Punic Wars – Rise of Power in the Ancient World
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The Punic Wars took place at intervals between 264 and 146 B.C. between Rome and Carthage, two military powers which rose as Greece’s power declined. In fact, this represented a turbulent time in the history of Ancient Greece because the outcome of the wars pretty much determined the fate of Greece. Here’s more information about these conflicts:
Background of the Punic Wars
The Roman states gained power as Greece’s control and power waned until finally ceding Magna Graecia (what is now southern Italy) to what was fast becoming the Roman Empire at the conclusion of the Pyrric Wars.
Carthage began to rise against Greece on the island of Sicily, around 480 BC. Carthage’s seat of power was in what is now Tunisia, and Carthage controlled Iberia, much of coastal northern Africa, and had strongholds on Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily.
First Punic War
The first Punic War lasted 23 years, lasting from 264 B.C. o 241 B.C. The fighting centered mainly on dominance of Sicily, but fighting did occur at Sardinia, Corsica, and along the northern African coast. Much of the first Punic War was fought at sea, which was advantageous to Carthage, which had the superior navy of the two.
The Carthaginians controlled much of the western part of Sicily and sought to drive the Romans out completely, but failed, with both sides suffering heavy losses of life and resources. With their defeat, the Carthaginians agreed to pay reparations to Rome, and also ceded control over the island of Sicily to Rome. Carthage became a tributary to Rome by the terms of the peace agreement.
Second Punic War
The second Punic War began in 21 B.C. and ended in 204 B.C. It is perhaps the best known because of the boldness of its general Hannibal, who marched his army, cavalry and war elephants included, across the Alps to take the fight to Rome on land, attacking the Italian mainland from the north. There also was fighting in Iberia (Modern Spain and Portugal), Corsica and Sardinia and at points along the northern African coast.
Though Hannibal had many successes early on, after fourteen years of fighting, Hannibal was recalled to Carthage. Within two years the surviving Carthaginian army withdrew. The peace agreement reached in 201 B.C. stripped Carthage of its overseas holdings, reduced the size of its armed forces, forced restitution paid over 50 years, and disallowed Carthage from declaring war without the consent of Rome.
The Third Punic War
The third Punic War began in 149 B.C., lasting only 3 years, and taking place mostly in what is now Tunisia. It largely took the form of an extended siege of Carthage. In 149 B.C., Roman forces stormed Carthage, massacred most of the population, and effectively destroyed the city. With Carthage destroyed, the Carthaginian empire was no more. What had been Carthaginian territories were now a roman province called Africa.
The Punic Wars were protracted conflicts that ultimately decided the fate of the world, with Rome at the center of power in the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding countries. To learn more about the Punic Wars, read The Histories, written around 146 B.C. by Polybius.
Categorized in: Ancient Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston