The Western Mediterranean 264 BCE

The Western Mediterranean 264 BCE

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Know what caused the Punic Wars and how it led to the destruction of Carthage

Punic Wars, or Carthaginian Wars, Three wars (264–241, 218–201, 149–146 bce ) between Rome and Carthage. The first concerned control of Sicily and of the sea lanes in the western Mediterranean it ended with Rome victorious but with great loss of ships and men on both sides. In 218 Hannibal attacked Roman territory, starting from Spain and marching overland into Italy with troops and elephants. After an initial Carthaginian victory, Fabius Maximus Cunctator harassed Hannibal wherever he went without offering battle. Abandoning that tactic resulted in a major Roman loss at the Battle of Cannae (216) that defeat drew the Romans together, and, though worn down, they managed to rally, eventually defeating Hannibal at the Battle of Zama (202). The Third Punic War was essentially the siege of Carthage it led to the destruction of Carthage, the enslavement of its people, and Roman hegemony in the western Mediterranean. The Carthaginian territory became the Roman province of Africa.

Australian National University, Australia

Australian National University, Australia


The First Punic War began in 264 BCE as a minor diplomatic scuffle between two major western Mediterranean powers, Carthage and Rome, over which one of them should aid a much smaller power, the Sicilian city of Messana, against a mid-sized, regional power, Syracuse. Through a complicated series of diplomatic incidents and political maneuverings by all parties, Carthage and Rome found themselves locked in a 23-year-long struggle for possession of a large portion of the island of Sicily and naval supremacy in the western Mediterranean. The war ended in 241 BCE with the Carthaginian defeat at the battle of the Aegates Islands. The treaty that ended the war, the Treaty of Lutatius, mandated the Carthaginian evacuation of Sicily and the payment of an indemnity of 3200 silver talents.

First Punic War (264 to 241 B.C.E.)

The First Punic War (264 B.C.E.-241 B.C.E.) was fought partly on land in Sicily and Africa, but was also a naval war to a large extent. The struggle was costly to both powers, but after more than 20 years of war, Rome emerged victorious, at last conquering the island of Sicily and forcing the defeated Carthage to pay a massive tribute. The effect of the long war destabilized Carthage so much that Rome was able to seize Sardinia and Corsica a few years later when Carthage was plunged into the Mercenary War.

Western Mediterranean Sea in 264 BC. Rome is shown in red, Carthage in purple, and Syracuse in green. / Wikimedia Commons

The war began as a local conflict in Sicily between Hiero II of Syracuse, and the Mamertines of Messina. The Mamertines had the bad judgment to enlist the aid of the Carthaginian navy, and then betray the Carthaginians by entreating the Roman Senate for aid against Carthage. The Romans sent a garrison to secure Messina, and the outraged Carthaginians then lent aid to Syracuse. With the two powers now embroiled in a local conflict, tensions quickly escalated into a full-scale war between Carthage and Rome for the control of Sicily.

The War at Sea

After a vicious defeat at the Battle of Agrigentum in 261 B.C.E., the Carthaginian leadership resolved to avoid further direct land-based engagements with the powerful Roman legions, and concentrated on the sea, where they believed they had an advantage. Initially, the experienced Carthaginian navy prevailed against the fledgling Roman Navy in the Battle of the Lipari Islands in 260 B.C.E. Rome responded by drastically expanding its navy in a very short time. Within two months the Romans had a fleet of over 100 warships. Because they knew that they could not outmaneuver the Carthaginians in the traditional tactics of ramming and sinking enemy ships, the Romans added an “assault bridge” to Roman ships, known as a corvus. This bridge would latch onto enemy vessels, bring them to a standstill. Then shipboard Roman legionaries were able to board and capture Carthaginian ships through hand-to-hand fighting, a skill that the Romans were more comfortable with. This innovative Roman tactic reduced the Carthaginian navy’s advantage in ship-to-ship engagements, and allowed Rome’s superior infantry to be brought to bear in naval conflicts. However, the corvus was also cumbersome and dangerous, and was eventually phased out as the Roman navy became more experienced and tactically proficient.

Save for the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Tunis in Africa, and two naval engagements, the First Punic War was nearly an unbroken string of Roman victories. In 241 B.C.E., Carthage signed a peace treaty ceding to Rome total control of Sicily.

At war’s end, Rome’s navies were powerful enough to prevent the amphibious invasion of Italy, control the important and rich sea trade routes, and invade other shores.

In 238 B.C.E. the mercenary troops of Carthage revolted (see Mercenary War) and Rome took the opportunity to take the islands of Corsica and Sardinia from Carthage as well. From that point on, the Romans effectively controlled the Mediterranean, referring to it as “Mare Nostrum” (“our sea”).

Carthage spent the years following the First Punic War improving its finances and expanding its colonial empire in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, modern Spain and Portugal), under the Barcid family. Rome’s attention was mostly concentrated on the Illyrian Wars. In 219 B.C.E., Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, attacked Saguntum in Hispania, a city allied to Rome, beginning the Second Punic War.

War Was the Backdrop of the Western Canon

This nation, like much of the world, owes an enormous debt to ancient Greece and Rome. Our political framework, our political philosophies, even our government buildings reflect theirs. Many of our noblest ideas descend from the thinking of Greek philosophers, and Latin words and concepts pervade our language. The epic and lyric poetry of the ancients, their public rhetoric, their art, their musings, their values, and their histories have shaped the way we think and write and govern.

