Punic Wars are series of wars in the III-II centuries BC between Rome and Carthage for the influence over the Mediterranean Sea. It has ended by complete victory of Rome and the destruction of Carthage State. By the mid-260's BC Roman Republic finally took control of the Apennine Peninsula. Further expansion of Roman Republic has made it inevitable war with the Carthage the a powerful state in the North Africa that has controlled a large territory of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and major sea routes in the western Mediterranean.
Relations between Rome and Carthage for a long have been friendly. For about 400 BC between both countries was politically-trade agreement, in which Carthaginians recognized the authority of Rome in Latium and allowed Roman merchants to trade in Carthage and Sicily. One hundred years later, in 306 BC the two sides come to an agreement on the scope of influence, and Carthage had promised not to interfere in the affairs of Italy and Rome pledged to follow the same relation to Sicily. During the war with Pyrrhus both states were allies and mutually have helped each other.
However, when entire Italy turned out in the hands of Rome, Roman policy towards Carthage has changed. Popular Assembly made claims to extend the influence of Rome at the sea and to support this influence first of all to conquer the Sicily. Rome could not accept the fact that near his borders, close to the island remained Phoenician trading base.
Roman historian Florus has written that when the Romans captured the whole of Italy and reached the Strait of Sicily then stayed there like a flame of fire, raging, destroying all the forests until the counter river will stop them. The Romans saw in the immediate neighborhood of the richest, but isolated and cut off from Italy prey. The conflict, which served as the beginning of the First Punic War (Romans called the Carthaginians Punicus) occurred in 264 BC because of the Sicilian city of Messana that were captured by former mercenaries of tyrant Agathocles - Mamertines. In 264 BC the new ruler of Syracuse - Hieron II, wanting to capture the city began fighting against mercenaries that asked for help to both Rome and Carthage. Carthaginian troops have come sooner than Roman troops and took Messana. Between arrived to Sicily Carthage and Roman armies has begun clashes. This event is very excited Romans and Century Assembly has decided to declare war on Carthage.
In 284 BC a detachment of mercenaries from Campania (Mamertines) seized Messana, large policy (city-state) on the east coast of Sicily. Roman People's Assembly decided to include Messana in Italian union; spring of 264 BC the Roman army crossed to Sicily and, despite the opposition of the Carthaginians, took the city. In response Carthage declared war on Rome. Syracusans with the Carthaginians has besieged Messana, but failed. In 263 BC Romans defeated Hiyerona II and forced him to enter into an alliance with them. In 262 BC they took the Valle dei Templi (Agrigentum), a major stronghold of Carthage in Sicily; Cartaginesi were driven in the western part of the island. To cope with the fleet Carthage that impunity devastated the shores of Italy, the Romans in 260 BC built 120 warships. In 260 BC navy of Carthage defeated the Roman fleet at Aeolian Islands, but he was defeated in the battle near the cape Mylae.
After their failure to achieve a decisive advantage in the fight against the Carthaginians in Sicily by 259-257 BC Romans have decided to move military operations in Africa. In 256 BC, defeating Carthage fleet at Cape Ecnomus, they landed east of Carthage. After several failures Carthaginians approached to the Roman commander Marcus Atilius Regulus asking for peace, but Roman conditions were unacceptable, and Carthage, mobilizing resources, gathered a large mercenary army under the command of the Spartan Xanthippus. In the spring of 255 BC Xanthippus, utterly defeated the Roman expeditionary army. Although the Roman fleet squadron took precedence over Carthage, but large part of fleet were lost in the storm.
In 247 BC the Carthaginian army in Sicily was led by the energetic Hamilcar Barca. He launched a proactive against the Romans, making constant raids on the shores of Italy. The situation has changed only when the Romans under high pressure have imposed emergency tax to build a new fleet. In March 241 BC this fleet squadron defeated Carthage in the battle near the Aegates Islands. Understanding of the inevitable fall of Lilybaeum and Drepana, Carthage was forced to accept the peace, recognized the authority of Rome over their Sicilian possessions and pledged to pay a large indemnity. As a result of the First Punic War Roman Republic turned into a strong state of the Western Mediterranean.
