The Punic wars are a group of three classical wars for supremacy in the Mediterranean region that were started in the year 264BC and eventually ended in the year 146BC. These wars were between the Roman Empire and the Empire of Carthage. These three battles were fought in three major places; portions of North Africa, Western parts of the Mediterranean Sea and parts of Sicily. It is important to point out that before the battle; Rome and Carthage were neighbouring empires who existed peacefully as a result of the existence of a peace treaty. For us to understand the source of the three battles, it shall be necessary to analyze each of the three wars though briefly.
1.2 The First Punic War
The demand for resources has always been and will always be a leading cause of war. The demand for prime grazing areas for their livestock and fertile lands to feed their growing populations meant that Rome and Carthage were inevitably on the war path. When Carthage invaded the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and had began to invade the island of Sicily, Rome felt threatened in part because it wanted the resources for itself and also by the emerging military supremacy of Carthage. At first, the clear advantage was Carthage’s because they possessed a fleet of battleships but after a quinnquireme washed up along the Sicilian coast, the Romans stumbled on the wreckage and deconstructed it. Once they understood the technology behind the ship they built their own versions and soon the war was at a stalemate. This however changed when a fleet of Carthagian ships were attacked by their roman counter parts off the coast of Sicily. Carthage lost this decisive battle and soon after they lost the entire war. They were forced to give up the islands they had conquered and were slapped with incredibly high fines which they were forced to pay by Rome.
1.3 The Second Punic War
1.4 The Third Punic War
The punitive measures exerted by Rome included the complete obliteration of Carthage’s military autonomy. For Carthage to go to war it had to be granted permission by the Roman leadership. During the 2nd Punic War, Carthage was attacked by its neighbour Numidia. They requested for permission to defend them elves but were denied by the Romans. They were forced to defend themselves by acting out of the confines of the treaty they’d made with Rome. This gave Rome an opportunity to declare war on Carthage. After several failed diplomatic attempts to quench the anger in Rome, the city of Carthage suffered a devastating siege that lasted several years. Carthagians had bravely repelled many attacks on their city walls but they could only do so for so long. The city was eventually captured and burned to the ground. Soon after that, Carthage became a province of the Roman Empire in North Africa.
2.0 Was the third Punic War Necessary?
I do agree that the third Punic was unnecessary for the following major reasons. First and foremost, despite the fact the Carthagians had lost the first two wars the Romans did still them as a threat to expansion of their empire. This position was ill-formed and based on fear. In fact historians assert the most important thing that the Romans learnt from the Carthagians was fear. Romans having successful prevailed against the Carthagians in the first to war feared that Carthage would one day muster enough economic and military power to fight back. So basically, the second and the third Punic wars were unnecessary, ill-informed and could have been easily avoided.
Secondly, the third Punic war was unnecessary because if the Carthagians had managed to uphold one of the most complicated of treaties in history with Rome, then the Roman would have just engaged the Carthage in another treaty based favourable terms to both parties. Indeed I strongly do believe that the second and third Punic war had more to do with the treaty between the two empire rather than the much alleged reprisals. After the first war, Carthage was forced into a treaty with Rome that was very disadvantageous to the former. From the simple fact that the treaty was highly flawed and only favoured the Romans, it was clear from the word go that grounds for future combat had already been set in motion and it was just a matter of time. Below is a brief overview of the treaty between Rome and Carthage.
However, there was one slight problem to this provision; the allies of the Rome did not have to refrain from attacking Carthage under the treaty and did not the express permission of Romans to do so. So as time would have it, the Numidians who were allies to the Roman Empire found a sport in invading Carthage and terrorizing the Carthagian on periodic basis. Carthage did not fight back because they did respect the treaty between their empire and the Romans. After the fifty year period expired, Carthagians had paid Rome the full amount of 10,000talents and they were confident they had bought their freedom from the Romans. The first order of business was to gather a small army and start a battle with Numidia which they won. In my opinion the first battle between Numidia and Carthage was justified because the latter had taken advantage of the treaty between Rome and the former. Based on that battle Romans were outraged and accused Carthage of breaking treaty therefore engaged them in the second Punic war. Years later, the third Punic war was fought again between the Romans and the Carthagians based on the sheer fact Rome failed to reign in her closest ally, Numidia.
The second and third Punic wars were unnecessary. This is because Carthage had lost the first war and therefore forced into a treaty with Rome which they did take seriously. This implies Rome had no reason to fear reprisal from the Carthagians. Secondly, the third Punic war would have been avoided had the Romans bargained for an extension of the treaty. This is because the first treaty was very complicated and did not stipulate what was to happen to Carthage after fifty years. Finally, the third provision of the treaty was unnecessary given that allies of Rome were not also required to honour the treaty between the two empires. Basically, Rome all long was looking for reason to annihilate Carthage off the face of the planet.
Barnes, Matthew. THE SECOND PUNIC WAR: THE TACTICAL SUCCESSES AND STRATEGIC FAILURES OF HANNIBAL BARCA. 3 April 2012. 21 October 2012
Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC. London, UK: Cassell Military, 2007.
May, Paul Halsall. Ancient History Sourcebook: Polybius (c.200-after 118 BCE):Rome at the End of the Punic Wars . 5 June 1997. 20 October 2012
Salas, Charles G. “Ralegh and the Punic Wars.” Journal of the History of Ideas 57.2 (1996): 195-215 .