That said, we tend to ignore an unpleasant fact: The ancients were almost constantly at war. To a large extent these societies were designed for war. (They also relied heavily on slavery, but that is a topic for another day.).

Just as words like stoicism and sophistry come from the Greeks, so do the terms Pyrrhic victory and Achilles’ heel.

A few examples of the fighting: Greeks and Persians fought on and off for 50 years (499 B. C. to 449. B.C.). Then two Greek poleis, Sparta and Athens, battled one another, first in a 15-year war from 461 B.C. to 446 B.C., then in the Great Peloponnesian War, which lasted from 431 B.C. to 404 B.C (27 years). Rome and Carthage fought two lengthy Punic Wars (264 B.C. to 241 B.C. and 218 B.C. to 201 B.C.). Indeed, the Greek city-states and Rome got their start by militarily overcoming the territories around them. [1]

I’ve toyed with criticism of the ancients before, due to my study of Frederic Bastiat. This nineteenth-century French libertarian castigated his nation’s system of education because it devoted so much attention to the Greeks and Romans, whose values of courage, physical discipline, and loyalty to one’s group, he considered warlike. As I wrote in 2019, Bastiat considered such “virtues” not just military virtues but worse—like honor among thieves or, in his terms, among “buccaneers” and “brigands,” which is how he viewed many of the ancients.

While auditing a course in ancient Mediterranean civilizations this spring, I began thinking about Bastiat’s views again. So let’s look at the bellicosity of the ancients.

Sparta was a polis on the Greek peninsula of Peloponnesus. When Spartan boys reached the age of seven, the state took them from their parents and initiated military training, with an emphasis on endurance. Plutarch (first century A.D.) told the apocryphal but emblematic story of the Spartan boy who stole a fox (which boys were taught to do—learning to live off the land). [2] When the fox’s owners came by, he hid it in his clothing. The fox began to eat the boy’s innards but he remained silent, dying in the process. That’s endurance.

Military service was the only profession for the Spartan male. The mundane work was done primarily by helots, slaves owned by the state. I don’t know the roles of women, but I do know that the Spartan aristocrats (“Spartiates”) gradually declined in number along with the decline of the polis.. By 371, B. C., there were 20,000 male slaves and only around 2000 male “Spartiates.” [3] Something wasn’t working.

Athens was the Paris of Greek culture—the city that philosophers, artists, and metics (foreigners who owned shops and carried on trades) flocked to. Athenian citizens, democratic though they were, engaged in many wars.

For example. in 477 B.C., Athens founded the Delian League, composed of numerous Greek city-states, including those across the Aegean Sea on Asia Minor. The goal was to build a navy to oppose the Persians, and many poleis contributed money rather than men or ships.

After the Persian wars ended, Athens kept the league going, demanding that the tribute continue (and backing that demand with its navy’s force). Those funds and some silver mines helped Athens become a major commercial and artistic center and enabled its citizens to live almost free of taxes.

Rome went to war to establish itself as an empire and subsequently created the Pax Romana, about 200 years of peace (a point I acknowledge). In contrast, however, the nearly 500 years of the Republic were years of almost constant war against changing adversaries.

Essentially, the Romans went to war every year. Why? Because military glory was the ladder to political success. Without military experience a citizen could not hope to become a consul, the highest political position—or, likely, even a magistrate.

Furthermore, for all citizens, military action was honorable—a rite of passage for the young and an opportunity for citizens of lowest status to obtain booty from the conquered cities. When the army was successful, soldiers could go house to house in the conquered polis and loot it the loot they were allowed to keep reflected their military rank. The Romans also obtained captives this way the captives became slaves.

Let me conclude by mentioning a small temple located near the Roman Forum. It was dedicated to Janus, the god of gates but also of endings and beginnings (the reason January is named after him). The temple had two gates. When Rome was at war, they were open when Rome was at peace, they were closed. During the entire history of the Republic, from 509 B.C. to 31 B.C., they were closed only three times, for a total of eight years.

So, the ancients fought a lot. This disturbs me, but I must ask a fundamental question: How does this constant belligerence compare with belligerence in the modern world?

[1] The Trojan War was part of Greek mythology, brought to life by Homer, although there was a Troy and there may have been a war.

The Arrival of Steppe and Iranian Related Ancestry in the Islands of the Western Mediterranean

