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First Punic War, 264-241 BC

First Punic War, 264-241 BC


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First Punic War, 264-241 BC

The Mediterranean WorldRomeCarthageOutbreak of WarSicilyAfricaWar at SeaConclusionBooklist

The Mediterranean World

The Mediterranean world at the start of the Punic Wars was still dominated by the shadow of Alexander the Great. After his death in 323 BC his empire had fallen apart as his generals fought over the spoils. Three major successor states appeared, one in Egypt, one in Syria and one in Macedonia, while the Greek cities regained their independence. The Greek world also included the colony cities in southern Italy, Sicily and on the southern coasts of France and Spain. The hinterlands of France and Spain were dominated by tribal groups, including the Celts or Gauls, and the Iberians. These were still largely warrior societies, although the Greek influence was starting to be felt in some areas.

Rome

Prior to the Punic Wars, Rome was not seen as a major power in the Mediterranean. However, by the outbreak of the first Punic War, Rome had fairly secure control over most of mainland Italy, although not without resentment. What made Rome unusual was the nature of the relationship between the city and it's conquests. Each individual community fell into one of several clearly defined categories. Some were direct colonies, placed on confiscated lands. Pre-existing communities agreed to supply Rome with soldiers, in return for either full Roman citizenship, Roman citizenship without the right to vote at Rome, or Latin citizenship. This attitude meant that Rome absorbed her conquests in a way that other ancient states did not.

This absorption played a part in the enduring strength of Roman arms. The Roman army of this period was a citizen militia, paid for the duration of their service. As the citizenship expanded in various forms, the number of men eligible for the army thus also increased. Command of the army was vested in the elected officials of the city of Rome. In times of great crisis the command went to the highest officials of the city, the two consuls. The main weakness of this army was that it lacked any permanence. Each time a new legion was raised, it had to be trained almost entirely from scratch, while under normal circumstances the command of the army changed every year.

Carthage

At the start of the Punic Wars, Carthage had a higher profile than Rome. Phoenician traders, based at Tyre or Sidon, in the modern Lebanon, had been crossing the Mediterranean for hundreds of years, and like the Greeks had established colonies, both in Spain and north Africa. Carthage was probably founded during the 8th century BC, and unusually for a Phoenician colony soon grew to be a power in it's own right. Carthage quickly began to found it's own colonies, which inevitably came into conflict with the Greek colonies. While the Greek colonies were normally larger, the Carthaginian colonies were politically united, and the conflict continued for centuries, eventually triggering the first Punic War.

Carthage's armies lacked the citizen element of the Roman forces. Instead the bulk of them were composed of what are often referred to as mercenaries, although this is not entirely fair. Carthage was able to raise troops amongst her subjects in Africa, from both Numidia and Lybia, and from Spain. Unlike Rome, the commanders of Carthaginian armies often served for long periods of time, but their armies were made up of so many different contingents that command was often very difficult. One of Hannibal's main achievements in the second Punic War was to turn one of these disparate armies into a united fighting force. Carthage was more famous for it's navy, needed on a permanent basis to protect the long shipping lanes to her colonies. The remains of the great military harbour at Carthage are still impressive to this day, although her naval performance during the wars was less so.

Outbreak of War

War between Rome and Carthage was not inevitable. Treaties between the two cities had existed for over two centuries, agreeing on their respective spheres of influence, Rome in Italy, Carthage in African and Sardinia, with Roman traders allowed equal access in Sicily. In the end it was Sicily that provided the trigger for war. Control of the island was contested between the Greek city states and Carthage. Between 315 and his death in 289 BC the opposition to Carthage had been led by Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse. Amongst his troops was a contingent from Campania, the Mamertines. After his death, they were forced out of Syracuse, and eventually took control of Messana, facing the Straits of Messana and mainland Italy. From there they raided the surrounding areas.

Eventually an new leader, Hiero, rose in Syracuse, and under his leadership the Mamertines were defeated. Feeling themselves to be without hope in 265 BC they called on both Carthage and Rome for help. Carthage responded first, sending a small force to Messana, where they occupied the citadel. Rome too decided to intervene. The next year the Roman force under Appius Claudius arrived opposite Sicily. The Mamertines expelled the Carthaginian force from Messana, and allied with Rome. Faced with this Hiero and the Carthaginians formed an alliance, and the war was started.

Sicily

Most of the fighting on land during the first Punic War took place on Sicily. Appius Claudius was able to get his troops into Messana. From there, he attacked first Hiero's camp and then the Carthaginian camp, driving both forces off and securing his base. After a brief march towards Syracuse, his time as Consul was up and he returned to Rome.

The fighting in Sicily over the next two decades was often confusing. The Sicilian cities proved unstable allies, willing to change sides depending on who was stronger at the time. This was clearly demonstrated in 263 BC, when both Consuls were sent to Sicily, with a force of some 40,000 soldiers. This army was enough to intimidate many cities and capture others. At Syracuse, Hiero decided to change sides faced with this overwhelming strength. By this he effectively gained success in his aim of removing the threat from Messana. Syracuse remained a loyal ally of Rome throughout the rest of the war, and her aid was invaluable in maintaining supplies to the Roman forces on the island.

Although Rome had now succeeded in her war aims on Sicily, neither side appears to have considered peace. Rome would not leave an enemy undefeated, while Carthage saw no reason why Rome could not be expelled from Sicily. Carthage planned to use the city of Agrigentum, midway along the southern coast of Sicily as their base. However, Rome's preparations came to fruit quicker, and when their two consul army moved on Agrigentum in 262 BC very few of the Carthaginian reinforcements had reached the island. Despite their relative weakness, the defenders nearly defeated the Romans in a surprise attack on their camp, but after the failure of this attack, the defenders were forced on the back foot. The siege of Agrigentum lasted for five months without incident before a relief army from Carthage arrived. This force engaged the Romans in battle (battle of Agrigentum), but were defeated. The night after the battle, the garrison escaped across the weakened Roman lines. Despite this, the Roman capture of Agrigentum was a major Roman triumph, and according to Polybius led to the Roman decision to expel the Carthaginians from Sicily and also to the building of the first Roman fleet.

