Punic Wars


The three Punic wars or Romano-Carthaginian wars opposed ancient Rome and the Carthaginian civilization or Punic civilization for more than a century. The Carthaginians were called Carthaginienses or Pœni in Latin, a distortion of the name of the Phoenicians from whom the Carthaginians came, hence the French word “punique”.

The initial cause of the Punic Wars was the clash of the two empires in Sicily, which was partly controlled by the Carthaginians after the cycle of the three Sicilian wars which pitted the city of Elissa and its allies against the Sicilian cities in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. At the beginning of the First Punic War, Carthage formed a vast maritime empire and dominated the Mediterranean Sea, while Rome had conquered peninsular Italy.

The first Punic war, lasting 23 years (between 264 and 241 BC), saw the essentially maritime operations lead to the amputation of a good part of the Phoenician-Punic thalassocracy. The war leads to the transformation of the republican Rome into a maritime power. Carthage was brought to its knees by a very hard peace on the financial level and important territorial losses.

Carthage recovered and extended its influence in Hispania. The Second Punic War, initiated by the Punic city, lasted from 218 to 202 BC and was marked mainly by land battles and the confrontation of the Carthaginian Hannibal Barca and the Roman Scipio the African. After 16 years of fighting, mainly in Italy, some of which may have suggested an imminent Roman defeat, the war moved to Africa and led to the capitulation of Carthage after the battle of Zama. The peace that followed was still very hard financially and resulted in a significant territorial loss for Carthage, its possessions being limited to Africa.

With the revival of the Punic city in the first half of the IInd century, Rome wishes to put an end to the threat which it constitutes according to it. By treachery, it disarms the city then declares the war to him, conflict which, even very unbalanced, lasts three years.

At the end of the third Punic war, after 118 years of conflict and the death of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians on both sides, Rome succeeded in conquering the Carthaginian territories and in destroying Carthage, thus becoming the greatest power in the western Mediterranean. Simultaneously, after the wars of Macedonia and the defeat of the monarchy of the Seleucids, Rome also extends its domination towards the Eastern Mediterranean.

Rome and Carthage never signed a peace treaty after the capture and destruction of Carthage by the Romans in 146 B.C. In 1985, the mayors of Rome and the municipality of Carthage signed a peace treaty and a pact of friendship.

The ancient sources which evoke the conflicts between Carthage and Rome emanate only from one of the two protagonists. The sources favorable to the vanquished existed and are known by some fragments. The ancient accounts put forward the Punic bad faith, metus punica or Punica fides. The ancient sources have also been largely lost. The literary genre of history was born in Rome from the first Punic war.

The Punic cruelty is also put forward by the sources favorable to Rome.

Modern sources have focused mainly on the second conflict, because of the personalities of the main protagonists and the uncertainty about the outcome.

Ancient sources

For the three wars, the ancient sources allow us to know different aspects of the conflicts: the strengths and weaknesses of each belligerent, the military organization of the Carthaginians and Romans, the political stakes and the diplomatic negotiations.

Punic sources existed: there were annals in Carthage, as well as a long tradition of record keeping. However, these sources were destroyed at the time of the Third Punic War.

For the first conflict, Polybius, a Greek sent as a hostage to Rome after the battle of Pydna, gives a very detailed account, and also Diodorus of Sicily. Polybius would have developed the responsibility of Carthage in the first two wars to mask that of Rome in the last one, blinded by his admiration for Rome and its institutions.

A debate exists between Polybius and Philinos of Agrigento which evokes the violation of a treaty by Rome. It is very probable that Polybe drew information from the works of Fabius Pictor; Tite-Live and Dion Cassius are also sources of knowledge and used Philinos of Agrigento. The victory is attributed in the Historians to the moral qualities of Rome, putting face to face the mercenaries of Carthage and the citizens of the city bordering the Tiber.

The causes of the conflict are very discussed since the antiquity, however only are preserved the sources favorable to Rome. The sources favorable to Carthage, Sosylos of Lacedemon and Silenus of Calé-Acté, were lost in the great shipwreck of the ancient literature.

The Latin sources considered the barcid power in Spain as monarchic, tradition relayed by Fabius Pictor. The authors in favor of the Romans consider the Barcids as responsible for the war. The crossing of the Alps, an emblematic event of the conflict due to its audacity, left a lasting impression on people”s minds.

Tite-Live offers a very detailed account and the beginning of the conflict is present in what remains of the account of Polybe. He used the Roman annalists.

Appian, who reports the facts concerning the war in Iberia in ancient Greek from the second century BC in the Iberian Book, summarizes the major events but makes some mistakes. His account is based on the testimonies of actors of the conflict, but only Roman. His work includes only the important events and the dated data are in majority disappeared.

Hannibal Barca is condemned by the Latin authors because of his cunning, with the antipodes of their vision of the war and going in the direction of the punica fides or punica perfidia. Polybius has on the other hand esteem for the Punic chief, “Greek ideal of the Hellenistic strategist”.

The authors, even those with “partisan ulterior motives” were marked by the character of this war, which is an example of change of conception in the Roman war, passing from virtus, declaration of war, to dolus, the fact of hiding its intentions. The facts related by the sources are linked to a will of recovery to integrate Augustan themes and those of the pax romana.

For the last conflict the essential source is Appian, author of a Roman History in 24 books composed in the second half of the second century AD.

Polybius finishes his History in 145: his work is important because it is witness of the last Punic war. Polybius points out the debates which agitate the Greek world following the destruction of the city, making proof of objectivity; however the author does not condemn the Roman imperialism, his quasi fraternal proximity with his protector Scipio Emilian is undoubtedly the reason.

The Roman History of Dion Cassius, known only by the summary of Jean Zonaras, is important because the author, who collected sources at length, integrates in his account elements unknown elsewhere.

The other historians give only partial elements. Diodorus of Sicily evokes the war in his Universal History. Tite-Live is lost for this conflict, and his works are known only by the abbreviations, his works have as a goal “to celebrate the glory of Rome”.

