First Punic War

Summary

The first Punic War or Sicilian War was the first of three wars between Rome and Carthage, two major powers in the western Mediterranean. The adjective Punic, formed from the Latin Punicus, comes from the name Poeni that the Romans gave to their adversaries, assimilated to the Phoenicians (Phoenīces). This conflict, engaged for the control of Sicily and which lasts 23 years from 264 BC to 241 BC, is one of the longest carried out by Rome. Its course is known by Greek and Latin authors, mainly Polybius.

The war began with a landing by the Romans at Messina, who then subdued the eastern part of the island, and built a war fleet. The first maritime successes of the Romans encouraged them to land near Carthage to force its capitulation, an expedition which ended in disaster for the Romans in 255 BC. The war then dragged on; the Carthaginians held the western coast of Sicily firmly, while the Romans laid siege to their positions and alternated successes and defeats at sea. In 241 BC, a final naval battle at the Aegatan Islands gave the advantage to Rome, which imposed on Carthage, exhausted, the abandonment of Sicily and a high tribute.

Rome became a new naval power in the Mediterranean, but, in the opinion of the historians, it generates a feeling of revenge by its encroachments on the Carthaginian possessions of Sardinia and Corsica.

Ancient sources

The sources of information on this conflict are essentially Latin and Greek literary sources, since no Carthaginian text has come down to us following the complete destruction of Carthage. Partial and partial, they offer only the light of the victor. The works of Fabius Pictor, the oldest Roman historian, are lost, but they served as a source for his successors. Among these, Polybius, Greek hostage in Rome and friend of Scipio, is the most important source, which gives a complete account of the first Punic war. Polybius was a direct witness of the third Punic war and saw Africa and Carthage. If he knew and probably used the writings of the Greeks Philinos of Agrigento, Sosylos and Chairéas who followed the Carthaginian point of view, he treats them with contempt and refutes them. The other sources are later and date from the end of the Republic (Diodorus of Sicily, who also relies on Philinos, the Roman Titus Livius, of which only brief summaries survive for the period of the first Punic war), or from the Empire (Appian, the fragments of Dion Cassius, the summaries of Eutropius, etc.).

A small number of epigraphic texts concern the conflict and its context: the elogia Scipionum, the inscription of the column of Duilius referring to the period.

Modern studies

By its continuous account of the first Punic war and the many details which it provides, Polybius remains the fundamental source for historians like Theodor Mommsen.

However, this war, which was more tedious and less spectacular than the second, which opposed the great figures of Hannibal and the Scipio, has not been studied in a specific way. As a result, most studies on this war take the form of a paragraph in general works on Roman or Carthaginian history, or, sometimes, a chapter in works that embrace the three Punic wars considered as a whole. As Yann Le Bohec notes, among recent authors, only John Francis Lazenby devotes a complete work focused on the first Punic war.

Contributions of archaeology

An important discovery has been made in Sicily north of Marsala, the ancient Carthaginian base of Lilybaea, where two Punic warship wrecks were discovered in 1971 and 1974. These remains of sister ships dating from the battles around Lilybaea and Drepane complement each other and bring unique elements on the sophistication of Phoenician warships: these ships seem to have been built according to a standardized process and avoiding the long shaping of the planking, which would justify the assertion on the remarkable speed of construction of these ships, formulated by the ancient historians and considered unlikely.

Measuring 34 meters long and 4.8 meters wide, these small ships were propelled by a single rowing bench, organized with two rowers per oar on 17 rows on each side. The spur of one of the two ships was discovered and reconstructed: unlike the trident spurs depicted on Carthaginian coins, it is in the shape of a snubbed beak about 3 meters long, made of wood covered with metal. Barely emerging from the water, it was connected to the bow by an ingenious fastener, designed to break during the impact of the ramming and allow the attacking ship to easily get out of the battered side of its opponent and stay afloat.

Another archaeological trace of the first Punic war is in Tunisia, at the site of Kerkouane where the ruins of an ancient city whose ancient name is unknown are located. According to the dating by the ceramics which are there, it was definitively destroyed in the middle of the IIIrd century BC, probably during the expedition of Regulus which sacked many cities of the Cape Bon.