Although this victory gave Rome control of much of Sicily, the nature of the island, where much of the population lived in walled towns, and the relative weakness of both sides in siege warfare resulted in a long period of inconclusive warfare on the island. Cities changed hands repeatedly, often through treachery, although the Romans made most progress, and slowly forced Carthage back into the north western corner of the island. Despite their setback in Africa, the Romans were still successful on Sicily. In 254 they captured Panormus, one of the largest cities left to Carthage. When half of the Roman army was withdrawn in 251, the Carthaginian commander decided to make an attempt to retake the city. The resulting battle of Panormus was the last major land battle of the war, and a Roman victory. In 250, the Romans began their siege of Lilybaeum, one of the most active sieges of the war, but despite the best efforts of the Romans, the city did not fall, and the siege continued for the remaining nine years of the war. Very little of interest happened on Sicily during the rest of the war. The main event of note was the arrival of Hamilcar Barca, father of the famous Hannibal. However, even he was unable to make any real impact, and his fame is due in part to his son and in part to his own actions after the war. By the time peace was made, the area that had triggered the war had become a backwater.

Africa

For a brief period, Rome threatened Carthage directly. Having gained confidence at sea (see below), it was decided to send both consuls for 256 to Africa. After winning a naval battle at Ecnomus, the consuls landed near Aspis, captured the city, and launched raids across the fertile hinterland. One consul was ordered back to Rome, leading the other, Marcus Atilius Regulus, in command of the army. This was probably a slightly under strength consular army of 15,000 foot and 500 horse. They were faced by a Carthaginian army probably similar in size. Towards the end of 256, Regulus began his advance. Reaching the town of Adys, he settled down to besiege it. The Carthaginian army moved to oppose him, and set themselves up in a camp on a hill overlooking both Adys and the Roman camps. Regulus launched a dawn attack on the Carthaginian camp (battle of Adys), and after a brief stand by a force of mercenaries the Carthaginian army was routed. With both their fleet and their army defeated, Carthage entered into peace talks, but the terms Regulus offered were very harsh, although their details are uncertain, and Carthage refused to accept them. Over the winter of 255 BC, Carthage reformed her army, with the aid of a Spartan mercenary called Xanthippus, although he was not actually in command of the armies. The revived Carthaginian army defeated Regulus at the battle of Tunis. The Roman army was almost entirely wiped out, and those few who escaped were later lost at sea on their way back to Rome. This was the only major Carthaginian land victory of the war, and removed any direct Roman threat to Carthage herself.

War at Sea

Despite all the effort on land, it was the fighting at sea that decided the outcome of the war. At the start of the war, Carthage was by far the greater naval power, with what was probably close to a standing navy, while Rome herself had no navy, instead relying on those of her allies that had a naval tradition. It was these allies that provided the navy used to transport the first Roman army to Sicily in 264. Only in 260 did Rome decide to build her own fleet, of 120 ships. These ships were said to be copied from a captured Carthaginian ship, and the higher individual performance of Carthage's ships was probably due to the superior quality of their crews. The bulk of the ships on both sides were quinqueremes, or 'fives', probably with three banks or oars. The main tactic of naval warfare at this point was the boarding attack, after which marines crossed over to fight on the target galley, probably in part explaining why the Romans did so well. These ships had a very large crew, in the Roman case some 300 men plus marines, resulting in the very large numbers of men present at some of the naval battles of the war. The new Roman fleets were to win a series of great naval victories, but suffer a shocking level of losses to storm and wreck.

The first encounter between the two fleets did not show any evidence of this. The consul Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio, in command of the fleet, took part of the fleet south, and hearing of a chance to capture Lipara. The battle of Lipara was a simple Carthaginian victory, against little effective resistance. In a second skirmish the main Roman fleet destroyed a raiding force, but it was still clear that Carthage had the better fleet. The Roman response was the corvus, a type of boarding bridge. It's first apparent use was at the battle of Mylae (260), where two roughly equal fleets fought. The corvus gave the Romans the advantage, and the consul Caius Duilius was able to perform the first naval triumph in Roman history. The Roman fleet was now used to support operations on the ground on Sicily, with another minor battle at Tyndaris (257), which also resulted in a Roman victory.

The biggest naval battle of the war came in 256 as part of the Roman invasion of Africa. Carthage managed to gather together the biggest fleet yet, probably close to 350 ships, while the Roman fleet was 330 strong. The two fleets met at the battle of Ecnomus, probably the biggest naval battle in history, at least in terms of the numbers of men involved, and once again Rome was victorious. This allowed the unsuccessful invasion of Africa detailed above, after which the Roman fleet, now 350 strong, was sent to rescue the survivors, winning another battle at Cape Hermaeum (255 BC) on the way. However, on their return to Sicily, the consuls decided to attempt to intimidate the Carthaginians left on Sicily and attempted to sail along the south west coast. A storm promptly blew up, and perhaps as many as three quarters of ships and crew were lost.

In an impressive sign of the strength of Rome, the next year another fleet of 220 ships was constructed, which played a part in the capture of Panormus (254 BC), but after an raid to Africa the following year another 150 ships were lost to storms. This was followed by a period of quiet on the part of the Roman fleets, followed in 249 BC by the only major Roman naval defeat in battle, at Drepana, where a surprise attack on the city failed. This was followed once again by yet another fleet destroyed by storm, after which the Romans abandoned major naval activities until 243 BC.

It was a sign of the strain that Rome was under that the fleet of 253 BC was financed by private individuals rather than the state. A fleet of 200 ships, commanded by one of the consuls for 252, Caius Lutatius Catulus, was sent to Sicily with the apparent aim of forcing a naval battle. This fleet was give time to prepare, and after a year was probably in better condition than the slightly larger Carthaginian fleet sent against it. The resulting battle of the Aegates Islands (10 March 241) was everything the Romans wanted from it. Over half of the Carthaginian fleet was lost. Carthage lost the will to resist further, and gave their commander on Sicily full power to negotiate peace.

Conclusion

Under the treaty that was agreed, Carthage was to evacuate Sicily, agree not to fight against each others allies, and to pay some 3,200 talents over ten years, a vast sum (although one that Carthage could easily afford). Syracuse was allowed to remain independent, in command of eastern Sicily, while western Sicily became Rome's first overseas province. The focus of Carthaginian activity was to move to Spain, now that Sicily was closed to them, and it was there that the second Punic War was to start, only 23 years later.