First Punic War did not break the power of Carthage, and new collision was inevitable. In 238 BC, using the civil war in Carthage, the Romans have annexed Sardinia and Corsica. In 237 BC Carthaginians sent to Iberia (Spain) Hamilcar Barca, who gathered a strong army and took advantage of wars with Rome by the Gauls and Illyrians, conquered the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. After the death of Hamilcar in 228 BC his work continued by his son Hasdrubal (killed in 220 BC), and son Hannibal. In an effort to limit the expansion of the Carthaginians, the Romans have made them in 226 BC the obligation not to distribute their possessions north of the river Ebro.
In 219 BC Hannibal conquered the Roman ally - Iberian city Saguntum. In response the Roman Senate has declared war on Carthage. In 218 BC to the surprise of the Romans, Hannibal made the difficult transition from northern Iberia over the Alps to Italy and defeated two Roman armies near the river Ticunus and the river Trebia. His army was supported by Ligurian and Gallic tribes. After the establishing control over northern Italy, Hannibal in 217 BC invaded to central Italy. In spring of 217 BC he inflicted a severe defeat to consul Gaius Flaminius Nepos in the battle of Lake Trasimenus, but then he hasn't moved to Rome, but moved to Apulia, hoping to attract to his side the Italian community. However Italics mostly remained loyal to Rome.
The situation has complicated for Hannibal when the Romans chose dictator Fabius Maximus, who used a new tactic - he avoided a general engagement and exhausted enemy in small skirmishes. However, in 216 BC the Romans abandoned the tactic. In June 216 BC consul Gaius Terentius Varro gave the Carthaginians decisive battle of Cannae and suffered a terrible defeat. Many cities in Bruttium, Lucania, Picenum, and Samnium and the second largest city in Italy Capua sided with the Hannibal. It should be noted that in alliance with Carthage were also Macedonian kingdom and Syracuse.
In such conditions Rome has mobilized all its strength: Roman republic managed to avoid falling away a significant share of the Italian allies and build a new army. In an effort to distract from Italy Carthaginians, Romans opened new fronts in Spain and Sicily. However, by the end of the 210's BC they could not achieve much success. In Italy, Hannibal in 213 BC foiled Romans attempt to seize Capua, in 212 BC got a few wins in Lucania and Apulia and took largest port in the south Italy - Tarentum. Although, the Roman army has achieved a number of victories in Spain in 214-213 BC, but in 212 BC it was completely destroyed by Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother in the battle on the river Ebro. Romans were successful in Sicily, where the consul Claudius Marcellus in 212 BC captured Syracuse.
The turning point for the Romans took place in 211 BC, when they captured Capua. It has not prevented Hannibal to make demonstration march on Rome ("Hannibal at the Gates!"). In 210 BC to Spain was sent Cornelius Scipio the Elder, who in 209 BC took New Carthage, Carthage major city in Iberian peninsula. In the same year in Italy Fabius Maximus returned Tarentum under the rule of Rome. In 207 BC the Romans defeated at the Battle of the Metaurus Carthaginian army, which Hasdrubal brought from Spain to help Hannibal. In 206 BC Carthaginians were finally forced to leave Spain
In the spring of 204 BC Scipio landed in North Africa, and in 203 BC he defeated Carthaginian army at the Battle of the Great Plains, forcing the Carthaginian government to withdraw the Carthaginians and Hannibal from Italy. In 202 BC with the support of the king of Numidia Masinissa Scipio won a decisive victory over Hannibal at Zama. In 201 BC Carthage had to take the difficult conditions of the peace: Carthage gave the Romans Spain and all its island possessions in the Mediterranean, gave them almost the entire fleet, agreed to pay for fifty years a huge indemnity and agreed that wouldn't begin any war without the consent of the Roman Senate. As a result of the Second Punic War, Rome has become the leader of the Western Mediterranean, while Carthage has lost its significance, influence and power.
While the strength and attention Romans were transfixed on the east, defeated Carthage has managed to rebuild and strengthened its economic status. Forced to abandon military conquest and active foreign policy, Carthaginian merchants have begun to invest their money in agriculture in Africa. In Carthage has begun to flourish brisk trade with local tribes, widely developing field crops plantations, urban growing number of shops and traders.