Rome

On the eve of the first Punic war, the Roman Republic finished imposing its domination on the Italian peninsula, with the exception of the Po plain. The last cities that resisted fell one after another: in southern Italy Taranto in 272, Rhegium in 270, Brindisium in 267, in central Italy, the last Etruscan city Volsinies in 264. In addition to its territory (ager romanus) Rome exercised its control through bilateral alliances on a mosaic of Italian cities, ranging from total integration (civitas cum suffragio) to submission through a theoretically equal treaty (fœdus æquum) with the Greek cities – except Taranto. Military colonies distributed on the peninsula reinforce this system. Any rebellion is stifled, and the Italian cities collaborate with Rome in the same military policy, without failure as shown by their loyalty during the recent war against Pyrrhus.

Roman military power was based on a large population of citizen soldiers, 292,234 men of military age enumerated in 264, landowners mobilized according to the needs of the war: each year, the consuls mobilized two to four legions, of 4,500 men each. These numbers were completed by the contingents that Rome requisitioned from the cities that were allied to it (the socii). Each consul commanded two legions during his one-year term. The Roman command is not permanent and its effectiveness depends on a variable competence and not always proven, the strategy is often influenced by the desire of military glory of the consul – 10 triumphs are celebrated between 263 and 252 – and by the attraction of the booty. The plundering of Taranto and Volsinies shows that the war can be very profitable.

Carthage

The situation of Carthage was very different: its establishment, heir to the Phoenician trading posts, allowed it to constitute a real maritime empire. From the shores of North Africa to a good part of Hispania, the Punic city had many territories. But, above all, all the islands of the western Mediterranean were Carthaginian: Corsica, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, Malta and the northern, western and southwestern coasts of Sicily. Only the coasts of Gaul and northern Spain were out of his control, and belonged to the Phocaean sphere of influence based on Massalia, which although allied to Rome, remained outside the conflict.

The opposition between the national Roman army and the Carthaginian forces composed of mercenaries, experienced but versatile fighters, is a pattern to be qualified: Carthaginian citizens were mobilized on several occasions, as well as contingents of allied cities or peoples, such as the Numidian horsemen. The war elephants, so often evoked for the second Punic war, were employed on several occasions in the fights, often to the advantage of the Carthaginians. Finally, on the eve of the war, the fleet was powerful and efficient.

It is the most modern war navy of the time, with its quinqueremes and triremes. Opposite, the Roman fleet put in line only two squadrons of 10 ships dedicated to the surveillance of the Italian coasts. According to Dion Cassius, the Carthaginian general Hannon could claim that “without our permission, the Romans could not even wash their hands in the sea”.

Sicily

Between these two blocks, Sicily occupies an exceptional position, with its three sea fronts, a real bridge between Magna Graecia and Africa. The island is very populated, rich in wheat and in works of art accumulated in its cities. After the death of Agathocles of Syracuse (317-289), who had unified the island and attacked Carthage in Africa itself, anarchy reigned, Carthage had regained its positions on the western part and the Sicilian cities were fighting each other. Plutarch puts in the mouth of Pyrrhus a replica which has value of report “Sicily tends us the arms, a prosperous and populated island, but very easy to take because it is the discord everywhere there today”.

Struggle for influence

Relations between Rome and Carthage were relaxed as long as Greek domination of the Mediterranean basin lasted. Indeed, exchange agreements were concluded during the first centuries of the Republic: the first in 508, the second in 348, and the third in 306, a last treaty of mutual defense was concluded in 279. Moreover, Carthage sends in 279 a fleet to Ostia to support the Romans against Pyrrhus. But, in the middle of the IIIrd century BC, the Greeks are definitively separated from the Western Mediterranean because they pass under the domination of the successors of Alexander the Great (himself dead in 323), the king of Macedonia. Their convergent interests having thus disappeared, the two rival cities find themselves alone face to face.

