The Punic Wars

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The Punic Wars were a sequence of three battles that were fought in the period 264 to 146 BC between Rome and Carthage. They were the largest battles of the time. The main reason for the occurrence of the battles was the conflict in the vested interests of the Carthagian Empire and the rapidly expanding Roman Empire. The Romans saw the need to expand their vast empire through Sicily, which was then an important hub, and was partly under Carthagian control. Carthage, being the dominant power in the West of the Mediterranean and strong in its naval power, resisted all advances by the Roman Empire, which was an extensive maritime empire. This resulted in the first of three major wars that were characterized by a number of battles. At the end of wars fought for over a century, Rome emerged victorious in the Roman-Syrian War with the defeat of Seleucid King Antiochus III the Great and went on to be one of the most powerful empires of the time till the fifth century A.D
Carthage was a powerful thalassocratic city in modern day Tunisia. It had the largest navy and fought its wars through mercenaries, especially Numidian, rather than a permanent, standing army as was the case with the Roman Empire. In 264 BC, the Roman Empire conquered the Italian peninsula to the south of River Po bringing the conflict between the two rivals to a boiling point. This triggered the First Punic War that lasted between 264-241 BC.
The First Punic War was mainly a naval war which was also partly fought on land in Sicily between Hiero II of Syracuse and Mamertines of Messina. The Mamertines first enlisted the help of the Carthagians but went on to betray them and sign a treaty with the Roman Senate. This led to the Carthagians to directly support Hiero bringing them at loggerheads with the Roman Empire for the control of Sicily. In 261 BC, after a defeat at the Battle of Agrigentum, the Carthagians resolved to fight their battles at sea rather than on land. They consequently successfully fought the Romans at the Battle of the Lipari Islands in 260 BC. Rome decided to expand its existing fleets to over 100 warships in two months so as to counter the all-powerful Carthagians in the sea. They were specifically designed to incorporate a Corvus so as to facilitate sinking and ramming of Carthagian ships. This guaranteed a stream of successes for the Roman infantries except for the Battle of Tunis. In 241 BC, the Carthagians signed a peace treaty with the Romans in which they were forced to evacuate Sicily In addition to paying an enormous war indemnity. Further, in 238 BC, the Carthagians lost the islands of Sardinia and Corsica to Rome during the Mercenary War. This ensured that Rome was the superpower and could comfortably control any sea-borne or land invasion of Italy, all sea trade routes in the Mediterranean and further invade foreign shores so as to expand the Empire. Rome further fought and conquered colonies through the Illyrian Wars. Carthage was however forced to retreat and build its finances and expand its empire in Hispania.

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