This revival of economic power has caused strong dissatisfaction of Carthage in Rome, especially among the nobility and that part that was related to foreign trade. There was a strong and influential party that demanded complete destruction of Carthage, even at the cost of a new war. At the head of this party was Cato, consul and censor, who zealously promoted the idea of destruction of the Carthage. Cato himself went to Carthage as the head of Commission of Inquiry and has seen with his own eyes the wealth of this city. He promoted anti-Carthage public opinion and each of his speech in the Senate ended the same phrase: "Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed".
The reason for the war was easy to find. The instrument of Roman policy became Numidian king Masinissa. It was a talented ruler that enthusiastically has worked to build his country - forced his nomads to a sedentary life, spread council land, built the cities. However, infertile steppe-desert expanse over which Masinissa had the power, did not did not satisfy him, and he tried to get a better Carthaginian territories. Finally the expansion of Numidia has led that he has surrounded his lands around Carthage. Carthaginian senate continually sent complaints on Masinissa to Rome, but without success: the Romans maintained its ally.
Masinissa, feeling the support of the Romans kept extremely aggressive and tried to attach to his territories part of the territory of Carthage. Finally in Carthage has come to power a military party that believed that only force could respond Rome. In 151 BC there was an armed clash. Carthaginian commander suddenly with 50 000 troops moved on Numidian kingdom to completely destroy country of Masinissa. However, the Numidian king was unusually resourceful leader and in crucially battle has defeated the Carthaginian army. He had now opened the way to Carthage. However, as a good politician, he delayed at the gates and sent a complaint to Rome that the Carthaginians broke peace. Carthaginian senate tried to make amends case, sentenced to death their and sent to Rome peaceful embassy. Although the Carthaginians were defeated and confirmed obedience to Rome, the Roman senate regarded their actions as a breach of treaty of 201 BC and declared war.
Roman legions landed in Africa near Utica, and consuls and demanded that Carthage gave all weapons. Carthaginians carelessly agreed to this demand and forwarded it to the Roman military camp in 2000 siege engines and 200 thousand different weapons. Then Roman representatives declared to Carthage resolution of the Senate that the entire population should left the city and move on 10 miles away from city because the Romans decided to destroy the city. Thus, it would put an end to the economic prosperity of Carthage, based on maritime trade.
This cruel decree made a terrible impression on the Carthaginian ambassadors. According to Appian, they raised their hands with a cry to heaven and called upon the gods to witness that they were deceived by the Romans.
This news has led to uprising in Carthage. Carthaginians decided to defend their city until the end. They have elected Hasdrubal as commander, which before was sentenced to death for speaking out against Rome. To increase the number of troops was proclaimed freedom to all slaves. The quiet market city has turned into military camp. Men and women worked at day and night, every day produces a lot of weapons, catapults, and shields.
First war went badly for the Romans. Siege of Carthage was far from easy. It has dragged on for more than two years. Hasdrubal well organized defense, ensured a good supply of the city even managed to get a commitment of Numidians. Roman consuls from different sides tried to capture Carthage, but could not achieve anything.
In 147 BC the command of the army that besieged Carthage took Scipio Aemilianus - grandson of Scipio Africanus, winner of Hannibal during the Second Punic War and native son Lucius Aemilius Paullus, winner in the Battle of Pydna in the Third Macedonian War. He has strengthened discipline in the army, made a new plan of siege, circumvallated the city (surround it by a rampart), and closed access to the port. In Carthage was no means of sustenance, has begun hunger and epidemic diseases. The situation became futile to defense, so Hasdrubal already tried to make negotiations with the Romans, but Scipio has shown strong intransigence. In the spring of 146 BC Scipio proceeded to the assault.
The Romans broke into the city, began street fighting that lasted for a week, until it was taken central fortress of the city. There was a hard fight for every street, in every house. Finally the Romans burned the city in three places.
Senate committee that came in the conquered city issued a ruling to complete its destruction. Carthage was set on fire and burned for 16 days. The ruins of the city by the decree of the Senate razed to the ground and were dedicated to underground gods - there had to stay forever desert. At the destroyed city plow furrow was conducted in a sign that this place is cursed forever. The territories of Carthage were included in the Roman province of Africa.
Thus, summarizing all the mentioned above it should be stated that Punic wars was a long struggle between the two mighty republics. The prize for the victory in this struggle was the reign in the whole Mediterranean region. Thus, the fall of one of those republics was inevitable, and who knows what could have been with the Western Civilization if the Rome had lost these wars.
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