A series of studies have documented how Steppe pastoralist-related ancestry reached central Europe by at least 2500 BCE, while Iranian farmer-related ancestry was present in Aegean Europe by at least 1900 BCE. However, the spread of these ancestries into the western Mediterranean where they have contributed to many populations living today remains poorly understood. We generated genome-wide ancient DNA from the Balearic Islands, Sicily, and Sardinia, increasing the number of individuals with reported data from these islands from 3 to 52. We obtained data from the oldest skeleton excavated from the Balearic islands (dating to ∼2400 BCE), and show that this individual had substantial Steppe pastoralist-derived ancestry however, later Balearic individuals had less Steppe heritage reflecting geographic heterogeneity or immigration from groups with more European first farmer-related ancestry. In Sicily, Steppe pastoralist ancestry arrived by ∼2200 BCE and likely came at least in part from Spain as it was associated with Iberian-specific Y chromosomes. In Sicily, Iranian-related ancestry also arrived by the Middle Bronze Age, thus revealing that this ancestry type, which was ubiquitous in the Aegean by this time, also spread further west prior to the classical period of Greek expansion. In Sardinia, we find no evidence of either eastern ancestry type in the Nuragic Bronze Age, but show that Iranian-related ancestry arrived by at least ∼300 BCE and Steppe ancestry arrived by ∼300 CE, joined at that time or later by North African ancestry. These results falsify the view that the people of Sardinia are isolated descendants of Europe’s first farmers. Instead, our results show that the island’s admixture history since the Bronze Age is as complex as that in many other parts of Europe.

Punic wars

Collective name on the wars between the Punic (the Romans used the name Poeni on the people of Carthage) city-state of Carthage (now outside Tunis, Tunisia) and Rome, the first war starting in 264 BCE, and the last ending in 146.

The wars were fought between the two strongest contenders for control over the central Mediterranean Sea of the time. For a long time during the second Punic war, it could seem that Carthage would become the victor.

The wars ended with the strong destruction of Carthage, which ended the city’s period as an independent powerhouse and an important trade center. However, the city would later become an important trading center inside the Roman Empire.

1st Punic War (264-241 BCE)
In the first half of the 3rd century BCE, Carthage held many territories that made it easy for them to control and dominate the western Mediterranean Sea, but when they conquered Messana (now Messina) on the northeastern tip of Sicily in 264, they faced the Romans for war for the first time.

The locals of Messana had requested Rome for aid, and for many different reasons Rome came to their rescue. The fear of a powerful neighbor was only one out of several motivations by the Romans. The promise of glory and plunder was also of great importance.

This war was fought mainly at sea around Sicily, and Carthage was by far the strongest of the two in this field. This supremacy was met by a large scale Roman construction of a naval fleet. After some years this brought its results, and it was reflected in the fightings, where Rome became stronger and stronger.

In 256 Carthage was besieged, but the Romans were defeated. Then for some years, Carthage was the most successful, notedly under the leadership of Hamilcar, but with the battle at the Aegates Islands in 241, the Carthaginians were beaten so painfully that they requested peace. This agreement involved leaving Sicily and paying a huge indemnity. Rome now controlled Sicily.

2nd Punic War (218-201 BCE)
The most important of the three wars was the second, and also the most fascinating. It was the Carthaginian’s bitterness over both the agreement from the first war and the Roman expansion following the next years (Corsica and Sardinia were taken from Carthage in 237), that brought it on.

From 237 to 219 Hannibal, son of Hamilcar, and Hasdrubal, Hamilcar’s son-in-law, conquered parts of Spain. In 226 an agreement with Rome set the northern border of the Carthaginian conquest to Ebro river (in northern Spain). But then the Romans themselves crossed the Ebro river, heading south on a conquest train, Hannibal decided to face them. This was at Saguntum (Sagunto, north of modern Valencia) in 219.

It was the same multiplicity of reasons as in 264, that made Rome declare war in 218. Then Hannibal did the totally unexpected: he set off in the northern direction and brought with him large troops including elephants. He crossed the Alps as much as 300 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The crossing of the Alps was hazardous, and large parts of the troops, as well as the elephants, were lost.

Hannibal could after the crossing enjoy a high star and had for some time success in recruiting locals to his troops. This was especially the truth for the Gauls in today’s northern Italy.

Even if Hannibal made alliances, and won several battles in the early years, he did not succeed in winning decisive battles. To some extent it could be suggested that he avoided a couple of them.

The Romans used a tactic of delaying, and they had a stronghold on the communications over both land and sea. This would eventually result in declining morals in Hannibals troops, and a fast falling star among local peoples of what is today’s Italian peninsula. After some time, Hannibal’s troops had become like a state without land, drifting around, always looking for new alliances and weak points in the Roman defense, but never finding it.

In 209 Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal Barca, repeated Hannibal’s Alp adventure, bringing reinforcements, but he was beaten in 207 at Metaurus river (near today’s Pesaro). The following year the Carthaginians were driven completely out of Spain.

In 204 the Roman sunder the leadership of Scipio invaded Ifriqiya (today’s Tunisia), and despite strong resistance, a peace was almost arranged in 203, when Hannibal returned.

Hannibal was beaten in Zama (near today’s Maktar, Tunisia) in 202. Peace was signed in 201. All claims on Spain were given up, and the Punic fleet was reduced to ten ships.

3rd Punic War (149-146 BCE)
The third war was entirely provoked by the Romans. After the second defeat, Carthage managed once again to return to much of its former glory, the economy prospered, and the fleet increased.

But the memory of the former Punic wars was strong in Rome many hated the Carthaginians especially because there seemed to be nothing that could force them on their knees. Many Romans wanted to gain glory, and no enemy was more attractive than Carthage, even if the city-state now longer aspired to become an empire.

Rome used their ally, Masinissa, who ruled over Numidia to the west of Carthage, to bring forward a pretext for going to war.

