THE PUNIC WARS
The Punic Wars were three conflicts between Rome in Italy and Carthage in northern Africa which occurred over the course of almost a hundred years, beginning with a dispute over control of Sicily and culminating in the complete destruction of the Carthaginian city and state.
The Roman Republic had been steadily expanding its power and influence throughout the Mediterranean. Its legions were legendary, but the Roman navy relatively undeveloped.
Carthage was a sophisticated city-state on the northern Coast of Africa in modern-day Tunisia, whose territory extended along the northern coast of Africa and into the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain).
THE FIRST PUNIC WAR
The first Punic War was fought between Rome and Carthage over control of Sicily in the Mediterranean. The two empires became involved in local tensions between Syracuse and Messina, with the Carthaginians aiding Syracuse and the Romans establishing a garrison at Messina.
Battles were mostly fought at sea, where the Carthaginian Navy’s supremacy was quickly overtaken by Rome’s huge industrial capacities. After a few initial Carthaginian victories, Rome gained the upper hand and managed to secure Sicily in a peace treaty signed in 241BC after a lengthy war.
THE SECOND PUNIC WAR
The second Punic War is famous for Hannibal’s legendary accomplishment of crossing the alps into Italy with dozens of elephants. Tensions had continued to mount between Rome and Carthage in the wake of the First Punic War, with Rome expanding its claims in the Mediterranean to Corsica and Sardinia. When Carthaginian general Hannibal moved to protect their allies in Iberia (southern Spain) against tribes who were under the protection of Rome, Rome took the opportunity to accuse Carthage of violating their treaties, and declared war.
Hannibal began his journey in Hispania, and crossed the Italian alps in 218BC. The Romans were caught off guard, and suffered decisive defeats to the powerful Carthaginian army. Rome shifted tactics to avoiding battles, delaying the Carthaginian army, and denying the invaders access to forage or fresh supplies. Running low on supplies, Hannibal was forced to return home and was defeated by Roman legions in Carthage.
THE THIRD PUNIC WAR
The Third Punic War didn’t take place for another 5 0 years. Concerned about Carthage’s rising wealth and power, Rome declared war and attacked the city of Carthage itself. The result was a three-year siege before the city finally fell to Rome, and was thoroughly sacked and demolished by the invading legions in 146BC.