Modern sources

The Punic Wars have often obscured the rest of Carthage”s history, overlooking the centuries of Punic growth and expansion. The accounts of the Punic Wars are often Romano-centric, with a bias linked to the sources used. The historiographical tradition has long been favorable to Rome, even if the studies are now more favorable to Carthage, sometimes to excess as Brisson in 1973. Neutrality is the order of the day in current academic work. The question of the responsibility of war, the Kriegsschuldfrage, is now posed for ancient wars, especially among German historians.

In the twentieth century, archaeological discoveries have also allowed progress: the international campaign of UNESCO conducted in Carthage, but also the discovery of the Punic wrecks of Marsala. Numismatic sources are also valuable.

The inevitability of the confrontation between the two powers, often put forward because of the parallel growth of two entities developing and whose respective imperialisms had to confront each other at a given moment, is defeated by certain historians who consider the two powers as “parallel or even complementary” because of the maritime and commercial character of Carthage and the land and agricultural character of Rome. The complexity of the events and the “inversion of values” linked to the success of Rome on the sea and Carthage on the land requires the historian, according to Le Bohec, to be “a specialist in both Rome and Carthage”.

Le Bohec describes the conflict as “the first Hundred Years War”, punctuated by long truces. By the means implemented, it was, according to him, “a total war”. Le Bohec studies the conflict from the angle of military history according to the historiographical tradition of Contamine, even if he places himself in the field of global history.

The installation of Carthage in Hispania after the first Punic war gave rise to intense debates, between supporters of a family initiative, that of the Barcids, and those in favor of a will of the Punic metropolis to reconstitute the wealth after a conflict leaving it bloodless.

The Second Punic War has received the most attention and has given rise to “abundant discussions”.the battles led by Hannibal Barca have been much studied, including the battle of Cannes.

The third war, for its part, has been little studied, with a 2015 book by Burgeon repairing this somewhat by being devoted exclusively to it.

The forces at work

The Punic wars threw one against the other two empires practicing the doctrine of imperialism.

In the 3rd century BC, Carthage was a major port city located on the coast of present-day Tunisia. Founded by the Phoenicians at the end of the 9th century BC, it was a city-state with a flourishing trade and this prosperity lasted until its destruction. This prosperity was due to the intermediary trade and also to the fame of agriculture.

The network of Punic possessions in the western basin of the Mediterranean made it possible to control the trade routes. These sometimes ancient settlements had gradually come under the yoke of the city located between the two basins of the Mediterranean. These settlements had institutions modelled on those of the main city and a hierarchy existed in their dependence on it. The populations of the Punic Empire paid taxes in money or in kind, and their contribution to the war effort was important. Military operations sometimes came to a halt because of stewardship or financial problems.

Of the great city-states of the western Mediterranean, only Rome was a rival in terms of power, wealth and population. Strong of its maritime power, Carthage for its terrestrial army resorted especially to mercenaries and soldiers given by the people who were subjected or allied to it. Most of the officers who commanded the armies were Carthaginians renowned for their navigational skills. Many lower ranking Carthaginians served in the navy, which provided them with an income and a stable career. Sources such as Polybius contrast the two antagonistic armies. The Carthaginian army appealed to the citizens at certain points in its history. The Carthaginian citizens ensured the management, the troops being also conscripts of the territories belonging to the Punic city, auxiliaries of allies and mercenaries. The framing, badly known, and in spite of military qualities, was sanctioned brutally with the “smallest failure”. The diversity is not a handicap in itself, indeed Hannibal holds his army even in spite of its composition. The army of Carthage has a strong Hellenistic character in 264 on the tactical level and by its composition, with the contingents of war elephants. The army was organized in phalanx, without one can affirm that the sarissa was used. The Carthaginian army was made up of men “who fought for Carthage”. The Carthaginian fleet remained an important element until the end of the Second Punic War, with ships “more mobile and faster” than those of Rome. The Punic army was talented in poliorcetics, under the influence of the Hellenistic world but with a capacity of innovation like the invention of the ram or other machines.

Unlike Carthage, Rome had a land army composed almost exclusively of Roman citizens and allies. This army is qualified as “the most effective that knew the history of humanity”, with the unit of the maniple which allowed flexibility. Each consul commanded two legions; in addition it was necessary to count with the manpower provided by the allies socii, of Rome. The army did not exceed 40 000 men.

Rome possessed in 265-264 292 334 citizens, which testifies to “the strength and dynamism of a region that had an exceptionally large population”. The plebeians, a popular class of society, usually served as infantrymen in the Roman legions and had good military equipment. This class of “peasant-soldiers” produced “disciplined and resilient soldiers”. The upper class of patricians provided the officer corps. The Romans did not have a powerful fleet and were therefore at a disadvantage. However, by the First Punic War, a Roman fleet began to be developed. This fleet is not well known but is reputed to be less maneuverable than the Punic fleet. In the years preceding the hostilities, Rome conquered Taranto in 272 and crushed in 269 a revolt in Picenum and soon after the Messapians. In 267 the quaestors are entrusted the command of the fleet.

Logistics were a problem, whether in money or in kind. The Roman camp is especially known after the second Punic war and allows to hold sieges.

According to Le Bohec, the driving forces behind Roman imperialism were the desire to expand its territory, the lure of gain through plunder and “the need for security”; these reasons being supported by “moral and legal motives”. Punic imperialism, even if it was lesser, existed before the conflict, but was confined to African territory: the populations were more or less dependent, depending on the distance separating them from the capital, and had to pay tribute or provide troops.

Relations between Carthage and Rome before the cycle of wars

The two cities were very different, one “continental and European power, the second a maritime and African power”. They are thus two empires which confront each other.

The treaties are the sign of a common will of coexistence, especially vis-a-vis the Greeks of the West which are in decline in IIIe century. The commercial competition between Romans and Carthaginians is however real as of IVe century and increases at the beginning of IIIe century, with “the Roman expansion towards Italy of the south and (…) the Sicilian stake”.

The first treaty between the two cities is dated 509, a rather unlikely date because it is “too high”. Another treaty was signed in 348, and finally in 278.

From the end of the 4th century, the Roman advances in Italy did not fail to worry Carthage. In 311 the Romans appointed two admirals without having a fleet, a sign of their interest in the maritime domain. Since 343 a union with Capua allowed Rome to benefit from the “naval and commercial skills” of its allies.