Masinissa deliberately provoked Carthage, and in 149 Carthage attacked him. Rome came to aid for their ally, through declaring war on Carthage. The difference in military force was now to Rome’s advantage, and few battles were fought to decide who was the strongest.

At first a peace was agreed upon, but then Rome increased their demands, decreeing a total abandonment of the city. Facing these claims, the Carthaginians returned to fighting, and soon Carthage fell under what would become a 3 year-long siege.

When the Romans finally breached the walls, one week of fighting inside the city followed, then the city was burned, and the locals were either executed or sold into slavery.

The Punic Mediterranean

Josephine Crawley Quinn is University Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Oxford and a Fellow and Tutor of Worcester College, and works on Mediterranean history and archaeology. She has a particular interest in ancient North Africa, but has published articles on topics from Roman imperialism to Athenian sculpture to Carthaginian child sacrifice to Edwardian education, and she co-edited another volume of essays on The Hellenistic West (with Jonathan Prag, Cambridge, 2013). She co-directs, with Andrew Wilson and Elizabeth Fentress, the excavations at Utica (Tunisia) as well as, with Jonathan Prag, the Oxford Centre for Phoenician and Punic Studies. She is currently writing a book on Phoenicianism from Homer to the Arab Spring.

Nicholas C. Vella is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta. His research interests are varied and include the historiography of antiquarianism and archaeological practice in the Mediterranean, later Mediterranean prehistory, and Phoenician and Punic ritual practices. He has co-edited Debating Orientalization (2006) with Corinna Riva, and has recently published another collection of essays on the Maltese Bronze Age with Davide Tanasi. He supervised the University of Malta excavations at the Phoenician sanctuary site of Tas-Silġ in Malta between 1996 and 2005, and has co-edited the final report that is forthcoming with Peeters (Leuven). He co-directed the excavations of a small Punic shrine in Gozo (Malta) between 2005 and 2010, and is co-director of a field-walking project in Malta.

The biblical seven species

The biblical seven species – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and date honey, together with some indigenous foods from the Middle East – are now scientifically recognised as healthy food, and could further improve the beneficial MedDi (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Proposed additions of biblical components to the Mediterranean diet pyramid


The origins and spread of domesticated grains have been traced to the Fertile Crescent spreading from Mesopotamia (the cradle of civilisation) ( Reference Braun 9 – Reference Redman 12 ) . It would appear that such food use reached the Middle East before the Greek Islands. The pivotal role of bread is further emphasised in its important status and use during festivals. In the tenth century BC, carvings on limestone describe the harvest seasons in the land of Israel according to the Gezer calendar, which is a rhythmic enumeration of the agricultural seasons. In the dry summer months, vines were pruned and figs, dates, pomegranates and grapes ripened and the wheat was harvested, whereas in the spring season barley was harvested. Wheat flour and grain have provided the staple (breads, pitas, etc.) for different types of meals throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is the basic food par excellence and is at the centre of food culture. The health benefits of fibre and complex carbohydrates are beyond the scope of the present review.


In ancient times, olives were consumed by farmers and accompanied travellers and nomads, and in addition were a popular appetizer. Romans served olives as starters and desserts in their rich symposiums. Olive oil is a hallmark of the MedDi, and has a moderate fat content, in the range of 30–40 % of energy derived from fat. The majority of fat in olive oil is MUFA. Fat from edible olives and olive oil consists of oleic acid (18 : 1, n-9 75 %), saturated fat (15 %) and PUFA (10 %). Olive oil is extracted from deeply pigmented olives that are rich in phytonutrients, including the phenolics hydroxytyrosol and oleorupein. When replacing saturated fat, olive oil reduces absolute levels of serum LDL, inhibits its oxidation ( Reference Aviram and Eias 13 , Reference Berry, Eisenberg and Friedlander 14 ) and attenuates atherogenesis, with a most impressive effect shown for extra virgin oil that was enriched with green tea polyphenols ( Reference Rosenblat, Volkova and Coleman 15 ) .

In biblical times, olive oil was cold pressed and stored in dark, opaque glass containers. This was to avoid the powerful oxidative action of sunlight. Unprocessed olive oil has the greatest antioxidant effect. Comparison of extracted phenolic compounds from extra virgin olive oil and processed olive oil showed that extra virgin olive oil had significantly greater antioxidant effects than processed olive oil ( Reference Fitó, Covas and Lamuela-Raventós 16 ) . It therefore seems that during the modern process of olive oil refinement, some of the phenolic content is reduced. The extra virgin unprocessed olive oil of the biblical diet has a higher concentration of antioxidants, which in turn may prevent LDL oxidation. In addition to its advantageous effects on blood cholesterol quantity, as well as quality, olive oil also has anti-carcinogenic action. A major component of phenols is lignans, which are found in olive oil. Owen et al. ( Reference Owen, Giacosa and Hull 17 ) found that they have a protective function against cancer of the breast, colorectum, oesophagus and prostate. Animal models show that the sterol squalene that is found in olive oil represses tumour growth ( Reference Newmark 18 ) . Although the high fat content of olives could be of concern due to potential weight gain ( Reference Ferro Luzzi, James and Kafatos 19 ) , obesity is not just the result of high-fat diets ( Reference Willett and Leibel 20 ) . Rather, MUFA have been shown to increase postprandial fat oxidation, diet-induced thermogenesis and energy expenditure ( Reference Soares, Cummings and Mamo 21 ) hence, moderate consumption of olive oil is less likely to cause weight gain. It is of interest that in all populations studied, irrespective of geography and diet, oleic acid is the major storage adipose tissue fatty acid derived from the diet, as well as from de novo fatty acid synthesis. The reason for this is not clear, but may relate to oleic acid physico-chemical (fluidity) and biochemical (antioxidant) properties ( Reference Berry 22 ) . Oleic acid is the dominant storage adipose tissue fatty acid, irrespective of where people live and what they eat ( Reference Berry 23 ) .


