Punic Wars


The Punic Wars were armed conflicts between the Carthaginian Empire and the Roman Republic between 264 and 146 BC, which at that time were the two powers that dominated the Mediterranean.


Data of interest

  • Dates:  264 BC to 241 BC (First Punic War), 218 BC to 201 BC (Second Punic War) and 149 BC to 146 BC (Third Medical War)
  • Facing Groups: Rome and the Carthaginian Empire

What are the Punic Wars?

The Punic Wars were three great warlike clashes between the two great empires of the Ancient World, Rome and Carthage . These three wars took place between 264 and 146 BC. The confrontations took place between a commercial empire (Carthage) and another in expansion (Rome). The Romans managed to defeat their enemies by equaling and surpassing their naval armada, taking advantage of their military strategies to defeat their opponents on the ground and never let them recover again. Carthage after the wars was reduced to ashes and subjected under the Roman Empire, its army made up mostly of mercenaries could win many battles in the conflict but never managed to win the war.


The term “Punic” comes from the Latin Punicus or Poenicus, which was the name that the Romans gave to the Carthaginians.


The Punic Wars were the greatest warlike confrontations in the history of the classical world. The first took place between 264 BC and 241 BC The second occurred between 218 BC and 201 BC and the third occurred between 149 BC and 146 BC

Causes of the Punic Wars

The cause that originated this war was mainly the interest of the Republic of Rome in expanding towards the south conquering Sicily , territory that was dominated by the Carthaginian Empire. Carthage, located in North Africa, on the coasts of what is now known as Tunisia, was a commercial empire that had an unparalleled maritime armed force at that time, which had under its control the entire western Mediterranean. However, despite having a very strong maritime force, his land navy was not that powerful and many members of his army were mercenaries who fought for money but not to feel part of this empire.

Rome at that time was an empire that expanded its territories throughout Italy with an army identified with its republic and had a lot of experience in land combat strategies. Despite this, the Romans lacked a naval navy as strong as the Carthaginian.

First Punic War

Date: Between 264 BC and 241 BC

Objective of the conflict: Dominate Sicily

In 264 BC Rome invaded the island of Sicila , which was dominated by the Mamertines, a group of ex-mercenaries who had settled in those lands and served the Carthaginian empire. In this first war between Rome and Carthage there were many naval battles that Rome could not win until in one of the combats, it managed to capture a Carthaginian rowing ship called quinquerreme and they began to produce warships of this type in many quantities to overcome to the naval navy of Carthage and win this first war by becoming the new masters of the island of Sicily on March 10, 241 BC.

The first Punic War ends with the victory of the Romans in the battle of the Aegadian Islands and the peace agreements established with the Carthaginians.

Second Punic War

Date: Between 218 BC and 201 BC

Objective of the conflict: Expand the Carthaginian Empire through the Iberian Peninsula until reaching RomeThe Second Punic War is known as the War of Hannibal or against Hannibal . This began in 218 BC and continued until 201 BC.

Carthage was in a difficult situation after the defeat of the First Punic War. It had lost its power in the Mediterranean Sea ; Losing Sicily and the compensation imposed by Rome greatly affected its economy . The latter resulted in a revolt by unpaid mercenaries and the opportunity for Rome to take control of the Carthaginian islands of Corsica and Sardinia.

Carthage decides to expand his empire through the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania) and for this he has General Hannibal who intends to start a new war between Carthage and Rome to end the Romans.

Hannibal had a large land army that included elephants.  From the Iberian Peninsula it made its way to France and then to Italy . In those battles he progressively defeated the Roman army. In battles like Trebia and Lake Trasimeno, Hannibal demonstrated his power by annihilating the thousands of Roman soldiers.

Upon reaching Rome, Hannibal stopped his path and did not attack the walled city because he did not have the adequate army for this battle. It is important to remember that Hannibal also lost men in his fights but not the battles he had had up to that moment.

To attack Rome, Hannibal requested reinforcements from General Hasdrubal, who would assist him with a second army, but this was defeated by the Romans before meeting Hannibal.

The Romans for their part followed two combat strategies developed by the Roman dictator Fabian Máximo to destroy Hannibal’s army. The first was to keep him busy so he wouldn’t attack Rome. The second was to send an expedition led by General Publio Cornelio Escipión known as “el Africano” to conquer the Iberian lands and destroy Hasdrubal’s army.

Hannibal upon learning that Hasdrubal was defeated, tries to return to Carthage to face Publio Cornelio in the battle of Zama and loses it, ending the Second Punic War .

Hannibal was able to win almost all the battles but in the end he lost the war and this cost Carthage dearly, which ended up being conquered by Rome .

Third Punic War

Date:  Between 149 BC and 146 BC

Objective of the conflict: Attack the Carthaginian capital by the Romans.

The Third Punic War was the last great armed conflict between Rome and Carthage. This began in 149 BC and ended in 146 BC with the destruction of Carthage by the Roman armies led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Emiliano , grandson of Scipio “the African”.

By the end of the Second Punic Wars, the two sides had made peace. However, Rome was alert to its previous enemy and knew that it could not let it resurface because that would generate a new war.

Carthage, which in former times was a commercial empire, was able to recover from its losses after the second war and began to prosper again. But the Carthaginian people were prohibited from engaging in combat with another people without the permission of the Roman Senate by the peace treaty they had agreed upon. This is how the Romans gave secret orders to their allies in Africa to attack Carthage and generate a confrontation that broke with the Peace Agreement.

The Carthaginians asked the Senate of Rome for permission to attack and the Romans did not allow it. This generated a lot of tension in Carthage and it was in 149 BC when the Carthaginians went to combat and Rome took advantage of that moment to completely end the Carthaginian city, destroying their houses, selling the survivors as slaves and salting their lands so that nothing would return. to grow on that site.

Consequences of the Punic Wars

The end of the Punic Wars makes Rome become the main power in the Mediterranean and ends the empire of Carthage in the ancient world.

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