The real reasons of the Roman engagement are discussed by the modern historians. They underline the rise of the influence in Rome of the new gentes, the Atilii, originating from Campania and the Otacilii, coming from Samnium which incite the Roman policy to invest in the South of Italy and in the Mediterranean affairs. With 7 consulates exercised from 267 to 245 by the Atilii, the involvement in Sicily was to be their war. The growing importance of economic activity in Campania, which exported wine and produced ceramics, may have had an impact on Roman policy. But commercial competition is one thing, war is another. The more immediate attraction of collective and individual booty may also have played a role, as Claude Nicolet notes in noting the two popular votes in Rome, one engaging the beginnings of the conflict, then the other during the final negotiations, to increase the war indemnity imposed on Carthage.

Control of the Messina Strait

At the beginning of the IIIrd century, two independent Greek colonies were facing each other on the strait of Messina: Messana (actual Messina) in Sicily and Rhegium at the tip of the Italian boot. Their most powerful neighbors are Taranto and Syracuse.

In 289, with the death of their employer Agathocles of Syracuse, tyrant and later king of Syracuse, some of his mercenaries found themselves unemployed. These mercenaries, the “Mamertines”, originating from Mammertum in the Bruttium (current Calabria), seized Messina, massacred a part of the inhabitants and took the government of the city.

Shortly after, the Romans attacked the Greek cities of the southern coast of Italy, Rhegium and Thurii, but came up against Taranto which requested in 280 the military assistance of Pyrrhus. The intervention of this last in Italy then in Sicily puts him in the clutches with the Romans then the Carthaginians. The latter agreed by treaty in 279 against their common adversary. This treaty excludes any separate peace with Pyrrhus and envisages an assistance of the Carthaginian fleet. However, none of these clauses is respected.

After the departure of Pyrrhus, the powers take again their positions: the Carthaginians recover the West of Sicily and the Romans seize Taranto in 272 then Rhegium in 270. This catch of Rhegium deprives the Mamertines of Messina of their ally. In 269, Hiéron II, the new Syracuse tyrant, manages to defeat them and to take a part of their territory. The Mamertines appeal to Carthage and Rome. The Carthaginians who are in Lipari, a nearby island, intervene immediately and install a garrison in Messina, obliging Hiéron to give up to subject this city. But the Mamertines want to get rid of the Carthaginian tutelage and send an embassy to Rome to ask for the Roman intervention.

Outbreak of hostilities

The treaties passed between Rome and Carthage delimit respective zones of influence, in which the other abstains from intervening. The ancient historians, favorable to the Romans, present the sequence of the facts so as to erase the violation by Rome of the treaty of 306. Polybius supports moreover against the opinion of Philinos of Agrigento that this agreement never existed, but it is contradicted by the later historians who affirm that the Carthaginians have the first ones broken the agreements in 272 by sending a fleet close to Taranto. For modern historians, the Roman responsibility in the start of the war is not in doubt.

Nevertheless, the Roman Senate hesitates to intervene, because the Mamertines are of Italian origin, what could incite to solidarity, but they are rebel soldiers installed by the force, similar to the mutineers of Rhegium that Rome mercilessly put down. But the Mamertines came to Rome in supplication, and propose a deditio in fidem, solemn handing-over of the totality of their people, their goods and their gods, to the discretion (“good faith”) of the Roman people, offer which creates for the Romans a quasi religious moral obligation of alliance and protection. The decision to intervene is subjected by the consul Appius Claudius Caudex to the vote of the Roman people, gathered in comices centuriates and which gives its approval. It should be remembered that the organization of the votes and that of the recruitment of the army are such as the centuries which determine the result of the poll are also those which provide the manpower of the legions. Those which vote the support with Mamertins will partly take part in the expedition.

This delay of decision is used by the Carthaginian general Hannon the Great who disembarked with an army in Sicily, reinforced the Carthaginian positions there and agreed with Hieron of Syracuse against Messina which succeeded in getting rid of its Carthaginian garrison. Rome ends up sending in 264 the consul Appius Claudius to Rhegium from where he manages to disembark in Messina, thanks to the ships provided by the allied ports of Naples, Locres and Taranto.

The military escalation reached its fatal point: Hannon and Hiéron besieged Messina, and Appius Claudius enjoined them to lift the siege. Hiéron refuses, retorting that he exerts just reprisals against the aggressions of the Mamertines. The war is then declared.