First Punic War, 264-241 BC - History

"It is through the ways of old and through the heroes of old that Rome stands fast." -Ennius

For the next 120 years Rome's attention would be dominated by Carthage, the biggest competitor over the trade routes around the Mediterranean, especially the western side, and history records their conflicts in a series of three wars:

The First Punic War 264-241 BC

The Second Punic War 218-201 BC

The Third Punic War 149-146 BC

Carthage was located at the northern tip of Africa right across the Sea to the south of Sicily. It was founded in 814 BC by the Phoenicians, a middle eastern people and they dominated the western Mediterranean for some three centuries.. Their massive navy closely policed all of the trade in the Mediterranean and made it into a "closed sea." Rome saw all of this as a threat to their economy and security.

The boundaries of Carthage also extended into Italy and they also engulfed all of the areas along the coast of North Africa from Libya to Gibraltar, setting up trading posts all along and in the Mediterranean islands, especially Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. In fact Carthage was so wealthy from her trade that she could hire defensive mercenaries to help maintain order.

When Rome conquered southern Italy they became a threat to Carthage and all policies of friendship were discontinued. Carthage moved to take over the important Straits of Messina in Italy and Rome took action and this marked the beginning of the Punic Wars (Latin "bella Punica), after the word "Phoenician" in Latin. (see Rome and Carthage)


Beginning

In 288 BC, the Mamertines, a group of Italian (Campanian) mercenaries originally hired by Agathocles of Syracuse, occupied the city of Messana (modern Messina) in the northeastern tip of Sicily, killing all the men and taking the women as their wives. At the same time, a group of Roman troops made up of Campanian "citizens without the vote" also seized control of Rhegium, lying across the Straits of Messina on the mainland of Italy. In 270 BC, the Romans regained control of Rhegium and severely punished the survivors of the revolt. In Sicily, the Mamertines ravaged the countryside and collided with the expanding regional empire of the independent city of Syracuse. Hiero II, tyrant of Syracuse, defeated the Mamertines near Mylae on the Longanus River. Following their defeat, the Mamertines appealed to both Rome and Carthage for assistance. The Carthaginians acted first, approached Hiero to take no further action and convinced the Mamertines to accept a Carthaginian garrison in Messana. Either unhappy with the prospect of a Carthaginian garrison or convinced that the recent alliance between Rome and Carthage against Pyrrhus reflected cordial relations between the two, the Mamertines, hoping for more reliable protection, petitioned Rome for an alliance. However, the rivalry between Rome and Carthage had grown since the war with Pyrrhus and that alliance was simply no longer feasible.

According to the historian Polybius, considerable debate took place in Rome on the question as to whether to accept the Mamertines' appeal for help and thus likely enter into a war with Carthage. The Romans did not wish to come to the aid of soldiers who had unjustly stolen a city from its rightful possessors, and they were still recovering from the insurrection of Campanian troops at the Battle of Rhegium in 271. However, many were also unwilling to see Carthaginian power in Sicily expand even further. Leaving them at Messana would give the Carthaginians a free hand to deal with Syracuse. After the Syracusans had been defeated, the Carthaginian takeover of Sicily would essentially be complete. A deadlocked senate put the matter before the popular assembly, where it was decided to accept the Mamertines' request and Appius Claudius Caudex was appointed commander of a military expedition with orders to cross to Messana.

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HISTORIC BATTLES

First Punic War (264-241 BC)

The First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For more than 20 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa. View Historic Battle »

Background: Rome had recently emerged as the leading city-state in the Italian Peninsula, a wealthy, powerful, expansionist republic with a successful citizen army.

Beginning: However, the rivalry between Rome and Carthage had grown since the war with Pyrrhus and that alliance was simply no longer feasible.

Roman landing and advance to Syracuse: Land operations were confined to small scale raids and skirmishes, with few pitched battles. Sieges and land blockades were the most common large-scale operations for the regular army.

Carthage prepares for war: Carthage had begun to build a mercenary army in Africa, which was to be shipped to Sicily to meet the Romans.

Battle of Agrigentum: In 262 BC, Rome besieged Agrigentum, an operation that involved both consular armies—a total of four Roman legions—and took several months to resolve.

Rome builds a fleet: At the beginning of the First Punic War, Rome had virtually no experience in naval warfare, whereas the strong and powerful Carthage had a great deal of experience on the seas thanks to its centuries of sea-based trade.

Battle of Mylae: The Roman fleet under the command of Gaius Duilius, engaged the Carthaginians under general Hannibal Gisco, off northern Mylae in 260 BC.

Hamilcar's counterattack: The Carthaginians took advantage of this victory by counterattacking, in 259 BC, and seizing Enna.

Continued Roman advance: The Romans also moved in the north by marching across the northern coast toward Panormus, but were not able to take the city.

Invasion of Africa: Rome attempted (256/255 BC) the second large scale land operation of the war.

Carthage's respite: Although the Romans defeated the Carthaginian fleet and were successful in rescuing its army in Africa, a storm destroyed nearly the entire Roman fleet on the return trip.

Renewed Roman offensive: The Romans were able to rally, however, and quickly resumed the offensive. With a new fleet of 140 ships, Rome returned to the strategy of taking the Carthaginian cities in Sicily one by one.

Conclusion: Without naval support, Hamilcar Barca was cut off from Carthage and forced to negotiate peace and agree to evacuate Sicily.

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First Punic War (264-241 BC)

The first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For more than 20 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa. View First Punic War (264-241 BC) »

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First Punic War (264-241 BC)

The First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For more than 20 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa.

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Second Punic War (218-201 BC)

The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and (by the Romans) the War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. View Historic Battles »

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First Punic War (264–241 BC)

The Punic Wars were a series of conflicts fought between the forces of ancient Carthage and Romebetween 264 BCE and 146 BCE. The name Puniccomes from the word Phoenician (Phoinix in the Greek, Poenus from Punicus in Latin) as applied to the citizens of Carthage, who were of Phoenician ethnicity. As the history of the conflict was written by Roman authors, they labeled it 'The Punic Wars'. Carthage grew from a small port-of-call to the richest and most powerful city in the Mediterranean region before 260 BCE. She had a powerful navy, a mercenary army and, through tribute, tariffs, and trade, enough wealth to do as she pleased. Through a treaty with the small city of Rome, she barred Roman trade in the Western Mediterranean and, as Rome had no navy, was able to easily enforce the treaty. Roman traders caught in Carthaginian waters were drowned and their ships taken.

