchantman)
Peace Treaty of 241 BCEthe Terms
  • Carthage has to abandon Sicily.
  • return all prisoners.
  • Pays indemnity of 3200 talents in 10 annual
  • Must surrender all islands between Sicily and
  • Keep out of Italian waters.
  • Refrain from recruiting mercenaries in Italian

Tensions between Rome and Carthage continue
(241-226 BCE)
  • Defeat of Carthage caused revolts in Africa and
    by unpaid mercenaries in Sicily and Sardinia.
  • 238 BCE Hamilcar Barca is sent to Sardinia to
    crush mercenary revolt Rome declares war on
    Carthage (demands surrender of Sardinia and more
  • Carthage capitulates immediately.
  • 236 BCE Rome now demands Corsica.
  • 236-227 BCE Rome defeats mercenaries in Sicily,
    Sardinia, Corsica
  • 227 BCE Rome acquires its first 2 overseas
    provinces (1. Sicily, 2. Sardinia and Corsica).

Polybius 3.27.1 on Terms Imposed on the
  • At the end of the war for Sicily, they made
    another treaty, with the following conditions
    The Carthaginians are to withdraw from the
    islands which lie between Italy and Sicily. The
    allies of each are to be secure from attack of
    the other. Neither is allowed to impose
    contributions, construct public buildings, or
    enlist soldiers in the others territory, nor to
    make alliances with the allies of the other. The
    Carthaginians are to pay 2200 talents within in
    ten years, and 1000 immediately. The
    Carthaginians are to hand over all prisoners to
    the Romans without ransom. Later, at the end of
    the Libyan war (238 BC) when the Romans had
    passed a decree declaring war on the
    Carthaginians, the added an additional clause to
    the treaty the Carthaginians are to withdraw
    from Sardinia and pay another 1200 talents, as I
    said above. In addition to these, the last
    agreement was made with Hasdrubal in Spain (226
    BC), That the Carthaginians are not to cross the
    Ebro in arms. These were the official contracts
    between Romans and Carthaginians from the
    beginning up to the time of Hannibal. (Dillon
    Garland, Doc. 4.17)

Consequences of First Punic War
  • Rome developed into a powerful naval power
  • Has now expanded beyond Italian penninsula
  • Acquired its first overseas provinces

Carthage and Rome
  • After 238 BCE Carthaginians begin to expand into
    Spain Rome wants to prevent Carthage to
    interfere in affairs with Gauls
  • 226 BCE Romes enters into so-called Ebro Treaty
    with Carthage
  • That the Carthaginians are not to cross the Ebro
    in arms.

Rome and Carthage in 218 BCE
Carthaginians interfere in Spain
  • Saguntum south of the Ebro River.
  • Supposed to be a Roman ally
  • 221 BCE Hannibal Barca succeeds Hasdrubal as
    Carthaginian commander in Spain claimed all of
    Spain up to the Ebro.
  • 219 BCE Hannibal accuses Saguntum of raids on
    allies of Carthage and besieges city, succeeds
    218 BCE.
  • Roman ambassadors go to Carthage and demand the
    surrender of Hannibal Carthage chooses war.
  • The Second Punic War begins(218-202 BCE)

Hannibals oath of revenge
  • The hatred, too, with which they fought was
    almost greater than their strength, for the
    Romans were angry that the conquered should of
    their own accord be attacking their conquerors,
    while the Carthaginians believed that the
    conquered had been treated with arrogance and
    greed. There is also a story that, when Hannibal
    was about nine years old, in a childish way he
    coaxed his father Hamilcar, who had finished the
    African war and was sacrificing prior to leading
    the army to Spain, to take him with him. Hamilcar
    led the boy to the altar and made him swear an
    oath, touching the offerings, that as soon as he
    could he would be the enemy of the Roman people.
    The loss of Sicily and Sardinia tormented
    Hamilcars proud spirit for he believed that
    Sicily had been surrendered in premature despair
    and that Sardinia had been wrongly snatched by
    the Romans during the African revolt with an
    indemnity imposed upon them to make matters
    worse. (Livy 21.1.3-5. )

