punic wars



We explain what the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage were, their causes, consequences and events of each of them.

In the Punic Wars the great powers Rome and Carthage faced each other.

What were the Punic Wars?

It is known as the Punic Wars to a series of three warlike conflicts that faced the Republic of Rome and the Empire of Carthage. Its name came from the term that the Romans used to refer to the Carthaginians and their Phoenician ancestors: punici, so the Carthaginians themselves referred to this conflict like the "Roman wars."

These confrontations occurred between the years 246 a. C. and 146 a. C., when Rome and Carthage were the two main powers of the Mediterranean. The Punic Wars are famous because they were definitive in the establishment of Roman supremacy in the Mediterranean, along with the subsequent Macedonian Wars and the Roman-Syrian War.

Background of the Punic Wars

The antecedents of this series of conflicts must be sought in the expansion of the Roman Republic, which towards the third century BC. C. had already conquered Magna Grecia. In this way, it controlled an important Mediterranean region.

For their part, the Phoenicians founded their town on the coast of Tunisia in 264 BC. This urban center, Carthage, quickly became a commercial empire, owner of the most powerful navy of the moment.

The Romans, on the other hand, had the most powerful army of the time, at the service of their fierce conquest interests. For centuries the patricians had adopted an imperial culture, which allowed them to better deal with the social tensions of the Republic, seeking a common external enemy.

Thus, Rome began to act as an incipient empire, distributing the spoils of its numerous conquests among its citizens.

Causes of the Punic Wars

Rome and Carthage competed for control of the Mediterranean.

The confrontation between these two powers was simply inevitable, considering the threat that Roman expansion posed to the Carthaginian commercial dominance of the Mediterranean.

However, the initial trigger for the conflict was the invasion of Messina. This Greek city was in the power of the pre-Roman Italian people of the Oscars, by the tyrant of Syracuse Hiero II, who had the support of the Carthaginians.

As the Sicilian Greeks denied their aid to the Oscans, they turned to Rome for help, resulting in Rome and Carthage being seen as rivals for the first time, albeit in a minor and local conflict. The defeat of Hierón II in front of the Romans and his negotiation with them led to the breaking of his alliance with Carthage.

Thus, Rome, in successive years, seized formerly Carthaginian territories, thus properly unleashing the Punic Wars.

First Punic War (264-241 BC)

This was an eminently naval war, which involved a very high cost for both Romans and Carthaginians.It was born out of the local conflict between the Oscars and the invasion of Syracuse. The war It began with the defeat of the Carthaginians at Agrigento, which convinced them better to retain their maritime advantage, since they had a larger and more experienced navy.

However, its small victories, such as in the Aeolian Islands, led Rome to dedicate its entire production capacity in favor of a new and massive navy, obtaining in less than two months around 100 ships.

These new ships also had technological incorporations that allowed them to deal with the most agile and fast ships of Carthage. From that moment, in addition to the heavy infantry that was his specialty, Rome acquired techniques for boarding enemy ships.

The result was an overwhelming Roman victory, except for the battles of the Plains of Bagradas, in Africa, or those of the Aeolian Islands and Drépano. Amid an almost uninterrupted streak of defeats, Carthage signed in 241 BC. C. a peace treaty, in which Sicily delivered in its entirety to Roman rule.

This left Carthage deeply weakened. In 240 a. His mercenary troops rebelled, unleashing the so-called Mercenary Wars. Rome seized the opportunity to intervene quickly and also seized control of Corsica and Sardinia in 238 BC. C., since then talking about the Mare nostrum ("Our sea") to refer to the Mediterranean Sea.

Second Punic War (218-201 BC)

The Carthaginians crossed the Alps on elephants to attack Rome.

The Second War between Rome and Carthage is perhaps the best known of the three. It was unleashed by the Carthaginians who attacked the Spanish city of Sagunto, allied to the Republic of Rome. In command of the Carthaginians was General Aníbal Barca, considered one of the best military strategists of the history.

This conflict had apparently been foreseen by Rome after the end of the First Punic War, as it proceeded to open up and rearm. In addition, it had expanded towards Hispania (the name of the Iberian Peninsula at that time), allying itself with traditional enemies of Carthage.

Hannibal, ignoring the threats of Rome, led his army to the north of Hispania, and from there on a daring invasion course towards Italy, crossing the Alps with his army mounted on elephants.

Thus he reaped an important series of victories on Italian soil, such as the battles of Ticino, Trebia, Trasimeno and Cannas, crushing two entire consular armies. The Carthaginians gave Rome the most humiliating defeat in its military history since the sack of the Gauls in the 4th century BC. C.

However, the crossing of the moutains and the subsequent battles left Hannibal without the strength to besiege Rome, although with enough to resist his attempts at expulsion. Under Hannibal, Carthage's army was in Italy for sixteen years.

Meanwhile, his Roman enemies were also battling against Carthage in Sicily and Hispania, and at the same time against King Philip V of Macedonia, an ally of Hannibal, thus unleashing the First Macedonian War in Greece.

However, this situation was resolved after the Roman victory in Hispania and the return to Sicily of the Roman legions, led by the famous Roman commander Publio Cornelio Scipio, "the African".

This was followed by the intention of assaulting Carthage itself. For this Scipio landed in Africa and he allied himself with the Numidian prince Massinissa, at war at the time against Carthage's allies, the Numada king Sifax.

Aníbal then had to be returned to their lands, to be defeated in the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. This new defeat before Rome deprived Carthage of its commercial colonies and forced it to sign a treaty of peace in which his empire was reduced to little more than the city of Carthage.

Third Punic War (149-146 BC)

The third and last of the wars between Rome and Carthage consisted of little more than the siege of the city of Carthage, which predictably culminated in its plunder and total destruction.

The conflict was due to the Roman desire to appease the hard way the growing sentiment against him that arose in Greece and Hispania. It coincided with Carthage's announcement that, having already paid off the debts imposed by the peace treaty of the Second Punic War, they were considered free from its terms.

Eager to set an example, Rome began in 149 BC. C. a series of claims to Carthage, each one more demanding than the previous one, hoping to incite the Carthaginians to another open military conflict, but lacking casus belli, that is, of a public reason to start the war.

Rome unleashed war by demanding that Carthage be demolished and moved to a point further away from the Mediterranean coast on the African continent. Faced with the obvious refusal of the Carthaginians, Rome declared war. Thus began a first siege that the Carthaginian people heroically resisted, involving even women and children in the struggle.

But a second offensive led by Publio Cornelio Escipión Emiliano, political grandson of Scipio "the African", defeated the Carthaginian defenses after 3 years of siege. Carthage was sacked, burned to the ground, and its citizens seized and sold as slaves.

End of the Punic Wars and consequences

As a consequence of the Punic Wars, Carthage was destroyed.

The end of the Punic Wars came along with its main consequence, which was the total destruction of Carthage and the absorption of its commercial empire by the Roman Republic. After also defeating the Macedonians and the Syrians, Rome has since established itself as the supreme power of the Mediterranean Sea.

The myth of the city of Carthage, of its valiant general Hannibal and of his tragic disappearance, however, lasted in the weather and it is still a source of inspiration for works of art and of historical epics.

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