The First Punic War

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Information about The First Punic War

Published on October 31, 2007

Author: Natalya


The First Punic War:  The First Punic War Beginning of the Struggle With Carthage Carthage:  Carthage Carthage was founded as a Phoenician colony about 750 BC. Two factors led to the presence of Carthage as a great city in the 3rd century: Cut loose by Tyre, the mother city, in 7th century, Carthage developed a superb navy. The navy was rendered even more effective by a great geographical position in the mid-Mediterranean Though both Rome and Carthage had an uneasy coexistence, both attempted to avoid conflict. Competition with Greeks:  Competition with Greeks Carthage was Phoenician (“punic”) in origin but hellenized in culture. Contacts with Greeks led to conflicts for control of Sicily. Carthaginians forced conquered peoples to become tribute-paying subjects without integration into military and civic institutions. Carthage had limited loyal human, and therefore military, resources. Carthagianians gravitated toward naval service and their weaker armies were made up of mercenaries and subjugated peoples. The Mamartines:  The Mamartines After the start of the 3rd century BC, Syracuse hired the Mamartines, a group of mercenaries from Campania. In 289, they deserted and captured Massana, the most strategically important town in Sicily. King Hiero of Syracuse finally led an attack on Messana in 265. Fully entrenched, the Mamartines asked for help from a Carthaginian fleet anchored nearby. Carthaginian marines landed and helped in the repulsion of the Syracusan attack. When the Carthaginians subsequently refused to leave Messana, the Mamartines appealed for help from Rome, thus sparking a fierce debate in the Senate. Whither goes Rome?:  Whither goes Rome? Senate conservatives did not want to help the Mamartines because they feared lack of preparation, the appeal of war-mongering generals, and the fact that they would be helping the Mamartines—little more than pirates (Roman virtue). Rome had no navy to speak of and would be up against the central Mediterranean’s greatest sea power in Carthage. The ambitious and hawkish consul, Appius Claudius Caudex prevailed in the debate and Rome cast her lot with the Mamartines—and against Carthage. Early stages of the war:  Early stages of the war When Appius Claudius came with a relief force, the Carthaginians withdrew without a fight, but now allied themselves with Hiero and returned to retake the city. Appius Claudius won an easy victory over the allies and the first Punic War had begun. It was 264 BC. Impressed by Roman power, Hiero decided to negotiate a 15-year peace treaty with the Romans. The Romans took Agrigentum, a Carthaginian fort, in 262 while Carthage was still at work refitting ships and training crews. Roman strategy came to be focused on driving the Carthaginians out of Sicily, but had no fleet to assist. Triremes and Quinquerimes:  Triremes and Quinquerimes Tri-reme: traɪ rim/ [trahy-reem] –noun Classical History a galley with three rows or tiers of oars on each side, one above another, used chiefly as a warship. [Origin: 1595–1605; < L trirēmis having three banks of oars, equiv. to tri- tri- + rēm(us) oar + -is adj. suffix] Building a navy:  Building a navy When Appius Claudius attacked Messana, he relied on Greek merchant triremes to ferry his army across the straits. According to the historian Polybius, Rome had only 10 “coast guard” triremes at the outset. The Romans realized they must build a navy and so began to build ships based on the model of a captured Carthaginian quinquerime (i.e., 2 models beyond a trireme) first invented by Dionysius of Syracuse. This type of ship required a minimal number of trained rowers to function while the crew gained experience. The ships were heavy and strong, and had two main weapons: a bronze beak on the prow for ramming ships; and a raised gangplank with a grappling spike called a corvus (raven) used to board enemy ships (very unstable and dangerous). Quinquereme and Roman Marine:  Quinquereme and Roman Marine Three banks of oars:  Three banks of oars Corvus:  Corvus How many on a quinquerime?:  How many on a quinquerime? The historian Polybius (203-120 BC) said that a quinquereme could have had a complement of 300 oarsmen, 120 marines, and 50 other crew. Triremes were also used and had on average 170 oarsmen, 10 marines, and 20 crew. Later (2nd century BC and after) galleys were sometimes huge. Plutarch wrote about a galley built by Ptolemy IV of Egypt, 128 m long, with 4,000 rowers and 400 crew, could support a force of 3,000 marines. He wrote, "This ship was only for show. It scarcely differed from buildings which are rooted in the ground and had great difficulty in being put to sea." Early victories:  Early victories The Roman fleet debuted in 260 by defeating Carthage in the naval battle of Mylae, near Messana. The Romans also won a battle in 258 off Sardinia and the Carthaginians crucified the admiral. The Romans now unbelievably had naval superiority and sought to press it with an invasion of Africa. On the way with 250 warships and 100,000 troops they defeated another Carthaginian fleet off the southern Sicilian coast in 256. Invasion of Africa:  Invasion of Africa Fall 256, Atilius Regulus leads the Romans in invasion and inflicts a defeat then delays fighting until Spring rather than the optimum winter months. Carthage beefed up her armies by putting the Spartan Xanthippus in