Polybius 3.30.1-4 on the Saguntines
  • It is an undisputed fact that the Saguntines
    years before Hannibals time had placed
    themselves under Romes protection. The greatest
    evidence for this, and one accepted by the
    Carthaginians themselves, is that when political
    conflict broke out in Saguntum, they did not turn
    to the Carthaginians, although they were close at
    hand and were already involved in affairs in
    Spain, but to the Romans, and with their help
    restored the political situation. So, if one were
    to regard the destruction of Saguntum as the
    cause of the Hannibalic War, it must be admitted
    that the Carthaginians were in the wrong in
    beginning the war, both from the point of view of
    the treaty of Lutatius, in which the allies of
    each power were to be secure from attack from the
    other, and from the agreement with Hasdrubal, in
    which the Carthaginians were not to cross the
    Ebro in arms. But of we take the cause of the war
    to have been the annexation of Sardinia and the
    additional indemnity, then it must certainly be
    agreed that the Carthaginians had good reason to
    enter on the Hannibalic War, for, after yielding
    to circumstances, they were now retaliating with
    the help of circumstances against those who had
    wronged them. (Dillon Garland, Doc. 4.27)

The Second Punic War 218 BCE 202 BCE
  • Rome possessed tremendous manpower so the
    total number of Romans and allies able to bear
    arms was more than 700,000 infantry and 70,000
    cavalry, while Hannibal invaded Italy with less
    than 20,000 men. (Polybius, 2.24.16-17. Dillon
    Garland, Doc. 4.19)
  • Carthage Possessed, 1. The military genius of
    Hannibal. 2. A fiercely loyal multi-ethnic army
    of Spanish and Gallic tribes, Numidians,
    Carthaginians (mostly mercenaries). 3. The
    resources of Spain. 4. The initiative

The Opening Phases
  • Hannibal unable to defeat powerful Roman navy
    invades Italy by marching through Gaul and over
    the Alps accumulates allied troops along the
  • Hannibal has three successive victories Battle
    of Ticinus (218 BCE), at Trebia (218 BCE 30,000
    Romans killed/captured) at Trasimene (217 BCE
    ca. 40,000 killed/captured).
  • Plunders the Italian countryside as he moves
  • 217 BCE Roman victories by Q. Fabius Cunctator
    (The Delayer).
  • 216 BCE Battle of Cannae Roman suffers enormous
    defeat (65,000 Romans killed/captured).
  • Hannibal comes very close to Rome, but did not
    have siege equipment and resources to besiege
  • 215 BCE Hannibal forms alliance with Philip V
    of Macedon (First Macedonian War, 215-205 BCE).
  • Rome is in trouble

Hannibals Invasion of Italy
Rome takes war to Spain
  • 215 BCE 211 BCE Rome applies strategy of
    Fabius Cunctator the delayer
  • Roman turns to Spain undermines Hannibals
    supply line
  • 210 208 BCE P. Cornelius Scipio (Africanus)
    is given special command in Spain captures New
    Carthage defeats Hasdrubal but does not capture
  • 207 BCE Hasdrubal marches into Italy to join
    with Hannibal is
  • cut off and defeated by T. Claudius Nero at
    Battle of Metaurus.
  • 206 BCE Scipio destroys Carthaginian power in
    Spain forms alliance with kings of Numidia to
    invade Carthaginian territory in Africa.

The Final Phase of the War
  • 205 BCE Carthaginian fleet sent to reinforce
    Hannibal in Italy destroyed in storm Hannibal is
    now completely cut off.
  • 204 BCE Scipio prepares for invasion and sails
    to Africa
  • Pretends to negotiate peace with Carthage but
    destroys unsuspecting Carthaginian troops during
  • 203 BCE Hannibal is recalled to defend
  • 202 BCE P. Cornelius Scipio defeats Hannibal at
    the battle of Zama (Adds Africanus to his name)

Peace Terms of 201 BCE
  • Carthage must give up all territories outside
  • Numidia receives independence as a
    client-kingdom of Rome.
  • Carthaginian fleet reduced to ten triremes
  • Had to pay indemnity of 10,000 talents.
  • Had to ask permission from Rome to wage war (even
    in self-defence)

Consequences of the Second Punic War
  • Carthage no longer a major military power lost
    its control over the Western Mediterranean.
  • Rome adds two new provinces in Spain Hispania
    Citerior (Nearer Spain) and Ulterior (Further
  • Roman Italy devastated, staggering loss of
    manpower bitter hatred toward Hannibal and
  • Enormous influx of plunder from wealthy Greek
    cities, especially after the sack of Syracuse 212
  • Influx of wealth widened the gap between rich and
    poor influx of large numbers of slaves
  • commanders return with tremendous plunder
    ordinary soldiers return with some plunder but to
    ruined farms in Italy
  • Scipios victory over Hannibal sets in motion
    dramatic changes in political life accellerates
    competition for office hard to compete with a
    Scipio Africanus who had defeated Romes greatest
    enemy ever he had attained tremendous