The seeds of the First Punic War had been sown in the 280s BC when a small band of unemployed Italian mercenaries, known as the Mamertines or the "Sons of Mars," occupied the strategic town of Messana in northwest Sicily. Situated on the narrow straight the separates Sicily from Italy, Messana controlled commerce and communications between Sicily and the mainland. When Hiero II of Syracuse attempted to dislodge the Mamertines in 265, they enlisted the aid of a nearby Carthaginian fleet, whose swift intervention forced Hiero to withdraw. The Mamertines soon regretted the Carthaginian occupation and appealed to Rome for protection, citing their status as Italians. Rome was hesitant to become entangled in a conflict outside of Italy or to come to the aid of the piratical Mamertines. Indeed, Rome had only a few years before executed a similar group who had occupied the Italian town of Rhegium. Yet Rome's fear of a Carthaginian stronghold so close to Italy&mdashand greed for plunder in what they assumed would be a short war against Syracuse&mdashoutweighed their concerns. The Romans, under the command of the consul Appius Claudius Caudex, invaded Sicily and marched to the Mamertines' aid.

When the Mamertines learned that the Romans were approaching, they persuaded the Carthaginian general to withdraw his forces from the city. The general, regretting this decision to abandon the city, took the fateful steps of allying with Hiero. The combined Carthaginian and Syracusan forces then besieged Messana. After attempts to negotiate a truce failed, Carthage and Rome began hostilities. Both sides were confident of a quick and decisive victory. Neither side anticipated the horror that was to come: a ferocious, generation-long war, which would witness many large-scale disasters and innumerable small-scale atrocities. This war would transform the Roman and Carthaginian empires, upend the balance of power in the western Mediterranean, and set the stage for Hannibal's avenging assault on Italy.

It was in Sicily that the war began and in and around Sicily where most of the fighting took place. Roman forces swiftly crossed over into Sicily, captured Messana, and then forced Syracuse to capitulate. Carthage, after crucifying the tentative general who had lost the strategic initiative by permitting Rome's invasion, adopted the cautious strategy that they had honed in generations of intermittent fighting against the Sicilian Greeks. Their mercenary army, operating from fortified towns, would harass the allies of Rome and Syracuse, eventually sapping their will to continue the fight, while allowing Carthage to make opportunistic gains whenever an opportunity arose. It was a defensive strategy, designed to preserve a status quo that was quite satisfactory to the Carthaginians. But the Carthaginians would soon realize that the Romans were a decidedly more powerful and more lethal foe than the loose confederations of Greek city-states that they had previously fought.

The Western Mediterranean in 264 BC: Rome is shown in red, Carthage in purple, and Syracuse in green

In 262, the Romans moved against the fortified city of Agrigentum. After Roman forces defeated a Carthaginian army that had been sent to lift the siege, they brutally sacked the city. Rome was not interested in restoring the status quo they sought to expel Carthage from Sicily. The sack of Agrigentum stiffened Carthaginian resolve. Attempts by Rome to follow up on their success by capturing other Carthaginian cities in Sicily proved costly and ineffective. A bloody strategic stalemate developed in which cities would be taken and switch sides only to be retaken or betrayed again.

Rome realized that defeating Carthage would require a navy that could attack the Carthaginian homeland in Africa and thwart Carthage's ability to resupply its beleaguered coastal cities in Sicily. To counter Carthage's naval superiority, Rome undertook a rapid armament program, building and training a navy in a matter of months. After early losses at sea, Romans determined that they could exploit their own superiority in close-quarter fighting by equipping their ships with a hooked gangplank&mdashthe corvus or "crow"&mdashthat allowed Roman marines to grapple, board, and capture Carthaginian ships. Eventually, in 256 a Roman fleet of over 300 ships and 150,000 men defeated the Carthaginians off Cape Ecnomus. The path to Africa lay open.

The African campaign of 256-255 met with early success. Romans under the consul Atilius Regulus ravaged the African countryside and won a smashing victory that forced Carthage to sue for peace. But when Rome offered terms that were excessively punitive, Carthage hired the Spartan Xanthippus to reorganize its army and plan the defense of its territory. Xanthippus lured Regulus into a battle on open ground, where Carthage's war elephants and its advantage in cavalry overwhelmed the Romans. Only 2,000 Romans&mdashfrom a force of over 15,000&mdashsurvived to be evacuated by the Roman fleet. The consul Regulus was captured (he would later be tortured to death). Compounding the disaster, a storm wrecked nearly the entire evacuation fleet before it reached Italy. As many as 90,000 men drowned, taking with them Rome's hopes of invading Africa and forcing a quick end to the war. Attention turned again to Sicily and the brutal war of attrition.

While Rome regrouped and rebuilt its fleet, Carthage enjoyed a brief period of success in Sicily. Rome, however, soon regained the offensive, capturing numerous cities in rapid succession and securing all but the westernmost region of the island. Yet Rome failed to press its advantage. Since they sought the capitulation of Carthage, they sent their fleet in 253 to raid the Libyan coast, where it was lost in a storm&mdashanother 150 ships and over 60,000 men drowned. In the meantime, Carthage was able to transport 100 war elephants to Sicily, further deterring the Romans, who were mindful of the role the elephants played in the destruction of Regulus' army. Rome would require two years before it could resume serious offensive operations, when they besieged the stronghold of Lilybaeum, the lynchpin of Carthage's remaining defenses in Sicily.

