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  • The Punic Wars

    The conflict between the Carthaginian (Punic) Empire and Rome from the year 264 BC started a series of wars known as the Punic Wars. They were fought on a wide area - in Carthage and the Iberian peninsula and in Italy; the Romans even visited the east Mediterranean area, which led to the conquest of the Greek world. The conflict was 188 years long and it was finished in 146 BC when Carthage was seized and razed.

    The beginning of the conflict

    There had been a grudge between Carthage and Rome since Romans conquered whole Italy. It was certain, that a war is inevitable, so both sides started their war preparations. But what made the hell brake loose was the Roman attack on Sicily, which was under Carthage's rule. It was considered as a declaration of war by the Punic Empire and the first Punic War began in the year 264BC.

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    The First Punic War 264-241 BC

    Though Rome had a larger army, the Carthaginians' army had a better strategy and was more determined. The Romans had different commanders every year and they didn't know topography or Africa's coast well and they didn't have a strong fleet, so they fought all they battles ashore. It was different with Carthage - they didn't change commanders and they were excellent sailors. To defeat them a great strategy and knowledge of the sea was needed. The only weakness of the Cartage's army was that it consisted of mercenaries.

    When Romans won their first battles on Sicily the Roman command decided to attack Africa. Rome started to build a fleet, which was to transport troops. In 260 BC there were 123 ships patterned after the Greek and Cartage's ships. It fought it first battle the same year. Romans didn't manage to win that time, but during their next battle of Mylae the Romans succeeded under the consul Gaius Dulius' command. The defeated commander was Hamilkar Barkas, the chief of the Cartage's army. It would seem that the war would soon be over, but the following years were difficult ones. In the years 259-258 the Carthaginians won a series of battles. The situation was getting constantly worse, so the Romans had to begin fighting on enemy territory. In 256 BC a huge army was sent to Africa on 330 ships under the command of Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius Vulso. During the voyage one of the biggest sea wars in the ancient history was fought. It took place near the Economos Cape. The Carthaginians had about 20 ships more than the Romans, but they were the ones to suffer an utter defeat - they lost about 100 ships and 40 000 soldiers, while the Romans lost "only" 24 ships and 10 000 soldiers. After they had landed in Africa and won a a few battles Senate decided to summon Wulso's army back to Rome. Regulus went on with the war and was defeated in 255 BC by Xanthippus. Until 251 BC many battles were fought and both sides won many times and it took a Lucius Caecilius Metellus' victory to break the deadlock. Since 247 BC Hamilkar Barkas had been the commander of the Carthage's army and conquered areas controlled by the Romans. After many successes it was decided to send a part of the Carthage's army back home. Rome decided to make most out of the situation and another fleet was built, this one consisted of 200 ships. 11 March 241 BC near the island of Egusa the two armies met. Rome's army was led by Gaius Lutatius Catulus and Carthage's was led by Hannon. The battle began on 1 March 241 BC. It was a great battle with great warriors on both sides of the conflict, but someone had had to be defeated - this time it was Carthage. Peace treaty was signed in 241 BC.

    The unfavourable peace treaty

    According to the treaty, Carthage had to cede Sicily and the Lipari Islands to Rome and pay 3200 talents in gold. It was a harsh punishment for the Carthage, when the Carthage paid the indemnity it was left without any money because it has lost its income from trade and didn't have money to pay mercenaries, who were garrisoned in Corsica and Sardinia. When they didn't get their payment they started a rebellion. Rome waited until the rebellion started and then wanted Carthage to cede Corsica and Sardinia. Carthage, knowing that it hasn't got any chances of winning a war, accepted Roman demands and Corsica and Sardinia came under Rome control. Carthage also had to pay another 1200 talents.

