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The Punic Wars

The Punic Wars

By 264 B.C., Rome was an international force to be reckoned with. They had conquered all of the Italian Peninsula, and had built the most powerful army in the world. The only power in the region that could match that of the Romans was Carthage.


The city-state of Carthage had colonies around the Mediterranean, and had built the strongest navy in the world. The Romans worried that the Carthaginians would seize the Strait of Messina, a passageway between Italy and Sicily. In order to protect this region, Roman generals marched their armies South, and destroyed most of the Carthaginian colonies in the area.

This battle began a war with Carthage that would last for the next 25 years. While Rome’s army was more powerful, the Carthaginians navy gave them an advantage. They could attack along the coast and then retreat to the sea, where they were safe.

To combat against this tactic, the Romans built their own fleet of war ships. They also developed new sea warfaring techniques that allowed them to use their land fighting skills in sea battles. The Romans would use grappling hooks to attach themselves to a ship. They could then board the ship and fight man to man.

By 241 B.C., the Romans forced Carthage to surrender. As part of this surrender, Carthage paid Rome a large tribute of land and treasure.

In 221 B.C., a young Carthaginian general by the name of Hannibal again tried to attack Rome. Hannibal marched 40,000 troops and 40 elephants over the Alps into the Roman homeland.

Hannibal's Army

Caught unexpectedly, the Romans suffered many losses. By 216 B.C., Hannibal had almost completely defeated the entire Roman army. However, the Romans continued to fight. Citizens were called up from all parts of the empire to defend their homeland.

By 202 B.C., Rome was able to defeat Hannibal under the direction of a Roman general named Scipio.

In 146 B.C., Carthage again began to grow in strength and power. Rome worried that they might again try to attack. In order to insure that this did not happen, Rome decided to attack Carthage, and to wipe it off the face of the Earth.

Roman armies took the war to the Carthage homeland where they sold all the Carthaginians into slavery, and even went so far as to sow salt into their fields so that the area could never again be used for farming. This ended the Punic Wars, and the threat that Carthage posed to Rome.