At the time of the War of Pyrrhus in Italy a clause of the treaty between Rome and Carthage of 278 did not allow the incursions of the ones at the others. However violations of this clause by one and the other of the protagonists are proven in 272 for Carthage, a fleet anchoring off Taranto. The alliance is theoretical because there is only one common offensive against Regium in 279 and a great distrust between the two allies.

Immediate context before the first Punic war

Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, led an expedition to Italy and Sicily between 280 and 275, but decided to end the enterprise because of the high cost of his battles. According to Cicero, when Pyrrhus I left Sicily in 276 BC, he said “What an arena we are leaving, my friends, to the Carthaginians and Romans! The episode is sometimes placed in 275. The interests of Carthage for this island are going to increase in the years which follow and Rome feels undoubtedly little by little encircled by the Punic empire.

Carthage emerged strengthened in Sicily from the failure of Pyrrhus, and Rome likewise in Italy, not only in the south but also in the center of the peninsula. In 264 BC, the Roman Republic took control of the Italian peninsula south of the Po, and also settled in Rhegion opposite Sicily.

The first Punic war, also called the Sicilian war, lasted from 264 to 241 BC. It was a naval and land conflict in Sicily, Africa and the Tyrrhenian Sea, which originated in the struggles for influence in Sicily and ended with a Roman victory in the Aegatian Islands.

Responsibility for the war

The question of responsibility for the outbreak of the war has been the subject of study, and the issue overlaps with the complex issue of the birth of Roman imperialism. Some historians attach the triggering to a problem of domestic politics or an economic issue the categorical interest for Sicily and Africa. According to Hours-Miédan the responsibility of the war comes from the Roman ambition to extend towards Sicily. Gilbert Charles-Picard evokes a Campanian lobby. The eastern zone of Sicily was occupied by Syracuse, and the western part by Carthage; between these two poles were Greek and indigenous cities “more or less Hellenized”.

Roman trade was important, and the treaties with Carthage are a sign of this vitality. The conquest of the south of the peninsula, in particular Calabria and Brindisi, would have had an economic purpose. Sicily, by dint of hard work, had become a land of cereal production and culture, with Hellenization. In addition to the commercial question, the Romans also expected booty because of the wealth of the Sicilian cities. Polybe (I, 11) evokes the potential booty expected by the plundering of the rich Sicilian cities. Sicily and Sardinia also occupy a strategic geographical position.

The Mamertines, Oscan mercenaries who occupied the city of Messina between 288 and 270 feared the expansionist will of the king of Syracuse, Hiéron II of Syracuse and appealed at the same time to Rome and Carthage. The historiography in general considers that the call of the Mamertines annoys the Senate which puts back it to the consul. Two parties in Rome had antagonistic visions on the continuation to be brought to the request of Mamertins, the pacifist Claudii and Fabii partisans of the war which end up prevailing by arguing that the conflict would be short. According to Melliti the Claudii were interventionists.

Military operations

Following the request of the Mamertines, a Carthaginian garrison of 1 000 men. Then, another party mamertin or these mercenaries appeal once again to the Romans in 264 BC.

Rome is worried because of the position of the city located near the Greek cities of Italy which have just fallen under their domination. The Roman Senate, initially reluctant to hostilities with Carthage, decided to intervene, under the pressure of the landowners of Campania who hoped to control the strait between Sicily and Italy. 15 000 to 20 000 Romans were sent to the rescue. Appius Claudius Caudex crossed and took by surprise the Punic garrison of Messina as the Mamertines chased the Punic, triggering the beginning of the war. He allied himself with Hieron II.

Hannon, commander of the Punic garrison, evacuated Messina and returned to Carthage where he was crucified for this reason. The Carthaginians tried to negotiate with Rome while warning them.

The government of Carthage, after having hesitated, began to regroup its troops in Agrigento and Lilybaea under the direction of the strategist Hannon, son of Hannibal, but the Romans, led by Appius Claudius Caudex and Manius Valerius Maximus Corvinus Messalla took the cities of Segesta following a defection and Agrigento after a seven-month siege. The Romans had set up a camp and a network of forts. The Roman Senate wishes at the beginning only limited operations.

The first phase of the war is rather calm, and sees king Hiéron of Syracuse changing camp. Hiéron which had approached Carthage abandons this alliance following the first Punic reverses and contributes by its fleet to supply the Roman troops of Sicily. He signed a treaty with Rome in 263 which allowed the latter to have a reinforcement of supply in wheat, in war machines and in money. Carthage recruited many mercenaries to face this defection.

Many Greek cities of the interior of Sicily rallied to Rome. The navarch Hannibal carried out operations on the Italian coasts to disrupt Roman supplies. In 261, Hamilcar replaced Hannon son of Hannibal as strategist.

There followed twenty years of wars with various fortunes and “uncertain fights on land and (…) on sea”: the first victories were won by the Roman army against Punic troops made up of mercenaries from all over the Mediterranean and Gaul, African troops and Sicilian allies. The Roman army had already fought victoriously in southern Italy and had learned the Greek warfare techniques used by the Punic troops. The Carthaginians lost a large part of the Sicilian lands conquered from the Greeks.

The Senate of Rome, on initiative of the consul Valerius a fleet of 100 quinqueremes and 20 triremes with the assistance of its allies and by taking model on a Punic quinqueremes captured in 264. According to Le Bohec since the conquest of Latium and even more since the capture of Taranto Rome could not be disinterested in maritime affairs even if the allies are put at contribution. The ships were built in the Tarentine arsenals.

The Punics suffered a major naval defeat in August 260 at the battle of Mylae against a Roman fleet built partly with the technical assistance of the Greeks of Sicily allied to Rome and a new weapon, the “raven” and commanded by admiral Caius Duilius. This device consisted of a mobile bridge articulated from the mast of a Roman ship, equipped at the other end with metal fangs that were stuck on the opposite bridge. The Punic ships were then hindered in their usual tactics of ramming, and the Roman legionaries, who excelled in land combat, were able to board. The technique of the Greeks of southern Italy is especially at the origin of the victory, the putting forward of this innovation having an aspect of propaganda. Two lines of ships of Caius Duilius face the Punic ships. Carthage loses 45 ships in the battle, that is to say a third of the committed manpower. Duilius thus obtained the first naval triumph of the Roman history.