    The Second Punic War 218-201 BC

    Since Carthage had lost a large territory and Sicily, which was the most important source of food, it decided to lead their army to the Iberian peninsula. It conquered the southern and eastern part of Spain and was still conquering new areas, what caused anxiety in Rome. These two countries signed an agreement, according to which Carthage could not cross the river of Ebro. While Carthage was conquering Spain, the Romans were fighting with Celts. Carthage's leader, Hannibal, knew what was happening in Rome and decided to take advantage of that fact. Leading an excellently-trained army he crossed the river Ebro. Rome treated this as the violation of the peace treaty and wanted Carthage to give the treaty's violator up. The Carthage's rejection started the second Punic War. At that time Rome had a huge fleet. The Romans wanted to attack Carthage from Corsica and Sardinia and Africa from Sicily. However, Hannibal had his own plan. He knew, that he couldn't win with the Roman fleet, so he wanted to cross the Alps and win Celts and enter Italy. He would fight only ashore and win other tribes defeated by the Romans. When Roman army was garrisoned on Corsica and Sardinia, Hannibal started his march with his sixty-thousand army and a contingent of war elephants. When the army wasn't stopped by Romans in Gaul, consul Publius Cornelius Scipio gave command of the fleet to his brother and returned to Rome to prepare defense. Hannibal crossed Alps and won Celts and started fighting battles in Italy. The march through the Alps was very difficult and Hannibal had lost half of his army and all elephants. Nevertheless, he was a huge threat to Rome. Quintus Fabius Maximus, Rome's army commander, was aware that he couldn't defeat Hannibal, because most of his army had been sent to Spain to cut off Hannibal's food supply. So Romans decided to postpone the the battle for as long as it was possible. Quintus mobilized Rome's army and gathered 80 000 soldiers against Carthage's 30 000. However, this wasn't enough to win. This was the biggest Roman defeat, but Rome didn't even consider signing a peace treaty with Hannibal. Slaves were enlisted and freedom was promised them for fighting against Hannibal.

    Scipio's plan was to move the fights to Africa, where he could win. In 204 BC the Roman army reached Africa. Scipio started to devastate Africa's coast and Hannibal was summoned back from Gaul.

    The battle of Zama and the second peace treaty

    Although Hannibal started negotiations with Rome, Scipio wasn't co-operative and, as a result, a battle of Zama was fought in 202 BC, when Carthage suffered a final defeat. Carthage had to ask for peace once again. According to this treaty, Carthage had to surrender all its terrains outside Africa and its fleet and pay 10 000 talents. But the most humiliating was that Carthage could not fight any wars without Rome's approval. Carthage had to sign this treaty, although they couldn't even defend themselves if the were attacked.

    The war with Macedonia

    After the Carthage's defeat Rome became the most important country in the Mediterranean. Shortly after the second Punic war, Rome decided to punish Carthage's ally, Macedonia. Under the pretext of liberation of Greece they started a war with Macedonia. The was was fought between 200BC and 197 BC. After the Rome's victory Macedonia had to surrender Greece. But Macedonia didn't give up easily and started preparing for another war. Rome did the same thing and attacked in 171 BC. This war was only 3 years long and Macedonia was defeated again - but this time it the country of Macedonia existed no more and its terrain was divided into four republics. The Macedonians wouldn't accept their fate and started a rebellion in 148 BC and were defeated.

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    The Third Punic War 149 -146 BC

    When Rome was on a war with Macedonia, Carthage was rebuilding its power under Hannibal's rule. He succeeded in rebuilding its economy and Romans were in a sad plight again. Meantime, a country called Numidia was created in Africa and attacked Carthage. The Carthaginians, without Rome's approval, defended themselves, which was considered as a violation of the peace treaty and a declaration of war. It was a clever movement. The Romans promised to help Carthage fight the Numidia only if they gave away all their weapons. Carthage agreed and Rome ordered all Carthaginians to leave Carthage and settle away from the sea. The Carthaginians didn't surrender that easy and the third Punic War started. It was 3 years long and was finished in 149 BC when Carthage was seized by the Romans. Then it was razed to the ground and its soil salted and ploughed, so that nothing could be planted there. Carthage's soil was cursed by the Romans and the terrains, which Rome conquered, weren't called Carthage, but Africa.

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