Old patterns soon reasserted themselves. The Romans were unable to prevent the Carthaginians from resupplying the garrison by sea. Indeed, the daring Carthaginian admiral Ad Herbal often simply sailed his better-trained and nimbler ships past the Roman fleet in broad daylight. Provoked by this humiliating display of superior Carthaginian seamanship, the consul Publius Claudius Pulcher prepared a surprise assault against the Carthaginian fleet at Drepana. Appearing outside the harbor at dawn and with the element of surprise, Pulcher appeared to be on the brink of a decisive victory that might well have won Rome the war. Instead, the Roman assault was fatally delayed as they awaited a favorable omen, allowing Ad Herbal to clear the harbor [supplementary text: Publius Claudius Pulcher and the Sacred Chickens]. Pulcher's fleet, now hopelessly outmaneuvered and trapped against the Sicilian coast, lost ninety ships. Within days, a second Roman fleet of 120 ships and 800 transports was destroyed by a storm in eastern Sicily. The Romans would never take Lilybaeum by force seven years would pass before the Romans had the courage and financial resources to build another fleet.

An photograph of the remains of the naval base of the city of Carthage. The remains of the merchantile harbour are in the centre and those of the military harbour are bottom right. Before the war, Carthage had the most powerful navy in the western Mediterranean.

The war in Sicily was again at a stalemate. With the exhausted opponents no longer able to mount large scale operations, the war devolved into a series of small-scale ambushes and atrocities. Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal's father, began waging an audacious guerilla campaign against Roman forces and allies. Finally in 243 BC the Roman Senate resolved to resume large-scale offensive operations. A new fleet, financed by onerous loans, was constructed. After the destruction of one Carthaginian fleet by storm in 241 and another at the Battle of the Aegates Islands, a faction of wealthy landowners that favored peace came to power in Carthage. The long war drew to a close.

Rome had outlasted Carthage, which had never adapted to Rome's aggressive strategy. As Rome systematically worked to expand its territory in Sicily and pressure Carthage by invading and raiding Africa, Carthage passively reacted to Rome's moves, stubbornly fighting a defensive war that aimed only at not losing the conflict. Although individual Carthaginian generals displayed brilliance at sea and on land (none more so than Hamilcar), Carthage never devised a strategy to defeat the more populous Rome, which routinely absorbed horrific losses and staggering defeats only to regroup and resume the attack. Hamilcar would pass these hard-won lessons to Hannibal, who would devise a bold, aggressive strategy to defeat Rome.

As part of the terms of the peace, Carthage agreed to surrender Sicily and its naval bases on the surrounding islands to the Romans, avoid conflict with Syracuse and other Roman allies, release Roman prisoners without ransom, and pay an enormous indemnity of 3,200 talents or the equivalent of nearly 100 tons of silver. Rome, which before the war had never fought outside of Italy, now controlled a wealthy overseas territory&mdashits first of many. Nevertheless, their victory must have been bittersweet. During the long 23 years of conflict, Rome lost over 600 ships, Carthage at least 500. As many as 50,000 Roman citizens and another 350,000 allies had been killed, most suffering horrific deaths at sea. The Carthaginians too suffered terribly in the war, a losing effort that left them economically bankrupt, deprived of their possessions in Sicily, and bereft of their signature navy. Before the war, Rome and Carthage were wary rivals with a long tradition of coexistence and even cooperation afterwards, they were bitter enemies, each steeped in a generation of blood. For the Romans, their erstwhile allies were now seen as bloodthirsty and duplicitous. Indeed, the phrase Punica fides ("Carthaginian loyalty") became a byword for the most vicious kind of treachery. Romans simultaneously reviled Carthaginians as cruel and cowardly: they were said to sacrifice children and eat dogs, while being in the emasculating grip of eastern-style luxury and enervated by Africa's climate. We can assume that the same animus roiled the Carthaginians against the Romans. The peace, like the war, would last for 23 years. But the stage had been set for an even greater conflict, one that would push first Rome and then Carthage to the brink of destruction.

Continued Roman advance 260&ndash256 BC

Between the Wars

Carthage's humiliating defeat and the economic depression that followed precipitated a vicious rebellion by Carthage's mercenary soldiers and African allies known as the "Truceless" or "Mercenary" War (241&ndash237 BC). Rome, which officially supported Carthage in the conflict, nevertheless took advantage of Carthage's weakness to seize Sardinia and Corsica and to extort additional reparations. Eventually, under the leadership of Hamilcar and Hannibal's brother-in-law, Hasdrubal the Fair, Carthage was able to suppress the rebellion. Because of Hamilcar's role in rescuing Carthage from this crisis, he and his family gained considerable influence among the Carthaginian people, as well as widespread support throughout the Carthaginian government.

With its territories in Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica lost to Rome, Hamilcar sought new conquests in Hispania, a wealthy region that included the richest silver mines in the Mediterranean. By the 220s Carthage had recovered from its defeat in the First Punic War. Meanwhile Rome, content with the status quo, recognized Carthage's gains in Hispania and turned its attention to governing its new territories and completing the conquest of northern Italy. The Romans organized Sicily and then Sardinia and Corsica as their first overseas provinces. From 225 to 222 BC, Rome pacified the Gauls in northern Italy and then began campaigning in Illyria across the Adriatic Sea. Rome's eastward expansion into Illyria, however, was cut short by unforeseen events in Hispania, events that would soon involve Rome in a fight for its very survival.


The Second Punic War (218 – 201 BC)

The Second Punic War began disastrously for Rome. Led by the talented Commander Hannibal, the Carthaginians crossed the Alps and invaded Northern Italy. Hannibal went with his army across almost the entire peninsula and devastated the country.

In the Battle of Cannae, from 87,000 Romans only 14,000 survived. However, the distance from Carthage interrupted Hannibal’s supply lines and at the same time, the Romans transferred their armies to Africa, attacking Carthage itself.

The Grand Commander was forced to abandon his conquest and rushed to save his homeland. However, near Zama (in Tunisia today), Hannibal suffered his first defeat, which was so catastrophic that Carthage was forced to seek peace again.

Battle of Zama by Dutch draughtsman Cornelis Cort

This time, the contract was almost devastating. The trade empire was forced to part with all its overseas territories and surrender its fleet, had no right to wage war without the consent of Rome and had to pay a huge indemnity within 50 years. Hannibal later escaped into exile, and around 183 BC, committed suicide.