Roman successes on land and sea (264-256)

After some successes on the ground against the Carthaginians and the Syracusans, and the surrender of several cities of which Tauromenion (current Taormina) and Catania, the Romans besieged Syracuse and imposed to Hieron II a truce of fifteen years. They gave him back his prisoners against ransom and imposed him the payment of a war indemnity of 100 talents. Syracuse kept its territory and left the Carthaginians alone facing the Romans. Thereafter, the Syracusans brought on several occasions a precious help to the Roman armies by supplying them. The treaty of alliance was thus renewed in 248, without limit of duration.

Carthage reacted by raising Spanish, Ligurian and Celtic mercenaries and regrouped them in Agrigento but the consuls of 262 established the blockade of Agrigento. After a difficult siege of seven months and a battle against a Carthaginian army of help, the city abandoned by the troops of Carthage was taken, sacked and its population reduced to slavery. Soon after, Segesta revolted against the Carthaginians, offering the Romans an advanced position in the west of Sicily. After their defeat in Agrigento, the Carthaginians adapted their strategy and avoided any pitched battle, locking themselves in their strongholds and harassing the Romans with their navy and light troops.

The Romans considered expelling the Carthaginians from the island, but Carthage had control of the seas and such a project would require the construction of a fighting navy. In 261, Rome built one hundred quinqueremes, and raised crews of sailors and oarsmen from its maritime allies (the naval societies). To make the best use of their infantry, the Romans equipped their ships with drawbridges fitted with grappling hooks (the corbels described in detail by Polybius) which served to approach their adversary and recreate at sea the situation of a fight on land. In 260, the consul Scipio was captured with 17 ships while trying to seize Lipari, while his colleague Duilius won a first victory at sea at the battle of Mylae. This victory, more psychological than militarily decisive, was the beginning of a series of successes at sea for Rome, which attacked Sardinia and Corsica in 259, Lipari in 258 and took control of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

At the same time, the Carthaginians under the command of Hamilcar Barca regained the advantage in the interior of Sicily, inflicting several defeats on the Roman armies and their allies, notably at Thermae, Enna and Camarina. However, the successes of the Romans at sea isolated the Carthaginian troops in Sicily and, from 258, the Romans regained the advantage and seized the center of the island. In 257, a half-victory of the Roman fleet in Tyndaris ensures to the Romans the resumption of the control of Sicily.

Direct attack of Carthage (256-254)

Encouraged by these victories, the Romans decided to carry the war in North Africa in 256. Led by the consuls L. Manlius Vulso and M. Atilius Regulus, a considerable fleet embarked four legions. To the south of Sicily near Cape Ecnome, it came up against a Carthaginian squadron which it forced to retreat. According to Polybius, this battle, which involved more than three hundred ships and about 150,000 sailors and soldiers on both sides, was one of the most important in antiquity in terms of the number of troops involved, but according to the historian François Decret, these figures are probably exaggerated.

The troops disembarked at Cape Bon, achieved several successes and seized Clypea, making it their naval base, while the Numidian tribes revolted against Carthage. At that time, the Romans had the habit, after each military campaign, of bringing home and demobilizing their legionnaires. At the end of the year, Vulso brought the fleet back to Italy with part of the troops, many captives and booty, while Regulus spent the winter in Africa with 15,000 soldiers and 500 horsemen. The following year in 255, Regulus resumed the war and seized Tunis, a position which directly threatened Carthage. Negotiations with Carthage did not succeed; the Carthaginians refused the excessive requirements of Regulus, who wanted to impose on them the abandonment of Sicily and Sardinia, the payment of the expenses of the war, an annual tribute, the surrender of the prisoners without ransom, the prohibition to make peace and the war without the authorization of the Roman Senate, the obligation to help Rome in the event of need, the limitation of the navy.