The fleet of 260 includes 100 quinqueremes and 20 triremes. The Romans who in 264 BC use allied ships to go to Sicily have their ships three years later and are clumsy for a long time (Polybius, I, 20). After Mylae, which has “an undeniable psychological impact”, there is a lull until 256, even if the Romans want to loosen the pressure of the Punic ships on their supply routes and wish to make low on Corsica and Sardinia, starting from Aléria.

Rome takes the advantage from this moment and extends the conflict to the islands, of which Corsica and Sardinia, for military reasons but also economic, with the cereal resources, mining and in slaves.

After the defeat of Mylae, Hamilcar, the new leader of the Carthaginian armies, redressed the situation by carrying out a strategy of raids and guerrilla warfare, on land as well as at sea, in Sicily as well as in Italy. The Punic army had a better technique of sieges and fortifications learned from the Greeks, and the Roman troops could no longer advance in the Sicilian west. An engagement near Thermae resulted in the loss of 5,000 Roman soldiers, Hamilcar transformed Drépane into an impregnable stronghold and forced the maintenance of 10 legions. The Romans took back many strongholds in the south of Sicily.

The Romans attacked Sardinia and defeated Hannibal son of Giscon during the winter of 258, who was crucified by his own soldiers. Towards the end of 258, Hannibal”s son Hannon crushed a Roman fleet and granted a respite to his camp, which lasted into 257.

At the same time, a Roman army, made up of 40 000 or 140 000 legionnaires and 330 ships, led by Manlius Vulso and Marcus Atilius Regulus gained a naval victory at Cape Ecnome. According to modern historians, the total number of men was less than 100,000. At the end of the fight Rome lost 24 ships, Carthage having lost 94 of which 30 were destroyed and the others fell into the hands of their enemy.

The Romans then wanted to bring the war to Africa, like Agathocles in the 4th century and landed at Cape Bon in Clypea (Kélibia) during the summer of 256, then ravaged Africa, in particular the area of Cape Bon where Regulus with his 15,000 men captured 20,000 people who fell into slavery. The Punic city, whose Punic name is unknown, occupying the present site of Kerkouane, was then destroyed. The Romans took other cities which were also destroyed and accumulated booty. A Punic army was defeated by Rome at the beginning of 255 at Adis.

After the return to Italy of the first leader, Regulus took the current Tunis. At the same time, Berbers shook the yoke of Carthage; this uprising was severely repressed, the defeated being taxed, testimony to the “imperialism of Carthage”. The famine is present in the cities because the peasants are protected there.

Carthage hired many mercenaries, especially in Greece, which forced the Punic city to carry out important monetary strikes. Carthage wished to buy peace. Regulus proposed to end it but with unacceptable conditions: abandonment of Sicily and Sardinia, tribute.these proposals of peace were rejected by Carthage because too hard, which appealed then to Xanthippe. Xanthippe, a Spartan general with experience in Punic armies and an army of 12,000 infantrymen, 4,000 cavalrymen and 100 elephants, put the Romans in difficulty at the battle of Tunis in 255. Hamilcar Barca was at the side of the Lacedemonian.

Only 2 000 men out of 15 000 escaped to him, Carthage deploring 800 killed “for the majority of the mercenaries”. Regulus and 500 Romans were taken to the Punic capital and the consul ended his life in Punic prisons; another source mentions a return to Rome as an emissary for peace negotiations and then a return to signal the refusal to end the conflict, following which he was horribly tortured before being put to death. This anecdote is rejected by the majority of “current scholars” according to Le Bohec because it would be an argument of Roman propaganda knowing that moreover it is not taken again by a number of sources, moreover the return in the prisons after the mission would be unconscious. The same specialist does not adhere to this rejection and considers its “interest for the study of collective mentalities”.

Rome decided to take the Punic strongholds in Sicily, taking Panormos and blocking Lilybée. Other Sicilian cities defected to the Punic camp.

The Roman fleet which puts in escape the Punic fleet is destroyed in great part by the storm. Another fleet distinguished itself during the battle of Panormos, a last one left to ravage the African coasts was annihilated at sea.a fleet was lost by the inexperience, the naval incompetence of the Romans, and another naval disaster was caused by a storm in 254-253. The Roman ignorance of the sea cost heavily, but the Campanians, principal interested in this war, paid a new fleet counting several hundreds of ships, asking however to be refunded by the Roman State of the advanced sums.

The Punics sent fresh troops to Sicily, including elephants, and a new fleet and obtained a quasi status quo between 253 and 251. In 251 the Punics were defeated in the battle of Panormos. In 250 Rome put the siege in front of Lilybée and lost 10 000 men, the Roman army suffering moreover from diseases. 10 000 soldiers were sent as reinforcements. The Romans were again defeated at the battle of Drépane in 249 BC where only 27 ships were saved, 20,000 Roman soldiers being killed. Carthage took a Roman convoy and ships were destroyed by the storm, an advantage that while restoring the situation in their favor did not lead to a settlement of the conflict.

End of the war and peace

The belligerents were exhausted around 250, and the same year began the siege and blockade of Lilybée. A naval battle took place off Drépane in 249, which resulted in a Roman defeat.

A Roman fleet of the consul Lucius Iunius Pullus was destroyed by a storm in 248. The consul took Eryx in the autumn of 249. The Carthaginians having taken again the control of the seas do not push their advantage to the maximum, being occupied by the insurrection of the Libyan and Numidian populations. This insurrection was put down only after six years, the insurgents having to pay 1 000 talents and 20 000 heads of cattle, and the leaders were crucified.

Both belligerents had financial difficulties in 249-247. In 247 an attempt of peace aborted and Carthage maintained the status quo by blocking the supply of the Romans.

Hamilcar Barca took over the situation in Sicily. He replaced Carthalon at the head of the Punic fleet and took the fort of Heireté from which he attacked the Roman positions. The Carthaginians, through Hamilcar Barca, then harassed the Roman troops and kept control of various citadels in Sicily: Drepane, Heireté, Eryx (taken over in 244, even if the defense of this last stronghold was entrusted to Giscon. The war is then made of a “multitude of skirmishes” at the initiative of Hamilcar and a “tactic of the small engagements”.