Fruit of the date palm (Phoenix Dactylifera L. Arecaceae) are an important component of the diet in the Middle East and North Africa. Dates are an ideal high-energy food as they contain high sugar content. They are also a good source of fibre and minerals, such as Ca, Fe, Mg, K and Zn ( Reference Al-Shahib and Marshall 24 , Reference Ali, Al-Kindi and Al-Said 25 ) . Date fruit are used in folk medicine for the treatment of various infectious diseases and cancer ( Reference Puri, Sahai and Singh 26 ) , probably as a result of their immunomodulatory activity ( Reference Puri, Sahai and Singh 26 ) , antibacterial capacity ( Reference Sallal and Ashkenani 27 ) and antifungal properties ( Reference Shraideh, Abu-El-Teen and Sallal 28 ) . Furthermore, aqueous extracts of dates were shown to have potent antioxidant activity ( Reference Vayalil 29 ) , as they inhibit in vitro lipid and protein oxidation, and possess substantial free radical scavenging capacity. The above antioxidant activity is attributed to the wide range of phenolic compounds present in dates, including p-coumaric, ferulic and sinapic acids, as well as flavonoids and procyanidins ( Reference Hung, Tomas-Barberan and Kader 30 , Reference Al-Farsi, Alasalvar and Morris 31 ) . Aviram et al. ( Reference Rock, Rosenblat and Borochov-Neori 32 ) showed for the first time the in vivo beneficial effect of Medjool or Hallawi date varieties, despite very high content of sugars, consumed by healthy subjects on serum glucose, lipids and oxidative stress. Both date varieties possessed antioxidative properties in vitro, but their antioxidant properties in vivo were unknown. In the present study, ten healthy subjects consumed for a period of 4 weeks, 100 g/d of either Medjool or Hallawi dates. The dates did not significantly affect serum total cholesterol, or the cholesterol levels in VLDL, LDL or HDL fractions. Fasting serum glucose and TAG levels were not increased, and in fact serum TAG levels even decreased moderately but significantly by 8 % and 15 % after consumption of Medjool or Hallawi dates, respectively. After consumption of Hallawi dates alone, basal serum oxidative status was significantly decreased, as was the susceptibility of serum to 2,2′-azobis(2-amidino-propane) dihydrochloride-induced lipid peroxidation. In agreement with the above results, serum activity of the HDL-associated antioxidant enzyme paraoxonase 1 (PON1) increased significantly after Hallawi date consumption. Thus, date consumption (mainly of the Hallawi variety) by healthy subjects, in spite of their high sugar content, had beneficial effects on serum TAG and oxidative stress, and did not aggravate serum glucose and lipid profiles ( Reference Rock, Rosenblat and Borochov-Neori 32 ) .


The pomegranate has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region since ancient times and was introduced into Egypt from Syria and from Israel around 1600 BC. In the Bible, the coat of the high priest was adorned with pomegranates (Exodus 39: 24–26). Many are the quotations concerning this luscious fruit especially in the Song of Songs: ‘As a piece of pomegranate are thy temples (cheeks)’ (6:7) ‘I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine and the juice of my pomegranate’ (8:2).

In Greek mythology, pomegranates were a symbol of life and rejuvenation. They are a potent antioxidant containing ellagitannin polyphenolic compounds such as punicalagins and punicalins, as well as ellagic acid and gallic acid. The antioxidant health benefits of pomegranate were shown to reduce LDL oxidation and it is helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease ( Reference Aviram, Rosenblat and Fuhrman 33 ) . It was also shown to decrease the progression of prostate cancer ( Reference Pantuck, Leppert and Zomorodian 34 ) . Furthermore, drinking just 50 ml of pomegranate juice (PJ) daily can significantly lower blood pressure after 3 months by 5 %. Leaf extracts from pomegranate may also be effective in weight loss as, without affecting plasma TAG levels, pomegranate consumption reduces fat absorption from the intestine and can be cardioprotective ( Reference Aviram, Volkova and Coleman 35 ) .