Carthage hired the Spartan general Xanthippe and Greek mercenaries, and mobilized its citizens. Making the best use of his war elephants and cavalry, Xanthippe crushed and captured Regulus at the battle of Tunis. The Roman fleet which brought back 2 000 survivors of the defeat inflicted heavy losses on the Carthaginian fleet, then tried to harass the southern coasts of Sicily, before being destroyed by a storm near Camarina. The Carthaginian general Carthalon then took advantage of the Roman weakening to sack Agrigento and knock down its walls.

Here is placed a famous episode, but legendary according to modern authors like Claudia Moatti, because absent in Polybius and only quoted by later Latin authors, to illustrate the Roman virtue in front of the Punic cruelty. Tired of this war, the Carthaginian government sends Regulus to make peace offers to the Roman Senate, or at least to proceed to a prisoner exchange. To the surprise of the senators, Regulus pleaded for the continuation of the conflict and returned to Carthage in accordance with his oath to return there if his diplomatic mission failed. He is tortured to death, becoming the symbol for the Romans of the virtue sacrificing his life to the interest of his fatherland and of the absolute fidelity to the given word.

War of positions in the West of Sicily (254-243)

After Regulus” expedition, both belligerents were weakened: the respective fleets suffered heavy losses, the Romans had only 80 ships and the Carthaginians 70. While Carthage must submit again the Numidians, the Romans put in building new ships, but give up any new landing in Africa after an unsuccessful raid in 253 in the small Syrte and the loss of a part of the fleet during a storm on the way back between Palermo and Rome. Military operations were now going to drag on in the western part of Sicily, where the Carthaginians clung to their coastal bases of Drépane (Trapani) and Lilybée (today Marsala) where they transported their war elephants.

In 254, after an unsuccessful attack against Drepane, the Romans stormed Panormos (Palermo), an important Carthaginian stronghold on the northern coast of Sicily. The inhabitants capitulated and nearly half of them bought their freedom at the rate of 2 silver mines per head, i.e. 200 drachmas. The fall of Palermo provoked the rallying of several cities, including Tyndaris and Solonte. This control of the northern coast of Sicily was completed by the capture of Thermaï and Lipari in 252. On the other hand, the Romans avoided the area of Lilybia, so as not to be confronted with the war elephants. A Carthaginian counter-offensive on Palermo supported by these elephants was launched in 251, but the Romans managed to neutralize the animals under a hail of bullets.

Deprived of its elephants, Lilybée, key place of the Carthaginian forces, became a possible objective for the Romans. In 250, the Romans began a maritime and land operation to lay siege to Lilybaea. In the 3rd century BC, poliorcetics, the art of defending and attacking cities, reached its full development, summarized by the treaties of Philo of Byzantium. The Romans deploy siege towers and battering rams, while protecting themselves with approaching barracks. They undermined one after the other the towers which defended the wall. The garrison of Lilybée carried out exits against the Roman lines and finished by burning all their war machines. On the sea side, the maritime blockade was several times foiled by the Carthaginian sailors, who thus remained in connection with Drépane. After several months of siege and heavy losses, the Romans were forced to limit themselves to locking up Lilybée in a countervallation out of reach of the garrison.

The following year in 249 a fleet commanded by the consul P. Claudius Pulcher attacked the port of Drepane. Faster and better at maneuvering than the Romans, the Carthaginian ships left the harbor, pushed the Roman ships against the shore and inflicted a severe defeat. The Roman annalists will find an explanation for this disaster, by accusing Claudius of having irritated the gods by his impiety against the augurs: he had thrown in water the sacred chickens which did not give a favorable omen before the battle. The Carthaginian fleet pursued its advantage by attacking the naval blockade of Lilybaea then bypassed Sicily to intercept the convoys of supplies and Roman reinforcements. To avoid the Carthaginians, these convoys took shelter in unsafe anchorages and were wiped out in a storm. After these disasters, Rome gave up arming a war fleet for several years, and continued the siege of Lilybaea from land. The conflict bogged down during eight more years.

These Roman reverses make it possible to the Carthaginians under the command of Hamilcar Barca to unload close to Palermo on the mount Heircté and to entrench itself there powerfully. From this base, he maintained his maritime connections with Drépane and harassed the Italian coast up to Cumes between 248 and 244. On land, Romans and Carthaginians disputed the mount Eryx near Drépane, taken by the Romans in 249, and partly recovered by Hamilcar in 244. In the last years, from 246 to 243, the adversaries were exhausted, they only engaged in skirmishes around the mounts Heircté and Eryx.

