Punic Wars


The Romans fought the Carthaginians three times between 264-146BC in what are called the Punic Wars (the Roman name for the Carthaginians). Carthage is a powerful trading center on the coast of North Africa. Rome is a powerful land-based center in Italy. Sicily lies between the two powers but is traditionally allied with Carthage.

Sample Problem

Mercenaries, stranded on the island of Sicily, send to both Rome and Carthage for help to get home. They trust both nations but whomever gets there first will be the one to lend assistance. Carthage has a powerful navy while Rome has the stronger army. Both nations send armies to help and fight each other over the right to be there. Rome acquires Carthaginian ship technology and beats the Carthaginians at sea in 241BC, claiming its first provinces in the Mediterranean.
During the peace, Carthage claims Spain to supply it with more food and money. As Carthage claims more territory to the north, towns send to Rome for help and the Second Punic War begins. The Carthaginians under their general, Hannibal, surprise Rome by marching overland through the Alps to bring the war to Italy and separate Rome from her allies. Hannibal fails to separate them and must retreat to Carthage. The Roman army follows him and defeats Carthage.
Rome incorporates Spain into its new Empire while Carthage slowly rebuilds strength during the next 50 years. Carthage begins interfering with a neighbor kingdom which is also a friend of Rome. The Romans come to help again and this time destroy Carthage completely, ending the Punic Wars.


The Punic Wars forever change Rome from a chain of allied kingdoms and towns around Italy to a growing world empire. It starts with trust in Rome’s fairness and reliability in disputes with other nations. The Punic Wars encourage Rome to try to fix problems in other regions, starting with Macedonia and Greece. The victory of Rome in the Punic Wars provides the reasons for what unfolds in the next century and a half: remaking the Army into a professionalized organization, giving generals accelerated paths to political power, and finally remaking a system of shared powers into one around a single person, the Principate under Augustus Caesar.

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