Rome, following financial difficulties, pressured the richest by a “forced loan”: a war fleet was made up of 200 penteremes.

A naval battle off the Carthaginian citadel of Lilybée was decisive, the Romans emerging victorious thanks to their tactic of boarding. The Carthaginians kept Lilybée and Trapani, even if the loss of Panormos is to be regretted. From 247 to 241 BC, Hamilcar Barca held the citadel of Eryx (Erice).

The Romans won the Lutatius Catulus victory at the battle of the Aegatae Islands in the summer of 241 BC according to Levesque: after having besieged Drepane, the Romans positioned themselves opposite Lilybaea and surprised the Punic fleet in charge of supplying the garrison of Mount Eryx. The Punics lost 120 captured or sunken ships, and 10 000 men were captured.

The Carthaginian commander, Hannon, was crucified. In the Punic city, the warlike party, represented by the Barcidians, who wanted to defend Sicily and not give in to Rome, and another party who wanted to concentrate their efforts on the African area, clashed.

With the agreement of the Carthaginian government, the leader of the armies of Sicily, Hamilcar Barca, isolated and without hope of sufficient supplies, has the power to negotiate to put an end to a ruinous war which blocks the trade, with Gisco. He then proposed peace to Rome in what is known as the treaty of Lutatius: Sicily was lost, the islands between Sicily and Italy, the Lipari, but Africa, Sardinia and Corsica remained in the Punic fold. A strong ransom must be paid and 2 200 talents over 20 years (equivalent to 57 tons of money). The Punic defenders of Sicily could leave the island against a modest ransom. The vagueness about the islands concerned allows “all possible interpretations”. The Roman prisoners were moreover to be returned, and it was not necessary to undertake anything against the allies of the other. It was not necessary either to recruit mercenaries in Italy nor at the allies of the victor.

These clauses were aggravated because the people wished to reduce the time of payment of the ransom, over 10 years, and increased the amount to 3,200 talents, 1,000 of which were due immediately, the balance in annual installments of 220 talents. The indemnities did not reimburse the cost of the war and may have been used, according to Tenney Frank, to compensate for the tax levies.

Hamilcar Barca received the honors of his adversaries, who recognized in him and in his troops valorous adversaries. The other Carthaginian generals lacked audacity, for fear of reprisals from the political power, and the initiative was left to the Romans. In general, the generals were not helped by the provision of reinforcements at the appropriate times. The Punic nobles distrusted the military leaders.

The end of this first war thus marks a naval decline of Carthage, which is not any more mistress of the seas with the loss of approximately 500 ships and an economic crisis of which the monetary emissions testify. Rome lost 700 ships and also came out of the conflict with weakened finances, this weakening being however compensated by the indemnity and the contribution to be expected from the direct taking in hands of the western part of Sicily. In spite of the disasters, the Roman army made efforts and considerable advances. “Fruit of the necessities of the war”, Rome is from now on a naval power. Rome seized all of Sicily, except for Messina and Syracuse, which thus became the first Roman province.

Interwar period

This conflict was very costly for both belligerents, and the Carthaginian indemnities received by Rome were not enough to cover the sums swallowed up in this conflict. Carthage undergoes a plundering of the Cape Bon and a paralysis of the trade, source of its wealth and the lack of liquidity is reflected when it is a question of paying the mercenaries.

Sicily became Roman after twenty years of war, not counting the previous wars against the Greeks which had left deep traces. From 227 BC, it was ruled by a praetor in order to command the troops stationed on the island and to render justice. Some cities like Panormos or Segesta remained free, the kingdom of Syracuse was under the protection of the winner.

Carthage came out divided from the conflict, with the barcid party “especially popular” which took the ascendancy on the oligarchy. Worse, the economic and military consequences quickly put it in difficulty. As for the procrastinations to pay the twenty thousand mercenaries brought back from Sicily by small groups by Giscon in 241, they lead to the revolt against Carthage between 241 and 238.

The war is followed for Rome by an unprecedented expansion: demographic, economic and political.

The control on the islands generates a growth of the trade and the monetary policy. The Roman plebs, previously excluded, asked to benefit from the ager publicus. On the cultural level the taste for Hellenism develops.

The peoples of Liguria were the object of expeditions of legions to put an end to plundering, and Genoa signed a treaty with the Romans in 230.

The Gauls threatened Rome, which led the Romans to embark on the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul between 226 and 222 BC, occupying Mediolanum and setting up two colonies in Cremona and Piacenza. Rome launches out in these expeditions whereas another war is carried out in Illyria. The region was rich and could constitute an outlet for the Italian economy.

In 232 Caius Flaminius Nepos promulgates an agrarian law allowing the installation of plebeians in the senon country. The Insubres and the Boïens revolted between 228 and 225, joined by the Gésates and set off. To please the divinities the Romans carry out a human sacrifice with the forum boarium. The Venetes and the Cenomans allied themselves with Rome. The invaders are stopped at the battle of Télamon in 225. The Boians were defeated the following year, and the Insubers and 222.

In 229 Rome was at war with the Illyrians led by Queen Teuta, who was accused of tolerating or encouraging piracy that was harmful to trade. The First Illyrian War lasted from 229-228 and ended in “a triumphal march”. The order is however established in 219.

The revolt takes place whereas the servile wars were widespread in the East, however the war of the mercenaries has a political objective affirmed, Libyans in particular were tired to be “oppressed by the imperialism of Carthage”. Moreover, the African populations joined the movement because of the exploitation suffered during the first Punic war.

The mercenaries were disciplined until the summer of 241 because their pay was paid. Hamilcar Barca wanted to resume the war. 20,000 men were initially installed in Carthage. After a passage not far from Carthage, they were concentrated 150 km away with the aim of a future expedition to the areas controlled by the Numidians or the Libyans.

Hannon le Rab, governor of the African zones owned by Carthage, asked for a reduction of the pay due to the mercenaries. Giscon of Lilybaea, respected by his men, tried to restore confidence but the opponents of Carthage prevailed.