charge of training. He now recruited citizens for the army. When the Romans attacked in 255, the Carthaginians were ready with phalanx, elephants, and cavalry and massacred the Romans—only 2000 escape. The survivors were rescued by the blockading Roman fleet and attempted to return to Sicily but 170 ships were lost in a sudden storm. The Romans gave up the idea of invading Africa and concentrated on Sicily. Romans captured Panormus in 254 and now controlled all Sicily except for Lilybaeum and Drepana in the west. A sudden turn in fortune:  A sudden turn in fortune In 249, things looked dark for the Romans as they lost most of their navy to poor leadership and seamanship. In 247, Carthage had the young and brilliant Hamilcar Barca (=“lightning”) leading her forces in Sicily. Nevertheless, at the crucial moment when victory might have come, the government of Carthage changed to a “protectionist” regime. The new regime, under Hanno, abandoned Sicily to develop African holdings and to expand agricultural wealth. In 244, Hanno demobilized the Carthaginian navy. The best sailors were transferred to the army for the conquest of African neighbors. Meanwhile, Rome gained precious time to build her navy by borrowing from her wealthiest families for constructing 200 ships. End of the war:  End of the war In 241, the new Roman fleet chanced upon a fleet weighted down with crucial supplies for Carthaginian defenders of Lilybaeum. Trained men and extras had been diverted from the Carthaginian navy, so the Romans inflicted a disaster that was the final blow to Carthage in Sicily. The garrison at Lilybaeum was forced to surrender to the Romans, who now controlled Sicily. Final terms for Carthage were imposed by Roman voters of the comitia centuriata who were asked to ratify the treaty: an indemnity would be paid over 10 years, and they would have to quit Italy—no territory in or near Italy, no mercenary recruitment, no trading in Italian waters. Carthage never recovered as a western Mediterranean sea power, but Rome had become a major naval force. Six causes of the First Punic War:  Six causes of the First Punic War Existence of bored and ambitious Roman patricians, looking for military glory and excuses to find it. Rome’s alliances with Greek poleis, Carthage’s chief rivals. Hunger for the spoils of war to which the Romans had become accustomed. Rome’s traditional fear of powerful neighbors and perceived vulnerability. Carthaginian pride, which had to respond to Roman aggression. Carthaginian miscalculation of the potential aggressiveness of Rome. Six new problems for Rome::  Six new problems for Rome: How to administer Sicily? How to address the needs of farmers who were crippled by the war? How to secure the north against the Gauls? How to address piracy in the Adriatic? What to do about anti-Carthaginian rebels in Africa, Corsica, and Sardinia? What to do about Carthaginian expansion in Spain? Carthage Between the First and Second Punic Wars:  Carthage Between the First and Second Punic Wars 241-218 BC Revolt and loss.:  Revolt and loss. After Carthage and Rome made peace, 20,000 mercenaries demanded pay which Hanno refused. Mercenaries mutinied and teamed with Libyphoenicians to the east and Numidians to the west. This was known as the bloody “truceless war” and it took Hamilcar Barca three years to end. Rome actually aided the Carthaginians with food and war materiale, but took control of rebellious Sardinia and seized Corsica. After losing Sicily, Carthage compensated by extending power in Hispania. Hamilcar gained great ground until he drowned in 229. Hasdrubal to Hannibal:  Hasdrubal to Hannibal Hamilcar’s son-in-law Hasdrubal continued the work and founds New Carthage in Spain. He captured and controlled all Spanish mines and used proceeds to benefit the Barca family. After complaints of Carthaginian threats were made by neighboring Massilia, Romans negotiated the Ebro treaty with Hasdrubal, which prohibited his crossing of the Ebro River (runs nw to se in ne Spain). In 221 Hasdrubal was assassinated. Hamilcar’s eldest son, Hannibal (“favor of Ba’al”), who had sworn never to be friendly to Rome at age 9. At that time, he had entered the army. Hannibal in Spain:  Hannibal in Spain Hannibal soon conquered all of Spain south of the Rio Ebro, except Saguntum, a trade partner of Massilia. Saguntum became an ally of Rome after 226 at insistance of Massilia. In 219 BC, Hannibal besieged Saguntum for eight months before it fell. Fall of Saguntum begins the Second Punic War. Second Punic War:  Second Punic War Hannibal Carries the War to Rome 218-201 BC Motivations for another war:  Motivations for another war When Saguntum was besieged, the Roman Senate stood by, but when it fell in 218 they took action. The Romans demanded that Hannibal surrender or Carthage would have war. The Carthaginian Senate, bitter over a harsher treaty than negotiated, embarassed at the loss of Corsica and Sardinia, and wishing to save face chose war. This time Romans feared an uniting of Spanish Carthaginians and Celtic tribes in southern Gaul. Romans also moved to protect their now dominating overseas trade, and younger aristocrats coveted the opportunity for glory. Hannibal’s position:  Hannibal’s position Carthage would have to prosecute the war by land because they could not carry the battle to the Romans by sea any longer. Being limited to land, it was best to force a one-front war on the suddenly multi-talented Romans. Hannibal had to have a tough, loyal, flexible, and