The First Punic War ( 264-241 BC )

The initial Punic War ( 264-241 BC ) was struggled to a certain extent upon land inside Sicily and Photography equipment, however was chiefly the naval conflict. The thought begun to be a regional battle inside Sicily affecting Hiero II sing Syracuse every bit good as the Mamertines sing Messina. The Mamertines enlisted the assistance of Punic navy blue, and subsequently betrayed all of them merely by biding Roman Us senate sing support next to Carthage. Originally Punic navy blue prevailed. In 260 BC these people beaten new Roman navy blue on the Battle of the Lipari Island finishs. The Rome answered merely by well spread outing their navy blue in an extremely shorter clip. Within merely 8 hebdomads Romans received the fast regarding in surplus of 100 war vessels. Given that they knew which they could n’t destruct Carthaginians in the traditional methods sing ramming and wreckage opposition ships, Romans added in Corvus, a good invasion span, to Roman ships. The hinged span could swing motion on to opposition vass which has a chiseled joblessness forestalling all of them. Roman legionaries might and so board and gaining control Punic ships. That advanced Roman technique lessened Carthaginian navy ‘s advantages inside ship-to-ship finishs, and authorized Rome ‘s superior foot for being given bear inside naval battles. On the other manus, Corvus was similarly hard and insecure, and was finally phased out since the Roman navy blue grew to go more knowing and tactically expert. Spend less for the awful destroy on the Battle sing Tunis inside Photography equipment, and a brace of naval finishs, the primary Punic War was the about unbroken stringed sing Roman wins.


First Punic War, 264-241 BC - History

The First Punic War (264-241 BC)

The First Punic War was a conflict between Rome and Carthage. This was a long war, beginning in 264 BC and not ending until 241 BC. Most of the conflict took place on the island of Sicily, or in the waters surrounding Sicily. At one point Rome attacked Carthaginian lands in Africa, very close to Carthage itself. This campaign was not successful, because a Spartan, named Xanthippus, led the Carthaginian forces in defending their homeland.

Carthage was originally settled by Phoenicians around 800 BC. Princess Dido, from the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, founded this city on the North African coast. The Phoenicians were great sailors and traders of mainly glass, ivory carvings, and their famous purple-dyed clothing. Punic actually means "purple" in Latin, so you could say this was the Purple War.

Rome had been expanding into an empire, especially after the Samnite Wars and the Pyrrhic War, these conflicts left Rome in command of most of Italy, except for the Po Valley in the north, which was the home of the Gauls.

When King Pyrrhus of Epirus left the island of Sicily to return to Italy he said, “Oh what a battlefield I leave for Rome and Carthage,” he meant that Rome and Carthage would go to war on the island of Sicily. He was correct.

Carthage, at the start of the war, controlled most of Sicily, except for the city-state of Syracuse in the south-eastern corner of the island. Since Rome controlled the entire Italian peninsula, and Sicily is less than two miles from Italy, it was only a matter of time before these two empires clashed.

The Romans crossed over the strait of Messina, the body of water that separates Italy and Sicily, with an army to give aid to the Mamertines, a group of Italian mercenary fighters once hired by the king of Syracuse, but now on their own, they had taken over the city of Messana in the north eastern corner of Sicily. Even though it seemed unacceptable to offer aid to the Mamertines, who had taken a city by force, the Romans were more concerned with the Carthaginians expanding their power across the island. This is how Rome got involved in its first war outside of Italy.

Rome had a strong army, but no navy to speak of, on the other hand Carthage had one of the best navies at that time. In order to be successful in this war, Rome would have to improve its navy. Rome got a big break when it captured a Carthaginian warship, which had been caught in low-tide. The Romans then made several copies of this ship, using it as a model for their own warships.

The Romans knew that they lacked experience at sea, so to have a chance against the strong Carthaginian navy, the Romans added a corvus (crow) to the front of their warships. The corvus was a type of bridge that could be moved in all directions. As the Roman ships approached an enemy ship, they would drop the corvus down onto the the deck of the ship and then 120 soldiers would rush across and take the enemy ship. In this way, the Romans turned a sea battle into a land battle. The corvus did have a disadvantage, it made the Roman boats top-heavy, and difficult to maneuver.

In 260 BC, the Romans won a decisive battle against the Carthaginian navy at Mylae off the northern coast of Sicily using the corvus. As time went on, the Roman navy improved to the point where the corvus was no longer necessary.

Neither side could win a decisive victory in Sicily, so the Romans decided to build a large fleet of ships and invade Africa. By taking the conflict to the Carthaginian homeland, Rome thought the Carthaginians would accept peace on Roman terms. The Romans won a great naval battle at Cape Ecnomus in 256 BC, and then invaded Africa with a large army, commanded by Regulus. This army, however, was defeated by Xanthippus, the Spartan, who was hired by the Carthaginians to improve their army.

On the island of Sicily, one Carthaginian commander had been very successful fighting the Roman army, his name was Hamilcar Barca. Rome eventually cut off supplies coming into to Sicily from Africa with their navy, and Hamilcar and Carthage were eventually forced to sue for peace. This made Hamilcar Barca angry and frustrated. Hamilcar had to agree to leave Sicily with his African mercenary (hired soldiers) army and return to Africa.

Rome won the first Punic War when Carthage agreed to terms in 241 BC, in doing so, Rome became the dominant navy in the Mediterranean Sea, Carthage had to pay for war damages, and Rome took control of all of the Carthaginian lands on the island of Sicily. Hamilcar Barca was determined to seek revenge against the Romans. The bad feelings between these two powers was just beginning!

First Punic War timeline (264-241 BC)

264 BC – Romans cross into Sicily to aid the Mamertines

260 BC – Roman navy uses corvus to win at Mylae

256 BC - Sea Battle of Cape Ecnomus, Rome wins without the use of the corvus

255BC – Consul Regulus defeated by Xanthippus, the Spartan, in Africa

241 BC – Carthage tires of war, sues for peace

Outcome – Rome takes Sicily , then Sardinia and Corsica . Carthage pays a heavy fine.


large view
Princess Dido of Tyre founding Carthage


large view
The Roman Advance, including the Battle of Cape Ecnomus


First Punic War

First Punic War 264-241 BC

The first war starts in Sicily. An island disputed between some Greek colonies in the eastern part of the island, and some Carthaginian settlements in the western end. Rome gets involved when they receive a request for help from Messina, a Greek colony. The people of Messina were uncertain whether they needed help mainly against Carthage or against the neighboring Greeks in Syracuse. But the conflict soon escalates into a straight war between Rome and Carthage, the two superpowers of the Mediterranean.
The Romans quickly capture Messina from a Carthaginian garrison army. This event demonstrates that Carthaginian officers accept alarming terms of employment. The commander of the garrison is called home and is crucified for incompetence. During 262-1 Roman armies advance through Sicily, capturing Agrigentum in a lengthy siege. But the Romans gain no convincing advantage over the Carthaginians, whose warships enable them to recover coastal regions from the Romans and even to plunder the shores of Italy. As a result, in 260, the senate takes a momentous decision. Carthage will be challenged on her own terms. Rome, until now purely a land power, will build a fleet.