The mercenaries settled in Tunis and Giscon and Hannon le Rab tried to negotiate with the middle managers who were quickly eliminated by the mass of rebels. Giscon was imprisoned by the rebels.

These, under the leadership of Spendios, a former Roman slave and Mathos, a Libyan, were supported by a part of the Carthaginian population, which could no longer bear the heavy burden of the war. The Libyans were the most intransigent in the exchange with Carthage, indeed the Berber peasants had to give up half of their crops. The mercenaries were mainly Libyans. 70 000 Libyans joined the rebels, the insurgents reached a strength of 100 000 men.

Hannon the Great did not succeed in taking Hippo Diarrhytus and Utica from the rebels. The military command is then shared between Hannon and Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar with an army of 10 000 men defeats Spendios twice, being helped by the rallying of Naravas. The Battle of Bagradas opposed 10,000 Punic and 70 elephants to 25,000 rebels and allowed Carthage to break the blockade towards the hinterland. Naravas rallied with his 2,000 horsemen before the battle of Djebel Lahmar. These two engagements are only partial victories. Rome took the side of Carthage.

Faced with a conciliatory attitude of Hamilcar who spared the prisoners and wished to “disintegrate the enemy army”, the rebels on the initiative of a Gallic chief Autharite massacred Giscon and 700 prisoners, “digging a ditch of blood”. In reply, Carthage crushed its prisoners by its war elephants, launching “a real war of extermination”. Utique and Bizerte joined the rebels to avoid a massacre. The mercenaries of Sardinia revolted at the same time. Carthage prepared to intervene, but Rome considered this intervention as an act of war and launched negotiations.

Hamilcar was appointed sole military leader by the army while Mathô laid siege to the Punic capital. The insurgents were supplied by Roman merchants but this was repaired and the merchants were able to supply Carthage alone. The rebels lifted the siege of Carthage, and then they waged a war against the Punic strongholds in the territory.

This civil war wreaked havoc, but Hamilcar succeeded in restoring the situation by the battle of the Défilé de la Scie in 238 won over Spendios, between Zaghouan and Grombalia, or between Hammmamet and Sidi Jdidi. The 40,000 rebels were crushed. Mathos defeated the Punics in Tunis whose captain, Hannibal, second in command to Hamilcar Barca, was crucified. Mathos and the remnants of the revolted army joined the south, and Hannon the Rab recovered a command. The last survivors were massacred in Tunis or crucified before the walls of Carthage. Peace then gained Africa, and Carthage would have extended its territory on this occasion.

In Sardinia the revolt spread from the mercenaries and in the local population, the Punic chief, Bostar, being eliminated. A request for intervention is refused by Rome at first sight. Hannon, military chief sent to the island, was crucified, betrayed by his mercenaries. The rebels appeal to Rome again, and Carthage threatens to resume the war.

Rome, seeing Hamilcar taking ascendancy on the Carthaginian government, sent the consul Titus Sempronius to seize Sardinia in 236, called by rebel mercenaries by an additional treaty to which was added new financial conditions with 1 200 additional talents and Corsica, islands isolated from Carthage after the loss of Sicily and of its naval supremacy.

The additional treaty was considered as “a real brigandage” and “real cause of the second Punic war” even by an author favorable to Rome as Polybius. Sardinia was annexed for strategic or economic reasons, because of the production of cereals or wood. However, the large island was shaken by revolts until 225, and with the taking of the islands, Rome was protected by an “island lock” and Punic trade in the Mediterranean was now compromised.

Carthage does not react but these annexations reinforce the will of revenge of the Carthaginians and the family of Barcides opposed to the pro-Roman party of Hannon the Rab. Hamilcar is supported by the Punic population and obtains a military power in Libya, and in Hispania. Hamilcar and Hannon the Rab had a command and carried out pacification operations, with an expedition of Hasdrubal the Beautiful which lasted on the coasts of the Maghreb until the death of Hamilcar.

Rome in parallel advances towards the Adriatic and towards the plain of the Po by installing colonies.

The Punics, Hamilcar in particular, settled in the south of Hispania, a region rich in minerals, under the leadership of the Barcids, who founded Barcid Spain from Gades in 237. Hamilcar, who had been removed from Carthage because of his popularity and his ideas on politics and the army, arrived in Spain at the end of spring 237. He had made his son Hannibal swear an oath in which is affirmed “an eternal hatred to Rome”.

Spain had known an old Phoenician colonization in particular in Tartessos but without “territorial domination”. The Barcids carried out their operations from the points of support of current Andalusia and the Balearics. They founded the city of New Carthage (Qart Hadasht), current Cartagena, sign of their way of governing modelled on the Hellenistic model.

They exploited silver mines in particular, giving Carthage back its economic and commercial power. The area was also one of the ends of a tin route coming from Brittany. The conquest made it possible to pay the indemnities due to Rome, according to Hamilcar answering a Roman delegation. The company of the Barcides hindered Greek installations Emporion and Massalia.

Carthage supports this entity, non-independent even if the power of the Barcids included elements of personal power as shown by the coinage. Hamilcar had taken the example of the Hellenistic kings by adapting it to the situation in Carthage; he would have had the constitution modified to reduce the power of the oligarchy. The Barcids reformed the Punic armies and involved the institutions in military affairs, contrary to the previous situation where wars were defensive or dissuasive and according to the consequences for their trade. Hamilcar shifted to an offensive conception by promoting an unlimited military mandate, accepted in the context of the mercenary war and by the army, whereas Hannon the Rab also postulated. The choice made by the army was considered as a democratic evolution of the constitution of Carthage at the end of the third century B.C., according to Melliti it is “a means intended to support an action or a political ascension” and the sign of the “militarization of the political sphere”. After this change no general will be condemned by the court of the Hundred and Four. The general was provided with a quality staff, in whom he had full confidence, and a small but very hardened and homogeneous army despite its very diverse origins.