Pomegranate is a major source of most potent antioxidants (tannins, anthocyanins), which are considered to also be anti-atherogenic. Studies have analysed the effect of PJ on lipoprotein oxidation, aggregation and retention and on macrophage atherogenicity in healthy subjects and atherosclerotic patients, as well as in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient (E°) mice. In vitro studies demonstrated a significant dose-dependent antioxidant capability of PJ against lipid peroxidation in plasma (by up to 33 %), in LDL (by up to 43 %) and in HDL (by up to 22 %). The water-soluble fractions of pomegranate's inner and outer peels, but not the seeds, were even stronger antioxidants against LDL oxidation than the juice itself. The antioxidative effects of PJ against lipid peroxidation in whole plasma and in isolated lipoproteins were also shown ex vivo in humans and mice. Furthermore, PJ consumption in humans increased the activity of serum paraoxonase, an HDL-associated esterase (lipo-lactonase) that acts as a potent protector against lipid peroxidation. PJ not only inhibited LDL oxidation, but also reduced two other related modifications of the lipoprotein, that is, its retention to extracellular matrix proteoglycans and its susceptibility to aggregation. The inhibitory effects of PJ consumption on macrophage ability to oxidise LDL on the one hand, and on the uptake of oxidised LDL on the other, contributed substantially to the attenuation of cellular cholesterol accumulation and foam cell formation, as observed in atherosclerotic mice and in atherosclerotic patients ( Reference Aviram, Rosenbalt and Gaitini 36 ) . PJ supplementation to E° mice significantly reduced the number of macrophage foam cells and the size of the atherosclerotic lesion, in comparison to controls. PJ consumption by patients with carotid artery stenosis for 1 year reduced systolic blood pressure (by 18 %), oxidative stress (by 65 %) and, most importantly, the lesion size as measured by intima-media thickness (IMT by ∼30 %) ( Reference Aviram, Rosenbalt and Gaitini 36 ) .

Altogether, the results of the above studies clearly demonstrate that PJ may be considered as a potent nutraceutical agent against CVD ( Reference Aviram, Rosenbalt and Gaitini 36 , Reference Aviram, Dornfeld and Rosenblat 37 ) .

The fig is the fruit of lust and is believed to be a symbol of fertility. The high levels of fibre in figs stimulate bowel movement. Excavations at Gezer have uncovered remains of dried figs from the Neolithic Age and an old seed was recently germinated from the Dead Sea ( Reference Sallon, Solowey and Cohen 38 ) . Figs are native to the Mediterranean and grow on the ficus tree (Ficus carica), and were one of the first fruits to be cultivated. The fruit is rich in natural and simple sugars, minerals and fibre and is a good source of K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Cu and Mn. Dried figs are popular as they last for a long time and have high calcium content (250 mg of Ca/100 g fruit weight). Potassium is also essential in regulation of blood pressure. Recently, Aviram's group observed high total polyphenol content in fig juice (with some phenolics that are unique to figs), which was associated with significant antioxidant activity against LDL oxidation (M Aviram, unpublished results).


Vine cultivation and wine production originated in Mesopotamia. However, the culture of wine consumption belongs to the Mediterranean. An Egyptian inscription from 2375 BC records how a military governor, Uni under the reign of Pharaoh Pepi I, sent troops to put down a revolt in Israel and how they ‘destroyed the fortresses … and felled the fig trees and vines’. A mural from the reign of Amenopsis II (fifteenth century BCE) shows the preparation of wine in Egypt by the Apirou, thought to be the Hebrews ( Reference Goor and Nurock 39 ) . From early Egyptian civilisation through the classical period and the Roman Empire, wine has been of importance and value and exclusive to the civilised elite. Consumption of wine in the MedDi is subject to different cultural norms, especially in Muslim countries.

Red wine is rich in antioxidants from the flavonoid phenolics family, and includes cathechin, querchitin, anthocyanins and resveratrol. Resveratrol is a trihydroxystilbene phenolic compound found in the grape's seeds and skin and it has been shown to increase blood HDL cholesterol, to protect against LDL oxidation and to attenuate blood clotting. It is found in several vegetal sources and has also been shown to possess lifespan-promoting properties that mimic energy restriction in yeast and metazoans, including small mammals. While in yeast and lower metazoans resveratrol acts mainly by activating the histone deacetylase Sir2, in mammals it appears to target – in addition to the Sir2 homologue SIRT1 – several crucial pathways for the control of metabolism, including the AMPK and the insulin-IGF1 receptor axis ( Reference Fröjdö, Durand and Pirola 40 ) .

In the Mediterranean culture, wine is consumed in conjunction with a meal, whereas Western cultures may consume wine independent of meals and it is a more alcoholic, less acidic and a less phenolic-rich wine. Alcohol consumption on an empty stomach leads to rapid alcohol absorption and increases the risk of intoxication. It is of interest that the Rambam (Maimonides) recognised the health benefits of wine already more than 800 years ago ( Reference Maimonides 41 ) .

Red wine, but not white wine, consumption (400 ml/d, for a period of 2 weeks) by healthy volunteers, resulted in a reduced propensity of their LDL to lipid peroxidation as determined by a 46 %, 72 % and 54 % decrement in the content of aldehydes, lipid peroxides and conjugated dienes, respectively. It appeared that some phenolic substances present in red wine are absorbed, bind to serum LDL and may be responsible for the antioxidant properties of red wine against LDL oxidation.

