Ancient Rome, s

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In the 3rd century BC Rome had to face a new and formidable opponent: Carthage. Carthage was a rich, flourishing Phoenician city-state that intended to dominate the Mediterranean area. The two cities were allies in the times of Pyrrhus, who was a menace to both, but with Rome's hegemony in mainland Italy and the Carthaginian thalassocracy, these cities became the two major powers in the Western Mediterranean – a signal of the imminent war.

The First Punic War war begun in 264 BC, when the city of Messana asked for Carthage's help in dealing with Hiero II of Syracuse. After the Carthaginian intercession, Messana asked Rome to expel the Carthaginians. Rome entered this war because Syracuse and Messana were too close of the newly conquered Greek cities of Southern Italy and Carthage was now able to make an offensive through Roman territory; along with this, Rome could extend its domain over Sicily.

Although the Romans had experience in land battles, to defeat this new enemy, naval battles were necessary. Carthage was a maritime power, and the Roman lack of ships and naval experience would make the path to the victory a long and difficult one for the Roman Republic. Despite this, after more than 20 years of war, Rome defeated Carthage and a peace treaty was signed. Among the reasons for the Second Punic War was the subsequent war reparations Carthage acquiesced to at the end of the First Punic War.

The Second Punic War is famous for its brilliant generals: on the Punic side Hannibal and Hasdrubal; on the Roman, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Quintus Fabius Maximus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. Rome fought this war simultaneously with the First Macedonian War.

The outbreak of the war was the audacious invasion of Italy led by Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca, the Carthaginian general who was in charge of Sicily in the First Punic War. Hannibal rapidly marched through Hispania and the Alps, causing panic among Rome's Italian allies. The best way found to defeat Hannibal's purpose of causing the Italians to abandon Rome was to delay the Carthaginians with a guerilla war of attrition, a strategy propounded by Quintus Fabius Maximus, who would be nicknamed Cunctator ("delayer" in Latin), and whose strategy would be forever after known as Fabian. Due to this, Hannibal's goal was unachieved: he couldn't bring Italian cities to revolt against Rome and replenish his diminishing army, and he thus lacked the machines and manpower to besiege Rome.

Still, Hannibal's invasion lasted over 16 years, ravaging Italy. Finally, when the Romans perceived that Hannibal's supplies were running out, they sent Scipio, who had defeated Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal, to invade the unprotected Carthaginian hinterland and force Hannibal to return to defend Carthage itself. The result was the ending of the Second Punic War by the famously decisive Battle of Zama in October 202 BC, which gave to Scipio his agnomen Africanus. At great cost, Rome had made significant gains: the conquest of Hispania by Scipio, and of Syracuse, the last Greek realm in Sicily, by Marcellus.

More than a half century after these events, Carthage was humiliated and Rome was no more concerned about the African menace. The Republic's focus now was only to the Hellenistic kingdoms of Greece and revolts in Hispania. However, Carthage after having paid the war indemnity, felt that its commitments and submission to Rome had ceased – a vision not shared by the Roman Senate. In 151 BC Numidia invaded Carthage, and after asking for Roman help, ambassadors were sent to Carthage, among them was Marcus Porcius Cato, who after seeing that Carthage could make a comeback and regain its importance, ended all his speeches, no matter what the subject was, by saying: "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" ("Furthermore, I think that Carthage must be destroyed").

As Carthage fought with Numidia without Roman consent, Rome declared war against Carthage in 149 BC. Carthage resisted well at the first strike, with the participation of all the inhabitants of the city. However, Carthage could not withstand the attack of Scipio Aemilianus, who entirely destroyed the city and its walls, enslaved and sold all the citizens and gained control of that region, which became the province of Africa. Thus ended the Punic War period.

All these wars resulted in Rome's first overseas conquests, of Sicily, Hispania and Africa and the rise of Rome as a significant imperial power.

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  • WikipediaAncient RomeHistory of ancient RomeGallery of the Ancient Art: Ancient RomeLacus CurtiusLivius.Org

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