The First Roman Navy 260-255 BC

During the opening skirmishes of the first Punic War the Romans capture a Carthaginian warship which was run aground. It is of a kind only recently introduced in Mediterranean navies. As a quinquereme, with five banks of oars (rowed by 300 oarsmen) , it is larger and heavier than the triremes which have been the standard ship of Greek navies. Since victory at sea involves ramming into enemy ships, the extra size is important.
The new Roman navy consists mostly of quinquereme, copied from the captured Carthaginian warship. The senate orders 100, together with 20 triremes, and sets and astonishing delivery time of two months. Even more astonishing – the order is apparently met. A couple skilled oarsmen are available, from Rome’s allies around the coasts of Italy, but they will need more than 30,000 oarsmen will be needed to row the vessels. They are rapidly trained on land, in ship frames constructed for the purpose. Even so, the skills of hand-to-hand fighting at sea, to be carried out by 120 marines on each warship, cannot be quickly learnt.

Instead the Romans pin their hopes on a device that has already featured briefly in Greek naval warfare, but not to much effect. It is designed to give Roman soldiers, trained in the legions, a more stable platform to attack.
The device is a hinged drawbridge which can be released to crash down when an enemy ship is alongside a Roman ship. On its underside is a metal point which will pierce the deck of the enemy vessel and hold it fast while Roman troops storm aboard. The lethal peck from this sharp beak gives the device its familiar name among the crews. It is a ‘raven’. The device wins them battles.

The first such victory comes as a major shock to the Carthaginians. They had an advantage of thirty ships over the inexperienced Romans when the fleets met in 260 BC off Mylae (Now Milazzo), a couple miles to the west of Messina. But the ravens enable the Romans to destroy 50 Carthaginian vessels before the rest flee the battle.

The new Roman confidence at sea prompts the building of a large fleet to invade Carthage itself. It sails in 256 BC. About 250 quinqueremes, with some 30,000 marines on board, accompany 80 transport ships, carrying 500 cavalrymen and their horses together with food for the entire army. This force defeats another Carthaginian fleet before landing in Africa. On land there were successes too, but eventually, in 255 BC, Carthaginian elephants and cavalry run them down in a heavy defeat on the Romans. Only 2000 Romans escape. Another massive fleet of 350 is sent out. It wins victory at sea against the Carthaginians, but on the return journey a great wind dashes the Roman ships against the rocky south Sicilian coast. Only 80 ships return home to safety.

Sicily Sardinia, and Corsica 255-238 BC

The great loss of life – probably almost 100,000 oarsmen and soldiers in this storm alone – reduces Roman enthusiasm for their naval campaigns. Instead the conflict comes back to Sicily, where it becomes a slow moving war of attrition. Gradually, the Romans cut off the supply lines of the Carthaginian towns, completing their stranglehold with a naval victory in 241 BC at Trapani in the northwest tip of the island.

Hanno, the Carthaginian commander must know what is awaiting for him at home. When he returns he is crucified.

New Carthage in Spain 238-218 BC

With the major islands of the Mediterranean conquered by Rome, the the obvious area in which Carthage might hope for these losses in Spain. The city of Cartagena, better known as New Carthage, is founded at this time. It has two great advantages. It is a harbour off the coast of Spain and it is close to large gold and silver mines.

Carthaginian pressure northwards in Spain alerts Rome to the danger of a threat to southern Gaul (Now France). In about 255 BC a treaty establishes the Ebro river as a dividing line between Carthaginian and Roman interests in Spain. It is so far north that it effectively acknowledges the Iberian peninsula to be a Carthaginian providence.

The Carthaginian advance in Spain is pressed by a family of great generals, who virtually became hereditary governors of the territory. The first governor is Hamilcar Barca, who dies in a battle in 228 BC. Before he died he told his son, who would become one of the greatest generals of all time to destroy Rome. The son’s name was Hannibal. Hamilcar’s place is then taken by his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, who is later assassinated in 221 BC. Hasdrubal is followed by his brother-in-law, who at the age of 26 is now proclaimed the commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian army. He is Hannibal.

The young commander consolidates the Carthaginian presence, in Spain until, in 218 BC, Rome decides to pick a diplomatic quarrel over his siege of Sagunto, Rome’s ally.