Completion (243-241)

In 243, the Romans reconstituted a fleet of 200 quinqueremes, financed by a forced loan on the richest citizens, so much the finances of the State were exhausted. They are ready to take again the combat on sea. After several engagements in 242 with Drépane and Lilybée, the consul C. Lutatius won a decisive victory in 241: ambushed off the Aegatian Islands, he easily intercepted a Carthaginian supply and reinforcement convoy, which lost 120 ships. Unable to supply their positions in Sicily, the Carthaginians agreed to negotiate and entrusted the responsibility of the talks to Hamilcar Barca.

For certain historians, the weariness of this interminable conflict is not enough to justify the Carthaginian capitulation on a not irremediable defeat whereas Drépane and Lilybée always hold good. For François Decret, other arguments are to be taken into consideration. Sicily, devoid of commercial exclusivity, was not a fundamental part of Carthage”s Mediterranean domain, unlike Corsica and Sardinia, which were real protected areas. Moreover a fraction of the Carthaginian ruling class opposed the companies of Barca and turned its interest towards the Numidian hinterland, of which Hannon the Great had just made the conquest.

A first agreement on a war indemnity of 2,200 talents payable in 20 years was concluded with the treaty of Peace of Lutatius, but it was not ratified by the Roman people, and its conditions were aggravated: the final treaty requires that the Carthaginians evacuate Sicily and the islands between Sicily and Italy (these are the Aeolian Islands and the Aegatian Islands), surrender all prisoners of war without ransom and undertake to pay in ten years a war indemnity of 3,200 talents of gold, divided into 1,000 talents to be paid immediately and ten annual instalments of 220 talents. Moreover, they were forbidden to recruit mercenaries in Italy or from Rome”s allies. But Carthage was neither obliged to deliver or destroy the ships that remained to it, nor was it imposed any commercial limitations or advantages for Roman merchants. The troops of Hamilcar Barca, mercenaries for the most part, and the garrisons of Drépane and Lilybée were not defeated and were not treated as prisoners of war: the agreement provided for them to keep their freedom and their weapons, in exchange for a minimal individual ransom, but the mercenaries were not to be dismissed in Sicily, and all of them were to evacuate the island.

Analysis of the Roman victory

The Romans leave finally victorious of the confrontation. Since Polybius, it is a commonplace to attribute this success to the moral qualities of the Roman people, and to the fidelity of its allies (only the Falisques briefly revolted at the end of the war). But in spite of the important ground manpower (one passes from 2 to 4 annual legions) and of the considerable and repeated efforts to constitute a fleet of war, the Roman superiority is not so obvious, as testifies it the exceptional duration of the conflict: none of the many engaged consuls shows himself an exceptional commander, the naval superiority acquired thanks to an unexpected tactic is put in defect by the maritime awkwardness of the consuls improvised admirals, noted by the losses inflicted by the storms in 255, 253 and 249. The Roman success is due especially to its endurance, to the success of a final effort in 241, vis-a-vis an adversary who remains constantly on the defensive, in spite of the combative quality of its mercenaries and the competence of its admirals and Hamilcar Barca.

Thus ends a long and murderous war: the human losses are unknown but considerable. On the Roman side, the censuses reported by Tite-Live show a significant demographic fall: from 292 234 adult citizens in 264 before the defeats of 249, one falls to 241 212 in 246 after the war. If the richest classes of citizens were relatively spared, the proletarians generally serving in the navy were more tested. The losses of the Italian allies had to be even greater, because they provided the essential of the crews, and underwent heavy losses at sea: according to Polybe, the Roman fleets lost some 700 quinqueremes against nearly 500 for the Carthaginians, without counting the ships of transport.

