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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
series of three wars with Carthage.
 Rome and Carthage came in conflict with
each other as Rome expanded into
Southern Italy and the Western
 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 Sicily
Carthage and Phoenician
Sources for the Punic Wars
Punic wars are well documented.
Original primary sources only fragmentary but highly
reliable; usually eye-witnesses/participants (esp. 2nd &
3rd Punic Wars).
Q. Fabius Pictor (fl. Ca. 200 BCE), M. Porcius Cato (234149 BCE), Polybius (200-118 BCE) all were either eyewitnesses or had access to eye-witnesses;
Polybius breaks off his account in 216 BCE;
Livy (59 BCE – 17 CE) extant is his coverage from 219167 BCE – based his account largely on Polybius..
Although sources reliable – all are quite pro-Roman
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. 4.1)
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 location.
The strait of Messana
Events leading up to the First Punic
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
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 failure
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
Mamertine’s 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 War
The 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 didn’t go anywhere - Rome unable to expel Carthaginians from
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
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 Tiberius
showing the corbita (heavy
Peace Treaty of 241 BCE
the Terms:
Carthage has to abandon Sicily.
return all prisoners.
Pays indemnity of 3200 talents in 10 annual
Must surrender all islands between Sicily and Italy.
Keep out of Italian waters.
Refrain from recruiting mercenaries in Italian waters.
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 money);
Carthage capitulates immediately.
236 BCE – Rome now demands Corsica.
236-227 BCE – Rome defeats mercenaries in Sicily, Sardinia,
227 BCE – Rome acquires its first 2 overseas provinces (1.
Sicily, 2. Sardinia and Corsica).
Polybius 3.27.1 on Terms Imposed
on the Carthaginians
“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
 Has now expanded beyond Italian
 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)
Hannibal’s 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 Hamilcar’s 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
“It is an undisputed fact that the Saguntines years before Hannibal’s time had placed
themselves under Rome’s 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.
 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 way.
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
Plunders the Italian countryside as he moves south
217 BCE – Roman victories by Q. Fabius Cunctator (The Delayer).
216 BCE – Battle of Cannae Roman suffers enormous defeat (65,000 Romans
Hannibal comes very close to Rome, but did not have siege equipment and
resources to besiege city
215 BCE – Hannibal forms alliance with Philip V of Macedon (First Macedonian
War, 215-205 BCE).
Rome is in trouble
Hannibal’s 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 Hannibal’s supply line
210 – 208 BCE – P. Cornelius Scipio (Africanus) is given special
command in Spain; captures New Carthage; defeats Hasdrubal but
does not capture him.
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
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
Pretends to negotiate peace with Carthage but destroys
unsuspecting Carthaginian troops during negotiations.
203 BCE – Hannibal is recalled to defend Carthage.
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 Africa.
Numidia receives independence as a “client-kingdom” of
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 selfdefence)
Consequences of the Second Punic War
Carthage no longer a major military power; lost its control over the Western
Rome adds two new provinces in Spain: Hispania Citerior (Nearer Spain) and Ulterior
(Further Spain).
Roman Italy devastated, staggering loss of manpower; bitter hatred toward
Hannibal and Carthage.
Enormous influx of plunder from wealthy Greek cities, especially after the sack of
Syracuse 212 BCE
Influx of wealth widened the gap between rich and poor; influx of large numbers of
commanders return with tremendous plunder – ordinary soldiers return with some
plunder but to ruined farms in Italy
Scipio’s 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 Rome’s greatest enemy ever – he had attained tremendous auctoritas
Scipio Africanus
Livy 30.45.1-7 on Scipio’s Triumph
“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
The Third and Final Punic War (149-146
Between 200 and 150 BCE, Rome’s Numidian ally
slowly encroaches on Carthaginian territory
 Carthage, as Rome’s 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 Rome’s existence unless
destroyed: famous saying – Carthago delenda est Carthage must be destroyed
 Rome declares war and Carthage is annihilated by L.
Cornelius Scipio Aemelianus - .
Cato Urges the Destruction of Carthage
“The last of Cato’s 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 Romans…In 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.)