The Second Punic War 218-202 BC

  • Hamilcar’s son Hannibal deliberately attacked the Greek colony Sagunturn, which had been promised protection by Rome.
  • The roman navy was now stronger than the Carthaginian navy, so Hannibal realized he had to take his army over land to Italy – Surprise tactic (40,000 men and 8,000 cavalry)
  • He crossed the Alps, lost 15,000 – 20,000 soldiers and 36 elephants (only one lived)
  • Romans thought the army would be extremely weak. They underestimated the brilliance of Hannibal: Three main battles
  • Trebia: Sent a weak unit across the river. Romans rushed across the river and were easily defeated
  • Lake Trasimere: Carthage waited until the Romans marched into the narrow valley. Two hours later 15,000 Romans were dead.
  • Cannae: Rome sent an army three times as bit as Hannibal’s. At the end of the day 76,000 men died and only 6,000 were Hannibal’s men!
  • Romans appointed Fabius as a dictator to try to cut down Carthage. The followed Carthaginians trying to cut down small parties of soldiers and cut off food. Each time Hannibal turned on them, the Roman’s scuttled off into the hills – “Fabian tactic.”
  • Hannibal sent word – “ransom for prisoners” Rome refused they had no use for men who surrendered.
  • Hannibal still didn’t have enough forces to take city of Rome. Romans continued “Fabian tactics,” and began to capture cities in Sicily and Italy (sided with Carthage) and conquered Spain.
  • Hannibal didn’t receive reinforcements as the government feared he was becoming too powerful.
  • At last, the Romans found a daring general named Scipio (24 years old) He:
    • Rid Spain of Carthaginians
    • Wrestled parts of Sicily away from Carthage
    • Took an army to Africa and began to attack Carthage. Hannibal was sent for
    • Romans won at the battle of Zama, Scipio was elected censor, and became a leading man in the Senate and awarded the name “Africanus.” Consul twice!
    • Scipio supported the Greek way of life. The Romans were apprehensive and subjected to Scipio to a series of humiliating trials. He soon retired from the city and died soon after.
    • Carthage had to accept Rome’s terms. Carthage must give up:
      • All Roman prisoners, all but 10 warships, all war elephants, all control of neighbouring African peoples
      • Carthage must never make war without permission from Rome and must always help Rome when required
      • Had to pay war reparations in 50 annual installments
      • Romans were still nervous, Hannibal was still alive, and gaining power in the Carthage government.
      • 195 BC Romans sent envoys to arrest Hannibal and bring him to Rome
      • Hannibal fled and became guest of Greek Kings in Asia Minor. Romans kept trying to catch him. Eventually, he killed himself by poison.
      • Romans still weren’t satisfied. Cato wanted revenge and the hatred for Carthage wasn’t allowed to die.

      First Punic War, 264-241 BC - History

      The First Punic War (264-241 BC)

      The First Punic War was a conflict between Rome and Carthage. This was a long war, beginning in 264 BC and not ending until 241 BC. Most of the conflict took place on the island of Sicily, or in the waters surrounding Sicily. At one point Rome attacked Carthaginian lands in Africa, very close to Carthage itself. This campaign was not successful, because a Spartan, named Xanthippus, led the Carthaginian forces in defending their homeland.

      Carthage was originally settled by Phoenicians around 800 BC. Princess Dido, from the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, founded this city on the North African coast. The Phoenicians were great sailors and traders of mainly glass, ivory carvings, and their famous purple-dyed clothing. Punic actually means "purple" in Latin, so you could say this was the Purple War.

      Rome had been expanding into an empire, especially after the Samnite Wars and the Pyrrhic War, these conflicts left Rome in command of most of Italy, except for the Po Valley in the north, which was the home of the Gauls.

      When King Pyrrhus of Epirus left the island of Sicily to return to Italy he said, “Oh what a battlefield I leave for Rome and Carthage,” he meant that Rome and Carthage would go to war on the island of Sicily. He was correct.

      Carthage, at the start of the war, controlled most of Sicily, except for the city-state of Syracuse in the south-eastern corner of the island. Since Rome controlled the entire Italian peninsula, and Sicily is less than two miles from Italy, it was only a matter of time before these two empires clashed.

      The Romans crossed over the strait of Messina, the body of water that separates Italy and Sicily, with an army to give aid to the Mamertines, a group of Italian mercenary fighters once hired by the king of Syracuse, but now on their own, they had taken over the city of Messana in the north eastern corner of Sicily. Even though it seemed unacceptable to offer aid to the Mamertines, who had taken a city by force, the Romans were more concerned with the Carthaginians expanding their power across the island. This is how Rome got involved in its first war outside of Italy.

      Rome had a strong army, but no navy to speak of, on the other hand Carthage had one of the best navies at that time. In order to be successful in this war, Rome would have to improve its navy. Rome got a big break when it captured a Carthaginian warship, which had been caught in low-tide. The Romans then made several copies of this ship, using it as a model for their own warships.

      The Romans knew that they lacked experience at sea, so to have a chance against the strong Carthaginian navy, the Romans added a corvus (crow) to the front of their warships. The corvus was a type of bridge that could be moved in all directions. As the Roman ships approached an enemy ship, they would drop the corvus down onto the the deck of the ship and then 120 soldiers would rush across and take the enemy ship. In this way, the Romans turned a sea battle into a land battle. The corvus did have a disadvantage, it made the Roman boats top-heavy, and difficult to maneuver.

      In 260 BC, the Romans won a decisive battle against the Carthaginian navy at Mylae off the northern coast of Sicily using the corvus. As time went on, the Roman navy improved to the point where the corvus was no longer necessary.

      Neither side could win a decisive victory in Sicily, so the Romans decided to build a large fleet of ships and invade Africa. By taking the conflict to the Carthaginian homeland, Rome thought the Carthaginians would accept peace on Roman terms. The Romans won a great naval battle at Cape Ecnomus in 256 BC, and then invaded Africa with a large army, commanded by Regulus. This army, however, was defeated by Xanthippus, the Spartan, who was hired by the Carthaginians to improve their army.

      On the island of Sicily, one Carthaginian commander had been very successful fighting the Roman army, his name was Hamilcar Barca. Rome eventually cut off supplies coming into to Sicily from Africa with their navy, and Hamilcar and Carthage were eventually forced to sue for peace. This made Hamilcar Barca angry and frustrated. Hamilcar had to agree to leave Sicily with his African mercenary (hired soldiers) army and return to Africa.

      Rome won the first Punic War when Carthage agreed to terms in 241 BC, in doing so, Rome became the dominant navy in the Mediterranean Sea, Carthage had to pay for war damages, and Rome took control of all of the Carthaginian lands on the island of Sicily. Hamilcar Barca was determined to seek revenge against the Romans. The bad feelings between these two powers was just beginning!

      First Punic War timeline (264-241 BC)

      264 BC – Romans cross into Sicily to aid the Mamertines

      260 BC – Roman navy uses corvus to win at Mylae

      256 BC - Sea Battle of Cape Ecnomus, Rome wins without the use of the corvus

      255BC – Consul Regulus defeated by Xanthippus, the Spartan, in Africa

      241 BC – Carthage tires of war, sues for peace

      Outcome – Rome takes Sicily , then Sardinia and Corsica . Carthage pays a heavy fine.


      large view
      Princess Dido of Tyre founding Carthage


      large view
      The Roman Advance, including the Battle of Cape Ecnomus



Comments:

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