Roman Expansion

Sicily was completely devastated, especially on the western point and the southern front. Rome annexed it, along with the Aeolian Islands and with the exception of Syracuse which remained independent and allied with Rome. While Carthage was in conflict with the repatriated mercenaries who had entered into rebellion, the ruling party in Rome ensured that the agreements were respected, and forbade Roman merchants from selling supplies to the rebels, and encouraged them to meet Carthage”s supply needs, as Hiéron of Syracuse did. Better still, Rome repulsed the requests for help of the revolted mercenaries of Sardinia, and rejected the offer of Utica, which joined the rebellion, to pass under the Roman authority.

The Roman attitude changed in 237, whereas Carthage had just restored order on its territory. To a new call of the rebels of Sardinia, Rome obliges Carthage under the threat of a new war to yield this island to him, and adds an allowance of 1 200 talents to the imposed tribute. Corsica passes shortly after under Roman domination. The Roman historians claim thereafter to justify these blows of force under various pretexts, noting that Carthage did not have any more this territory in revolt, or by supporting that these annexations were in conformity with the treaty, which stipulated the transfer to Rome of the islands between Sicily and Italy, thus Sardinia and Corsica.

First Roman province

Sicily became the first Roman province, but only in part as Yann Le Bohec points out. Messina obtained the same rights as the Italians; as an ally of Rome, it was obliged to provide warships. Taormina was granted the same federated status. Syracuse as a more autonomous ally kept the southeastern tip of the island.

For the rest of the island, it was necessary to invent a new mode of government, different from the regimes that prevailed in Italy, with a new praetor created in 227 BC for this provincia, and the exploitation of populations that no longer participated in the Roman defense as allies and were confined to the payment of royalties to the Roman Treasury. The cities which like Segesta, Centuripe and Palermo supported Rome were free cities exempted from any levy, the rest of the territory paid tribute in the form of tithes on agricultural production (decima), customs duties (portoria) and grazing (scriptura). The collection of these taxes was leased by the praetor to individuals, city by city, which dispensed Rome from setting up a tax administration. The lands confiscated by Rome were rented. Sicily thus became the first of the overseas wheat lands that would serve Rome.

Economic and social impacts

The Roman economy is shaken during the conflict: towards 250, the currency of cast bronze, the serious aes passes from 12 ounces of bronze to 10 ounces, and its many sub-multiples follow in proportion. In 242, the Roman State, in spite of the tributum, contribution imposed to the citizens for the operation of the army, does not manage any more to finance the construction of the last fleet and must resort to the voluntary loan near private individuals. In spite of the conditions of conflict, it is still found of the fortunate people who group by two or three and invest in the effort of war. One ignores which were the conditions of refunding, but this process anticipates the appearance of the companies of business, explicitly quoted in 215, which advance with the State the money of its expenditure and whose presence will go while developing in the Roman world. Another social evolution takes shape with the massive appearance of prisoners of war taken by the Roman armies, who poured in large contingents onto the slave markets in a society where they were still few in number: 25,000 slaves after the capture of Agrigento, 20,000 after the African expedition, etc.

Thanks to the war, Rome became a maritime power, and it shows it towards 235 by making appear with the reverse of the aces a prow of galley.

Carthaginian difficulties

Carthage knows on its side of severe financial difficulties: according to Appien, it requests a loan of 2 000 talents near the pharaoh Ptolémée II, which it refuses to grant because of its good relations with Rome. It does not have the means to pay the arrears of wages of the mercenaries evacuated from Sicily and repatriated near Carthage, and must face their revolt.

The Punic power undergoes a new conflict with the character of civil war, marked by the broad implication of the Libyan populations. This conflict reaches high degrees of cruelty, marking in particular Polybe, our only source on the subject. The situation of Carthage is critical but it manages to crush the revolt.

Rome imposed a disadvantageous and humiliating peace: it put the hand on Sardinia and Corsica, imposes moreover an additional war indemnity. These elements can only maintain a will of revenge at the Carthaginians, who give up after having had the velléité to take again the war but without being able to carry out this project: the end of the war is thus only one truce of 23 years, during which Carthage reconstitutes its forces thanks to the richnesses of Spain before starting a new conflict, the second Punic war.

Modern authors

: document used as a source for the writing of this article.

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Sources

  1. Première guerre punique
  2. First Punic War