Scipio Africanus Livy 30.45.1-7 on Scipios
  • With peace made by land and sea, and his army
    embarked on ships, Scipio crossed to Lilybaeum in
    Sicily. After sending a large proportion of his
    soldiers on shipboard, he made his way to Rome
    through Italy, which was enjoying peace just as
    much as the victory, while not only the cities
    poured out to honour him, but crowds of country
    folk also blocked the roads, and on his arrival
    he rode into the city in the most distinguished
    of triumphs. He brought into the treasury 123,000
    pounds of silver in weight. To the soldiers he
    distributed 400 asses each from the
    booty...Whether his popularity with the soldiers
    or the favour of the people first gave him the
    honorific surname of Africanus, just like Felix
    for Sulla and Magnus for Pompey in our fathers
    time I cannot say. He was certainly the first
    general to be distinguished by the name of a
    nation conquered by him later, following his
    example, men who were in no way his equals in
    victory won eminent superscriptions for their
    masks and glorious surnames for their families.

The Third and Final Punic War (149-146 BCE)
  • Between 200 and 150 BCE, Romes Numidian ally
    slowly encroaches on Carthaginian territory
  • Carthage, as Romes client-state, appeals to Rome
    for aid but is ignored
  • 150 BCE Carthage desperate and enters into war
    with Numidia and thus violates its peace treaty
    with Rome
  • Numidians appealed to Rome for aid
  • M. Porcius Cato persuaded Roman senate that
    Carthage would continue to be a threat to Romes
    existence unless destroyed famous saying
    Carthago delenda est - Carthage must be
  • Rome declares war and Carthage is annihilated by
    L. Cornelius Scipio Aemelianus - .

Cato Urges the Destruction of Carthage
  • The last of Catos public services is said to
    have been the destruction of Carthage. It was
    actually Scipio the Younger who completed the
    work, but the war was undertaken mainly on the
    counsel and advice of Cato, in the following way.
    Cato was sent to the Carthaginians and Masinissa
    the Numidian who were both at war with each
    other, to inquire into the reason for their
    conflict. Masinissa had been a friend of the
    Roman people from the beginning, and the
    Carthaginians had entered into a treaty with Rome
    after their defeat by Scipio (Africanus), which
    deprived them of their empire and imposed a heavy
    monetary indemnity. Finding, however, that the
    city was not, as the Romans thought, in a poor
    and unprosperous state, but well populated with
    good fighting men, teeming with immense wealth,
    full of all kinds of arms and provisions for war,
    and not a little proud of this, Cato thought that
    it was not the time for the Romans to be
    organizing the affairs of the Numidians and
    Masinissa rather, if they did not now put a stop
    to the city which had always been their most
    hostile enemy and was now grown to so
    unbelievable an extent, they would once more be
    in danger as great as before. So he quickly
    returned to Rome and advised the senate that the
    former defeats and disasters of the Carthaginians
    had lessened no so much their power as their
    foolishness, and that these were likely to make
    them in the end not weaker, but more skilful in
    warfare, while their conflicts with the Numidians
    was a prelude to a conflict with the RomansIn
    addition to this, it is reported that Cato
    arranged to drop a Libyan fig in the senate when
    he shook out the folds of his toga. To the
    senators who admired its size and beauty, he
    remarked that the country where it grew was only
    three days sail from Rome. And in one respect,
    he was even more violent, in that whenever he
    gave his vote on any issue whatever he would add
    the words In my view Carthage must be
    destroyed!... (Plutarch, Life of Cato the Elder
    26.1-27.2. Dillon and Garland, Doc. 4.61)

Polybius on the Destruction of Carthage (146 BCE)
  • Scipio, when he looked upon the city as it was
    utterly perishing and in the last throes of its
    complete destruction, is said to have shed tears
    and wept openly for his enemies. 2 After being
    wrapped in thought for long, and realizing that
    all cities, nations, and authorities must, like
    men, meet their doom that this happened to
    Ilium, once a prosperous city, to the empires of
    Assyria, Media, and Persia, the greatest of their
    time, and to Macedonia itself, the brilliance of
    which was so recent, either deliberately or the
    verses escaping him, he said A day will come
    when sacred Troy shall perish, And Priam and his
    people shall be slain. (Polybius, 38.22.)