Ancient Rome—Punic Wars
274 to 146 B.C.
First Punic War to Destruction of Carthage
Era Summary—Punic Wars
The period of the Punic and Macedonian Wars was a critical one in Rome's history. At the dawn of the, in 264 B.C., Rome was master of Italy, but controlled no colonies or provinces outside of the Peninsula. She had neither a navy nor a merchant based economy. One hundred and twenty years later, she had entirely subdued both the Carthaginian empire in the west and the Macedonian empire in the east. She had provinces and allies throughout the Mediterranean and was the undisputed master of the seas. Although it took another century to expand and consolidate her power, by the end of the Punic Wars Rome had laid the foundation of an empire.
The second Punic War was a great catastrophe for Rome and all of Italy. The early part of the war was fought entirely on Italian soil at great cost to Rome and its allies. The Battle of Cannae was the worst loss in Roman history, yet it was only one of several disastrous defeats inflicted on Rome by its implacable Carthaginian foes. Eventually the tide of war turned when Rome attacked Carthaginian strongholds in Spain and Africa. Again, perseverance through great difficulties changed the fortunes of Rome from great peril to ultimate victory. This time Rome continued the fight until it won a decisive victory against Carthage and eliminated its threat as a military power. The outstanding character of the Second Punic War was undoubtedly the Carthaginian, who is universally acknowledged as one of history's greatest generals. Some of the Roman generals who opposed him over the years included , , , , and , but it was , who drove Hannibal out of Italy, defeated him on Carthaginian soil, and brought the bloody war to a final close.
The third Punic War was fought without serious provocation, for the purpose of destroying Carthage altogether. Having eliminated Carthage as a military threat, Rome desired to exterminate it, partly out of vengeance, partly out of envy from its continuing commercial success, and partly out of contempt for its culture (which did involve some heinous elements, such as human sacrifice.)
Thein the east were not as protracted or ruinous as the Punic Wars, but resulted in territory and plunder for the Romans. The Romans valued many elements of Greek civilization, unlike the Carthaginian civilization, which they hated. Therefore, they preserved or imitated much of Greek culture rather than destroying it. Captured Greeks were the most valuable of all slaves and were frequently employed as teachers, tutors, or household servants rather than laborers.
The first Roman campaign againt Macedonia was fought during the second Punic War, after king Philip V of Macedonia took advantage of the disruptions in Italy to seize some contested territory on the North Adriatic. Two subsequent campains were fought over the next thirty years and resulted in much plunder, which helped re-invigorate Rome after its losses in the second Punic War. The Battle of Pydna in 168 B.C. destroyed the power of the Macedonian kingdom in Greece and the subsequent destruction of Corinth, following a rebellion of some Greek city states, ushered in the Greco-Roman era.
The famous characters of these ages were almost invariably military leaders., a Greek writer who wrote the histories of the Punic Wars, and , who ardently resisted the extravagance and luxury that went along with the increasing influence of Greek culture in Rome, are two of the only characters of this age who are famous mainly for their cultural contributions, rather than their martial feats.
First Punic War
|Captured by Carthage in first Punic war; urged Rome keep fighting at cost of his own life.|
|Spartan mercenary general in first Punic War; captured Regulus, led Carthage to victories.|
|Carthage's most able general in first Punic War; father of Hannibal.|
Second Punic War
|Carthaginian general, invaded and laid waste to Italy for sixteen years.|
|Elected dictator to resist Hannibal; counseled delay, not direct assault.|
|Tried to intercept Hannibal in Gaul, but was defeated at Ticino River and Trebbia.|
|Consul at the Battle of Cannae; opposed the confrontation, but died on battlefield.|
|Led Rome to disastrous defeat at Cannae. Survived and tried to rally the troops.|
|Besieged Syracuse during the second Punic War, but the ingenious war weapons of Archimedes frustrated the Romans.|
|Fought against Scipios in Spain; killed after he crossed the Alps to aid Hannibal.|
|King of Numidia, allied with Rome against Carthage; fought at Zama.|
|Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.|
Third Punic War
|Roman censor, urged destruction of Carthage before third Punic War.|
|Led the siege of Carthage during the third Punic War.|
|Taken as Greek hostage during Macedonian wars; historian of Punic Wars.|
|Led Rome against Philip V in second Macedonian War.|
|Led Rome against Macedonia at the Battle of Pydna and was victorious.|
|264||Rome intervenes in a land war against Carthage in Sicily..|
|260||Roman naval victory at Battle of Mylae.|
|256||Roman victory at Battle of Ecnomus—the largest naval battle of the age.|
|253||Defeat and capture ofat Battle of Bagradas.|
|250||Regulus defies Carthage and is murdered|
|219||Hannibal lays siege to Saguntum, a Roman ally, on the coast of Spain.|
|218||Hannibal crosses the Alps and meets a Roman army at the Battle of Trebia River.|
|217||An Roman legion is ambushed and Consul is killed the Battle of Lake Trasimene.|
|216||Low point: Roman disaster at Battle of Cannae.|
|212||Death ofat the Siege of Syracuse.|
|207||killed at the Battle of Metaurus River.|
|202||Carthage decisively defeated byat the Battle of Zama.|
|—Roman victory at Battle of Cynoscephalae.|
|190||—Antiochus III of Syria defeated at Magnesia.|
|168||—Roman victory at Battle of Pydna.|
|146||Rome destroys Corinth after putting down a rebellion of the|
Recommended Reading—Punic Wars
Read chapters from "core" texts before reviewing study questions.