IsabellaHabigLatin 2Ms. Martin12/4/17 The First Punic War TheFirst Punic War is the first of three wars between the Roman Republic and theCarthaginian empire that lasted from 256 to 241 BC. The war was mainly over thecontrol of Sicily and Corsica, two very important islands in the MediterraneanSea. These islands were in a strategic location, and whoever won them would geta serious advantage in upcoming wars. The war was fought on both land andwater, so the Romans were forced to adapt to naval warfare and its necessities.In the end, Rome won and gained control of Sicily.
TheFirst Punic War was caused by an intervention of Carthage in a dispute. Thisdispute was between Messana and Syracuse, which were two important cities onthe coast of Sicily. A band of raiders, named the Mamertines, were once hiredby the king of Syracuse. When he died, the raiders were excused, and theyheaded toward Italy. On their trip, they found the city of Messana and tookpossession of it.
The Mamertines turned Messana from “a quiet tradingemporium into raiding base” (Everitt 220). Later, Hiero, the ruler ofSyracuse, defeated the Mamertines and besieged Messana. One group of theMamertines, fearing Hiero, saw a passing Carthaginian fleet and pleaded forhelp. The Carthaginians accepted their plea for help and decided to help them.The other group of the Mamertines, however, turned to the Romans for help.Because Carthage already owned much of Sicily, the Senate hesitated. Theyfinally came to an agreement on helping the bandits, so Rome established apresence on the island. (Everitt 220) Asthe war began, “Messana and the Mamertines faded into the background”(Everitt, 222).
As the war went on, the Roman’s campaign on the land went well,however, they knew if they didn’t have a strong presence in the sea, Rome couldnever defeat Carthage. At the beginning of the war, Rome had no naval fleet,for they were never very interested in “maritime matters” (Everitt223). So, Rome decided to develop a navy and began attacking the Carthaginiansat sea. Rome’s new fleet, which was built in only 60 days, included 20 triremesand 100 quinquereme warships. Despite Rome’s best efforts, however, Rome failedto gain control over Sicily, but they managed to open the way to Corsica. Asthe war waged on, Rome managed to defeat Carthage in several crucial navalbattles. (Everitt 222-223) OnceRome made its way to Carthage, they decided to “recall half the army andthe fleet” (…).
Rome also withdrew two legions. This was because there wasan upcoming winter and Rome thought that they couldn’t attack at that time.Even with these restrictions, Regulus, a Roman general still defeated theCarthaginians at the city of Tunis. Regulus occupied the city in 255 BC andmade an effort to have peace talks. The Carthaginians were near surrender, butthe terms given by the Romans were too severe (Cartwright).Carthage sought help from a Spartanmilitary expert by the name of Xanthippus.
Carthage, with its 12,000 infantryand 4,000 cavalries were ready to face the Romans. Xanthippus combined hiscavalry with 100 war-elephants, which proved to be a helpful tactic. Carthagecompletely destroyed the Romans in the next battle, with Carthage killing12,000 Romans, and Rome only killing 800 Carthaginians. Having failed their campaign inAfrica, the Romans decided to bring back the war to Sicily. Carthage had toconcentrate their efforts closer to home, to “ensure its control of itsAfrican territories” (Cartwright). Soon enough, Carthage went back toSicily to resume its campaign there.
Led by Hasdrubal, the expedition ended upbeing a failure. Lucius Caecilius Metellus, a Roman consul, even managed tocapture Carthage’s war-elephants. Hamilcar Barca soon became the newCarthaginian general. Using guerrilla tactics, he soon became victorious in manyof his battles.
He continued to attack the Italian mainland, but without a fullarmy, he was limited. Hamilcar’s efforts persuaded the Romans that they couldnot defeat Carthage on land. Instead, Rome would have to resort to a war atsea. In 242 BC, Rome came out with a brand-new fleet of 200 ships. With theirnew powerful navy, Rome defeated Carthage in a very decisive battle. In thatbattle, Carthage lost 50 of their ships, and 70 of their ships were captured,and 10,000 prisoners were taken by Rome. Carthage didn’t lose by much in thebattle, but it “drove cash-strapped Carthaginians to seek peaceterms” (Cartwright).
The terms given by the Romans were fairly lenient,especially compared to the terms given years earlier. Carthage had to giveSicily and the Lipari Islands to Rome. Carthage also had to pay Rome 3,200silver talents in reparations for the damage caused.
As Carthage ceded Sicilyto Rome, it became Rome’s first province. Rome would later get Corsica andSardinia under their control as well. Despite everything that happened,Carthage remained a business power and they would soon come back for Rome, inthe Second Punic War (Cartwright). WorksCited: Everitt,Anthony. The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire.
2012.Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2013. Goldsworthy,Adrian.
The Punic Wars. Cassell, 2001. “Carthageand Rome 264 BCE-241 BCE.” Britannica.
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“First Punic War.” Ancient.eu, 26 May 2016,www.ancient.eu/First_Punic_War/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2017.