The power that it acquires in Hispania was based on the assimilation of the natives and a monarchic tendency, as well as a certain autonomy with respect to Carthage. The Barcids by personalizing the power are opposed to the Punic oligarchy, in particular the Hundred-Four, and acquire autonomy in the conduct of military operations placed under the deity Herakles-Melkart, within the framework of a true “political religion”. However, the military operations are done with the agreement of Carthage and the victories are the occasion for the Barcids to send treasures in the metropolis, as at the time of the capture of Sagonte or after the battle of Cannes. Hamilcar also sets up the “family transmission of charisma”. Hannibal develops his aura also by his presence at the sides of his soldiers, and sharing their hard daily life. Hannibal works to unify the Barcid army by organizing the army by nations, according to their traditional modes of combat, which allows efficiency in the chain of command. The military strategy also changes, moving from a war of position to a war of movement.

The conquest also allowed the recruitment of Iberian mercenaries. The Celtiberians harassed the Punic troops, but Hamilcar beat them and freed more than 10,000 prisoners. The Iberians were reluctant in front of this expansion, and Hamilcar perishes after a fight against a city refusing to pay the tribute by drowning in Jucar in 229; his son-in-law Hasdrubal the Beautiful replaces him with the support of the metropolis. Hasdrubal continues the conquest with Hannibal, but also implements a diplomacy: he marries an Iberian princess. The Barcids continued the conquests of Hamilcar. Their goal was to restore Carthage financially while paying the war indemnities owed to the Romans through the contribution of Spanish metals, but, beyond that, to take their revenge on Rome by rebuilding the Carthaginian military power. A new Roman embassy went to barcid Spain in 226 to negotiate a treaty.

The treaty of Iber is signed between Hasdrubal and Rome in 226-225: Rome wishes to guarantee an alliance between Celts and Punics, those being able to continue to extend their influence in Iberia. The Celts threaten the Cisalpine and Rome is in war against them from 225 to 222.

Hasdrubal died assassinated in 222 by a Celtiberian or 221 and was replaced by acclamation of the army by Hannibal, aged 25 or 26, who conquered a vast area south of the river defined by the treaty of the Ebro. Hannibal launched actions in the northwest of Spain in 221 and 220 and then chose the battlefield where he confronted the Spaniards, who lost 40,000 men at the battle of the Tagus.

The second Punic War, also called Hannibal”s War, from 218 to 201 BC, culminated in the Italian campaign which lasted more than fifteen years. It is a “model of blitzkrieg”, with 1,500 km covered in five months at the beginning of its journey.

Hannibal belongs to an important faction of the Punic city, which leans on the Assembly of the people not to be eliminated. Hannibal after the death of Asdrubal is designated stratego by the army, act confirmed by the Senate and the Assembly. His power is exercised within the framework of the constitution of Carthage as can testify the text known as oath of Hannibal, perhaps a construction of Fabius Pictor. Hamilcar prepared his sons for the army and Hannibal”s army remained faithful to him, because of this “military precocity”, a character he shared with Alexander the Great and because he shared the hard life of his soldiers.

This conflict concerns Spain, Italy, Sicily, Africa and also the Greek world with the wars of Macedonia in particular the first. The first battles are disastrous for Rome and Hannibal leaves Italy only late.

The forces at work

Carthage before the second Punic war lost the islands but expanded into Africa and Iberia.

The Punic army was composed essentially of an Iberian and African core, with Libyan cadres such as Muttinès who had a command in Sicily. Mercenaries supplemented the army of Hannibal: Celtiberians armed with falcata, recruits coming from the Balearic Islands armed with javelins and slings, Ligurians. After 218, we find Gauls. The Gauls and Celts were often sent to the front line.

Hannibal benefits from the Numidian cavalry, lightly armed, and makes him play an important tactical role, and from the heavy cavalry composed of Iberians and Celts. It also profits from elephants of war, undoubtedly 200, coming from Numidia introduced in the wars of Western Mediterranean by Pyrrhus. Hannibal benefited in Cartagena of 90 000 infantrymen and 12 000 riders, and he left 20 000 men in Iberia with Hasdrubal.

The composition of the armies depends on the alliances of the moment, and the levies of men are unpopular. Few Punic citizens were in the army: few of them served the infantry but on the other hand there were some in the cavalry and in the navy. The Punic navy comprises at the beginning of the war less than 150 quinqueremes.

The military capabilities are less in Carthage than in Rome, but the Punic city was rich both in its African domain and in Andalusia.

The personality of Hannibal counts in the conflict, which “was worth several legions to him only”, 29 years old in 218. It seems a character Hellenized in a city itself Hellenized, but pious towards the divinities of the pantheon of its city. He leaned on a party favorable to the popular element but he always respected the orders of his city. His objective was to crush his opponent with a coalition.

Rome before the second conflict expanded its territory, in the islands but also protectorates imposed on the peoples of northern Italy and Illyria.

The Roman army, excellent, is made up of contingents defined by the treaties with the allies. According to Polybius, the mobilizable potential amounted to 700,000 infantrymen and 700,000 cavalrymen, which made it possible both to select the best soldiers and to reconstitute the workforce.

24 000 Roman infantrymen and 18 000 horsemen were mobilized at the time of the war in 218 as well as 40 000 allied infantrymen and 4 400 horsemen. Rome also had the control of the seas, with 220 quinqueremes, offering a logistic capacity.

Rome is also rich on the eve of the conflict; the conquests allow booty and taxes, without forgetting the manipulations at the time of the monetary strikes.

Causes of the war

The debate on the causes of war has always been lively, since antiquity, it is according to Le Bohec “the clash of two imperialisms”. The offensive is linked to the feeling of revenge and the will “to abolish the humiliations suffered” and to the fear of new Roman holdings, like those that followed the first Punic war. It is thus a strategy of defense. However, it is also necessary to count with the will of Marseilles to fight against their Punic competitors by pushing Rome towards the war.

Hannibal consolidated his position in Andalusia and led campaigns in 220 and 219 with the help of 15,000 Libyan soldiers.

Sagonte informs as an ally Rome of the progress of the Barcids in Spain. To settle a dispute with his neighbors, Hannibal invites the protagonists before the assembly of the Iberian peoples, an authority created by Asdrubal the Beautiful. Faced with the refusal of the city, Hannibal evokes the situation with the senate of Carthage and pushes back the Roman threats at the time of an embassy in Cartagena, sure of its right on the city following the treaty of the Ebro.