disciplined army that had to win every time—and he had it! He had to take the initiative on one front—Italy and his hope was to peel off Roman allies there. He thought the Gauls of northern Italy would be the first to align with him, but he must cross the Alps first. War escalates:  War escalates Romans sent two armies: one too late and the other too early, the latter landing at Sicily anticipating an African invasion. The late army landed at Massila to invade Italy and cut Hannibal off from an attempted invasion of Italy. Too late! Hannibal crossed the Rhone ahead of them. Publius Cornelius Scipio had been delayed in Cisalpine Gaul. Hannibal had left New Carthage on May 1, 218 leaving his brother in charge of a portion of the army in Spain. We don’t know exactly where Hannibal crossed the Rhone, but he did so around September 1. We don’t know where he crossed the Alps, but he started in early winter with 30K infantry, 9K cavalry, 40 war elephants. Hannibal’s early success:  Hannibal’s early success Hannibal lost a third of his army crossing the Alps, but when he descended he was joined by thousands of Gauls already at war with Rome. The opening battle was a cavalry skirmish, near the Ticino River, but the losing Romans withdrew their army south of the Po. In December 218 BC, the Romans confronted Hannibal with 40,000 men on the eastern bank of the Trebia River. Against intelligence, Consul Sempronius’ army took the offensive and Hannibal killed 30,000 of the Romans. Hannibal now controlled northern Italy and the rich Po River valley. In 217, Hannibal invaded Etruria near Perusia and wiped out another defending Roman army of 40,000. Dread and loathing in Rome:  Dread and loathing in Rome Romans now feared that which Hannibal was probably incapable of: an assault of Rome itself. Hannibal was really trying to wear down the allies of Rome and cripple the Roman alliance system. The Centuriate Assembly exalted Q. Fabius Maximus Verrucosus to dictator. Fabius Maxiumus’ strategy was not to be drawn into battle, but to fight on terms favorable to Rome: hindrances and hills, blocking Hannibal’s provisions. Fabius became known as Cunctator (“staller”), and his strategy frustrated many Romans. In 216, Fabius stepped down, and the new consuls, G. Tarentius Varro and L. Aemilius Paullus aggressively attacked Hannibal with 80,000 men at Cannae. They lost all but 15,000. For four years after, Hannibal called the tune as allies began to desert Rome. Roman resurgence:  Roman resurgence Romans changed strategy to using their vast and unmatched resources to: Keep Hannibal from getting Carthaginian reinforcements. Cut off supply lines. Avoid direct and open confrontation with Hannibal, but… To reconquer and subdue disloyal Italian cities. It all worked. Romans took Syracuse (212), Capua (211), Agrigentum (210) and Tarentum (209)—”divide and conquer” and Punic supply fleet was lost in storm (205). Meanwhile, in Spain, the Scipio family captured Saguntum (212), but Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal returned and destroyed the Roman army. However, it was ultimately for the best—the only Scipio to survive was Publius Scipio’s son: the future Africanus. Scipio on the scene:  Scipio on the scene Centuriate Assembly gave young Scipio his father’s old command—unprecedented! (210) Scipio began to use the longer swords and javelins of the Carthaginians, and he switched to Hannibal’s tactics, more flexible and mobile than Rome’s. In 209 Scipio’s army captured New Carthage, helped by an anomaly. In 208 defeated Hasdrubal, then at Ilipa in 206 beat last of Carthginians, Spain was Rome’s. Hasdrubal tried to get to Rome with his army in 207, but he was intercepted by two Roman armies at the Italian river called the Metaurus in 207. The Romans destroyed his army and Hasdrubal was killed. The Romans cut off his head and had it catapulted into Hannibal’s camp several days later. Mago, another brother of Hannibal, failed to invade Genoa by sea. Mago was badly wounded. Scipio Africanus:  Scipio Africanus 206, Scipio elected consul, obtained permission to invade Africa from the senate, over Fabius Maximus’ objections. Required to raise troops, he gathered 7000 in the African Expeditionary Force. In 204 he landed at Utica and allied with one of the Numidian kings, Masinassa, and surrounded the camp of the other, a Carthage ally named Syphax, captured Syphax. This neutralized Carthage’s cavalry. Carthage sent for Hannibal. After Hannibal arrived, petty battles ensued until they met at Naraggara in 202, (mis-)called the Battle of Zama. Hannibal, with no cavalry to speak of, tried to terrorize the Romans with Elephants, but the new formation neutralized this threat and Scipio turned the elephants back on Hannibal’s cavalry, which they destroyed. Hannibal lost the battle, urged Carthage to surrender in 201. End of war, postwar:  End of war, postwar Carthage had to give up all non-African holdings and give independence to Numidia, and only wage war with Roman permission. In 196 Hannibal became the shophet, or Judge, of Carthage. He established a budget and income taxes. Hannibal paid Rome’s indemnity in ten years—forty years early! Rome refused the payment. Romans became alarmed at Carthage’s recovery under Hannibal and demanded Carthage surrender Hannibal to Rome. He fled to Ephesus. Now that Rome completely and unquestioningly dominated the western Mediterranean, they would turn their attentions to the eastern half.

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