The lower antioxidant activity in white wines, in comparison to red wines, lies in the reduced content of polyphenols extracted from the grape skin, as red wine, but not white wine, is prepared following long contact time (∼1 month) of the grape skin with the produced wine. Nevertheless, it is possible to enrich white wine with the grape skin polyphenols. White wine derived from whole squeezed grapes stored for a short period of time (up to 18 h) contained increased concentrations of polyphenols (from 0·35 after 3 h, up to 0·55 mmol/l after 18 h of storage), and in parallel, exhibited increased capacity to scavenge free radicals and to inhibit copper ion-induced LDL oxidation. Addition of increasing concentrations of alcohol (up to 18 %) to the whole squeezed grapes remarkably augmented the extraction of grape skin polyphenols into the wine (up to 1·25 mmol/l), and thus resulted in increased capacity of the wine to scavenge free radicals and to inhibit LDL oxidation to an extent similar to that of red wine. LDL oxidation inhibition was directly related to the wine's polyphenolic content (r = 0·986). Thus, processing white wine with a short period of grape skins' contact in the presence of increased alcohol concentration led to extraction of their polyphenols and produced polyphenol-rich white wine with antioxidant characteristics similar to those of red wine ( Reference Fuhrman, Volkova and Soraski 42 ) .

The potent antioxidant activity first shown for the Israeli red wine consumption was also demonstrated later on in a UK study, although the antioxidant capability of this wine was lower than that of the Israeli wine. Analyses of both red wines revealed five-fold increased levels of the polyphenolic subfraction flavonols in the studied Israeli red wine. Flavonols are potent polyphenolic antioxidants, and this may explain the above results. There is wide variation in the flavonol content of different red wines throughout the world and a major determinant for the production of grape flavonols is the amount of sunlight to which the grapes are exposed during cultivation, when flavonols are synthesised. Thus, the climatic conditions under which grapes are grown could explain the five-fold increased content of flavonols in the specific studied Israeli red wine compared to the studied UK wine, and hence the high antioxidant potency observed in the Israeli red wine ( Reference Howard, Chopra and Thurnham 43 ) .

The effect of consuming red wine, or its major flavonoid constituents, the flavonol catechin or the flavonol quercetin, on the development of atherosclerotic lesions was studied, in relation to LDL oxidation and aggregation, using the atherosclerotic, apolipoprotein E-deficient (E°) mice model ( Reference Hayek, Fuhrman and Vaya 44 ) . The atherosclerotic lesion area was significantly decreased in the treated mice. These results were associated with reduced susceptibility to oxidation (induced by copper ions, free radical generators or by macrophages) of LDL, isolated after consumption of red wine, quercetin and, to a lesser extent, catechin, in comparison with LDL isolated from control mice. Furthermore, PON1 activity was preserved in red wine-treated mice in comparison to PON1 inactivation in the placebo-treated mice.

LDL oxidation was previously shown to lead to its aggregation. The susceptibility of LDL to aggregation was decreased, in comparison with control mice, by 63 %, 48 % or 50 % on consuming catechin, quercetin or whole red wine, respectively. In vitro studies revealed that the inhibition of LDL aggregation by the above polyphenols could be related, at least in part, to a direct effect of the polyphenols on the LDL particle ( Reference Fuhrman, Lavy and Aviram 45 , Reference Fuhrman and Aviram 46 ) .

Social studies

I hope Flinch knows better than to copy and paste -- or else s/he could be nailed for plagiarism.

According to legend, Ancient Rome was founded by the two brothers, and demi-gods, Romulus and Remus, on 21 April 753 BCE. The legend claims that, in an argument over who would rule the city (or, in another version, where the city would be located) Romulus killed Remus and named the city after himself. This story of the founding of Rome is the best known but it is not the only one.

Other legends claim the city was named after a woman, Roma, who traveled with Aeneas and the other survivors from Troy after that city fell. Upon landing on the banks of the Tiber River, Roma and the other women objected when the men wanted to move on. She led the women in the burning of the Trojan ships and so effectively stranded the Trojan survivors at the site which would eventually become Rome. Aeneas of Troy is featured in this legend and also, famously, in Virgil's Aeneid, as a founder of Rome and the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, thus linking Rome with the grandeur and might which was once Troy.

Still other theories concerning the name of the famous city suggest it came from Rumon, the ancient name for the Tiber River, and was simply a place-name given to the small trading centre established on its banks or that the name derived from an Etruscan word which could have designated one of their settlements.

Early Rome
Originally a small town on the banks of the Tiber, Rome grew in size and strength, early on, through trade. The location of the city provided merchants with an easily navigable waterway on which to traffic their goods. The city was ruled by seven kings, from Romulus to Tarquin, as it grew in size and power. Greek culture and civilization, which came to Rome via Greek colonies to the south, provided the early Romans with a model on which to build their own culture. From the Greeks they borrowed literacy and religion as well as the fundamentals of architecture.

The Etruscans, to the north, provided a model for trade and urban luxury. Etruria was also well situated for trade and the early Romans either learned the skills of trade from Etruscan example or were taught directly by the Etruscans who made incursions into the area around Rome sometime between 650 and 600 BCE (although their influence was felt much earlier). The extent of the role the Etruscans played in the development of Roman culture and society is debated but there seems little doubt they had a significant impact at an early stage.

From the start, the Romans showed a talent for borrowing and improving upon the skills and concepts of other cultures. The Kingdom of Rome grew rapidly from a trading town to a prosperous city between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. When the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed in 509 BCE, his rival for power, Lucius Junius Brutus, reformed the system of government and established the Roman Republic.

