The ancient Romans were very different from the ancient Greeks. The ancient Romans were down-to-earth realists, not idealists. You can see this in their statues. The Greeks made statues of perfect people. The Romans created real life statues. A statue of one of the Roman emperors is a good example. The Romans were fierce soldiers and wonderful builders. They built roads all over the empire, and all roads led to Rome. The ancient Greeks had roads, but they were not built nearly as well, and the Greek's roads did not connect in any particular order. Connect to what? Each Greek city-state was its own unit. In ancient Rome, Rome was the heart of the empire! One of the stepping stones for the Romans were the events between Carthage and its outcomes. Rome proved to be one of the Carthaginian most dangerous and stubborn foes in the three Punic Wars.
Sicily had been a important naval base for many years. Located between Italian Peninsula and mid-North African coast, it was an attractive spot for both Rome and Carthage. At first, Sicily was independent from both Rome and Carthage until trouble started in the kingdom of Messina where a civil war broke out. Messina asked for help from the Romans and Carthaginians. Rome accepted the request for help and dispatched their troops. The Romans viewed this as a great opportunity to gain Sicily over Carthage but at that same time, Carthage also sent their troops to Sicily with the same intent as the Romans. But when the Carthage arrived, Messina was already under Romans rule and the Carthaginians blamed Rome and declared war against them.
The Rome's strength laid in its mighty army, while Carthage had a virtually unsinkable navy, it was a clear mismatch from an anywhere look at it. So then Rome decided to invest heavily in the construction of new navy. In 261 they started building fleets of 20 triremes and 100 quinqueremes, in which each oar was pulled by five men. Crews were trained in ships on land. The Romans also devised a secret weapon called the "crow" (1) or corvus. This was a plank with a hook, which was held upright, until a Roman ship was next to its enemy, whereupon it was suddenly lowered. The Romans, now with naval battle experience, challenged the Carthaginians. So, rather than wasting time on a difficult siege they decided to strike directly at Carthage.
A Roman general named Marcus Regulus invented a plan to invade Carthage by going around their navy. The invasion worked well and the city of Carthage was surrounded by Romans troops. The Carthaginians held up until Greek general, Xanthippus, came to rescue. He was regarded as the best mercenary of the time and slaughtered the Roman army. To make things worse, a storm marched through the Mediterranean and drowned those who survived the battle. Romans suffered 100,000 casualties and came close to destruction. However, they focused on building back their fleet and weapons. In year 241BC, the Roman navy celebrated over the Carthaginian navy and forced Carthage into a peace treaty. In return the Romans Made Carthage pay 3,200 talents in war reward from destroying their 200 ships. The first Punic War, which began in 264BC, ended with surrender by Carthage after 23 years of struggle.
The peace treaty after the first war penalized the Carthaginians both militarily and financially. As a result, the Carthaginians could no longer afford to pay for their mercenaries and unhappy, rebelled against Carthage. Eventually, they were driven out of Carthage and setup their base at an island called Sardina. Sardina used to be Carthaginian territory, but became a neutral territory according to the new peace treaty between Rome and Carthage. Since it was a neutral territory the Carthaginians were not allowed to send their military force to the island. Finally running out of patience, the Carthaginians sent troops to put an end to the war. This encouraged Roman reaction. Romans blamed the Carthaginians for disturbance of peace. The Romans forced Carthaginians into another peace treaty which had the Carthaginians paying 1,200 talents. This treaty planted a grudge in the hearts of many Carthaginians but especially General Hamicar Barca and his son Hannibal.
After Hannibal's father Hamilcar's died, he became the leader of the Carthaginian army. Under his leadership Carthage replaced most of the wealth and military power they lost in the first war, but a new problem occurred when Carthage was expanding their territory. Hannibal attacked Saguntum and the Roman army was unable to chase Hannibal out and was forced to retreat but only for a while. Hannibal immediately took the opportunity and began what would be the most famous march in the history of mankind. Nevertheless, the Romans realized that they were in a desperate position so they delayed Hannibal until they could gather enough troops to defeat him. In 216BC, the Roman army went head to head with Hannibal's. At the end Hannibal's elephant stomped over the Roman army and Romans suffered over 80,000 casualties. With Hannibal being so close around central Italy the Romans and other towns around Italy, combined and promised to fight against Hannibal.
While all this was going on a young general named Cornellus Scipio made a plan to attack Carthage. Fearing that their capitol would be destroyed the Carthaginians told Hannibal and rest of his army to come back to North Africa, It was here Hannibal and Scipio faced each other. In 204 Scipio landed in Africa and after some success presented Carthage with an offer, of which was to evacuate Hannibal from Italy. After 15 years of fighting, the Carthaginian army could not defeat the Romans and suffered another loss. Carthage surrendered in the year 201BC and that was the end of an 18-year long second Punic war.
After the second war Carthage found themselves in another peace treaty. They lost all their territory in Spain as well as owing Rome 10,000 talents. After the treaty the Romans turned their attention to the Macedonians, who turned on them during the second Punic War. When the Romans defeated Macedonia, Carthage again tried to recover. Feeling suspicious about the Carthaginians the Romans decided to get rid of them.
First, the Romans forced Numidia, to attack Carthage. Fully aware of Roman's plot, Carthage developed an anti-Roman attitude and attacked Numidia at once. Then Romans declared war against Carthage in 149BC. When the Roman force arrived they asked Carthaginians to surrender their weapons in exchange for peace. Many of Carthaginians were afraid of another war so they gave up their weapons only to find out that Scipio was going to destroy Carthage regardless. After three years of struggle, Carthage fell into the hands of the Romans and the city was completely destroyed. As the fire burned through the city wall, the days of Carthage and Hannibal disappeared in smoke. The Romans salted the Land so that they could never rebuild again. The destruction of Carthage in 146BC concluded the 100-year old Punic Wars. The Roman now have six provinces: Sicily; Sardinia (with Corsica); two provinces in Spain named Nearer and Farther, as measured from Rome; Macedonian; and Africa.(2)
There were three distinct conflicts between Carthage and Rome during the Punic wars. When it began, Rome had nearly conquered Italy, while Carthage controlled North West Africa, and the islands of the West Mediterranean. The first war had Rome fighting to break the Carthaginian hold on the islands of the Mediterranean which enabled them to control it. The second war, had Carthage loose all of its colonies and keep only the city-state, and the third and final war had Carthage destroyed, with its walls being torn down and the grounds salted. This showed how Rome proved to be Carthage's most dangerous and stubborn foes in the three Punic wars.
1. M. L. Clarke, The Roman Mind (2nd edition) Cambridge, University Press, 1960).
2. Starr, Chester G. A History Of The Ancient World. New York, New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 1991
3. T.A. Dorey and D.R. Dudley, Rome against Carthage and Her Remains 1985
4. Trueman, John H. The Enduring Past. Toronto, ON. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1982.
1. Starr, Chester G. A History Of The Ancient World. New York, New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 1991 Pg. 481
2. Starr, Chester G. A History Of The Ancient World. New York, New York. Oxford University Press, Inc. 1991 Pg. 494.