War & Expansion
Though Rome owed its prosperity to trade in the early years, it was war which would make the city a powerful force in the ancient world. The wars with the North African city of Carthage (known as the Punic Wars, 264-146 BCE) consolidated Rome's power and helped the city grow in wealth and prestige. Rome and Carthage were rivals in trade in the Western Mediterranean and, with Carthage defeated, Rome held almost absolute dominance over the region though there were still incursions by pirates which prevented complete Roman control of the sea.

As the Republic of Rome grew in power and prestige, the city of Rome began to suffer from the effects of corruption, greed and the over-reliance on foreign slave labor. Gangs of unemployed Romans, put out of work by the influx of slaves brought in through territorial conquests, hired themselves out as thugs to do the bidding of whatever wealthy Senator would pay them. The wealthy elite of the city, the Patricians, became ever richer at the expense of the working lower class, the Plebeians.

In the 2nd century BCE, the Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, two Roman tribunes, led a movement for land reform and political reform in general. Though the brothers were both killed in this cause, their efforts did spur legislative reforms and the rampant corruption of the Senate was curtailed (or, at least, the Senators became more discreet in their corrupt activities). By the time of the First Triumvirate, both the city and the Republic of Rome were in full flourish.

The Republic
Even so, Rome found itself divided across class lines. The ruling class called themselves Optimates (the best men) while the lower classes, or those who sympathized with them, were known as the Populares (the people). These names were applied simply to those who held a certain political ideology they were not strict political parties nor were all of the ruling class Optimates nor all of the lower classes Populares.

In general, the Optimates held with traditional political and social values which favored the power of the Senate of Rome and the prestige and superiority of the ruling class. The Populares, again generally speaking, favored reform and democratization of the Roman Republic. These opposing ideologies would famously clash in the form of three men who would, unwittingly, bring about the end of the Roman Republic.

Marcus Licinius Crassus and his political rival, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) joined with another, younger, politician, Gaius Julius Caesar, to form what modern historians call the First Triumvirate of Rome (though the Romans of the time never used that term, nor did the three men who comprised the triumvirate). Crassus and Pompey both held the Optimate political line while Caesar was a Populare.

The three men were equally ambitious and, vying for power, were able to keep each other in check while helping to make Rome prosper. Crassus was the richest man in Rome and was corrupt to the point of forcing wealthy citizens to pay him `safety' money. If the citizen paid, Crassus would not burn down that person's house but, if no money was forthcoming, the fire would be lighted and Crassus would then charge a fee to send men to put the fire out. Although the motive behind the origin of these fire brigades was far from noble, Crassus did effectively create the first fire department which would, later, prove of great value to the city.

Both Pompey and Caesar were great generals who, through their respective conquests, made Rome wealthy. Though the richest man in Rome (and, it has been argued, the richest in all of Roman history) Crassus longed for the same respect people accorded Pompey and Caesar for their military successes. In 53 BCE he lead a sizeable force against the Parthians at Carrhae, in modern day Turkey, where he was killed when truce negotiations broke down.

With Crassus gone, the First Triumvirate disintegrated and Pompey and Caesar declared war on each other. Pompey tried to eliminate his rival through legal means and had the Senate order Caesar to Rome to stand trial on assorted charges. Instead of returning to the city in humility to face these charges, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army in 49 BCE and entered Rome at the head of it.

He refused to answer the charges and directed his focus toward eliminating Pompey as a rival. Pompey and Caesar met in battle at Pharsalus in Greece in 48 BCE where Caesar's numerically inferior force defeated Pompey's greater one. Pompey himself fled to Egypt, expecting to find sanctuary there, but was assassinated upon his arrival. News of Caesar's great victory against overwhelming numbers at Pharsalus had spread quickly and many former friends and allies of Pompey swiftly sided with Caesar, believing he was favored by the gods.

Bronze Head of Augustus
Bronze Head of Augustus
Towards Empire
Julius Caesar was now the most powerful man in Rome. He effectively ended the period of the Republic by having the Senate proclaim him dictator. His popularity among the people was enormous and his efforts to create a strong and stable central government meant increased prosperity for the city of Rome. He was assassinated by a group of Roman Senators in 44 BCE, however, precisely because of these achievements.

The conspirators, Brutus and Cassius among them, seemed to fear that Caesar was becoming too powerful and that he might eventually abolish the Senate. Following his death, his right-hand man, and cousin, Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) joined forces with Caesar's nephew and heir, Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian) and Caesar's friend, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, to defeat the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillippi in 42 BCE.

Octavian, Antony and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate of Rome but, as with the first, these men were also equally ambitious. Lepidus was effectively neutralized when Antony and Octavian agreed that he should have Hispania and Africa to rule over and thereby kept him from any power play in Rome. It was agreed that Octavian would rule Roman lands in the west and Antony in the east.

Antony's involvement with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII, however, upset the balance Octavian had hoped to maintain and the two went to war. Antony and Cleopatra's combined forces were defeated at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE and both later took their own lives. Octavian emerged as the sole power in Rome. In 27 BCE he was granted extraordinary powers by the Senate and took the name of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. Historians are in agreement that this is the point at which the history of Rome ends and the history of the Roman Empire begins.

This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.

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About the Author
Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark
A freelance writer and former part-time Professor of Philosophy at Marist College, New York, Joshua J. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level.

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