The pretext of the war was the siege of Sagonte by the Carthaginians in 219 B.C. and the crossing of the Ebro, which, according to the treaty of 226 B.C., could not pass in arms the river Iber. This river quoted in the treaty is perhaps not the Ebro but another like the Jucar according to a hypothesis developed by Carcopino in which case the Carthaginians would have been in their error. Cato reports that the Carthaginians would have broken the treaty of peace six times.

The alliance between Sagonte and Rome was established between 231 and 225. Sagonte included Italians and Greeks, perhaps of Massalia. The city of Sagonte had passed into the hands of a group favorable to Rome in 220 after the intrigues of the winner of the first Punic war and the elimination of the intelligentsia favorable to the Punics. Hannibal”s intervention followed threats to an ally not far from the city.

Hannibal asked for instructions from Carthage at the time of laying siege to the city. Rome was allied to Sagonte before 219. It asked the Punic Senate to condemn Hannibal, which the Carthaginian institution refused to do. Rome wanting to get rid of “its last rival in the Mediterranean”, the diplomatic negotiations failed.

The siege of Sagonte lasted eight months and ended in autumn 219, after bloody fights and ending in treachery. In Rome of long debates on the continuations to be given to the seat take place in winter 219-218. In Rome clashed a bellicose party of Aemilii and the conservatives of Fabii. In the Roman embassy sent to Carthage the Punic senators evoke the absence of the quotation of Sagonte among the allies of Rome in the last treaties signed between Rome and the African metropolis. The treaty of 226 is presented as not ratified by the Punic senate.

The decision to use the land route is a sign of Carthage”s loss of naval dominance and the importance of Hispanic possessions in the scheme to pay war indemnities.

Rome reacted slowly and only after the election to the consulate for 218 of two supporters of the war, Tiberius Sempronius Longus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. The first went with two legions and a fleet to Lilybaea while the second had to meet Hannibal”s army.

Military operations

Rome counted on the control of the seas to hope to intervene quickly in Spain and Africa.

The Carthaginian fleet, jewel of the army of Carthage until the first Punic war, lost its uncontested power after this first antagonism. The terrestrial road is thus privileged by Hannibal. His Gallic allies are perhaps of a help to him for the development of his route in particular the crossing of the Alps. Hannibal expected the help of the Cisalpine. Hannibal brought in troops to reinforce the defenses of Hispania. Spain remains essential as a back base for his company with Cartagena whose port and “hinterland rich in minerals”.

Hannibal makes a pilgrimage to the temple of Melkart of Gades before launching his enterprise, to make of it “the tutelary divinity of the expedition”.

Under the leadership of Hannibal Barca, the Carthaginian troops of 90,000 infantrymen and 12,000 cavalrymen or 50,000 infantrymen, 9,000 cavalrymen and 37 elephants made up of Numidians, Iberians and Carthaginians, left Hispania in the spring of 218. The Ebro River was reached in June 218 and its crossing constituted the beginning of the war.

Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees with 40,000 men and 37 elephants, reached the Rhone not far from Orange in the summer of 218 and then the Alps, to invade Italy.the Romans tried to stop them by sending an army to Massalia, but Hannibal wanted to avoid as much as possible the fighting on the way before arriving in Italy

The troops will be supported by a strong contingent of Gauls qualified as allies. The coastal road was discarded to avoid Massalia, ally of Rome, and the Ligurians. Hannibal”s troops crossed the Isère and then the Alps in winter, following a divisive route. The crossing was made at the price of big human losses, half of his army according to Hours-Miedan. The crossing is recorded as the most significant event of the conflict. The Po Valley was reached in September 218 with 20,000 infantrymen and 6,000 horsemen. The expedition took place in winter and the mountain tribes harassed the Punics.

Hannibal, who hated Rome since his childhood and in a spirit of revenge, prepared for a long time, by diplomacy, his passage in the north of Italy and succeeded in finding allies there. Thus, Gallic troops joined the Carthaginian troops which crossed the Alps in particular with war elephants.

Rome sends troops to Hispania to cut off Hannibal”s supplies.

Hannibal with his arrival in Cisalpine does not find the expected supports, the rallies being made more numerous after the capture of the capital of Taurins. With the first victories of the Gauls of Cisalpine join the Punic ranks and some Gallic auxiliaries of the Roman army desert after Ticino.

Between 218 and 215 BC, Hannibal Barca had a series of successes (until the summer of 216 according to Beschaouch) in Italy and through his brothers in Hispania. The Punics and their allies beat several Roman armies, notably at the battle of Ticino in December 218, which ended with the retreat of the Romans and the injury of the consul who saw the Romans lose 20,000 men out of 36,000 and 4,000 cavalrymen, following an engagement wanted by the Punic leader and his brother Magon whose losses amounted to 1,500 men and above all all his war elephants except one.

With the hostile climate Hannibal loses many men and to join Etruria loses an eye in the swamps of the Arno.

At the beginning of 217 Hannibal”s troops harassed the Roman troops and hindered their supply. Rome elected two new consuls for 217, Cnaeus Servilius Geminus and Caius Flaminius Nepos. Hannibal crossed the Apennines and at Lake Trasimeno in 217 BC, on June 21, Hannibal crushed the Roman army in an ambush. The Romans had to leave 15,000 men on the field, including Flaminius. Hannibal lost 1,500 or 2,500 men in this engagement.

Hannibal makes abandon the phalanx to his soldiers, who equip themselves in the Roman way with swords and gain in mobility, which will be fundamental in the engagements to come, the Punics go to rest in Picenum then winter in Campania and in Apulia).

The defeat provoked a crisis in Rome: Quintus Fabius Maximus was appointed dictator in July 217, and applied a scorched earth policy in front of the Punic army which was gaining the south of the peninsula. The Punic army was on the edge of the Adriatic and communicated with its metropolis, Fabius Maximus avoiding the fight while his enemy ravaged the countryside. In autumn 217, the Romans set a trap for the Punic troops, from which Hannibal escaped by cunning. Minucius Rufus, who pulled off a coup that made Hannibal retreat, was appointed dictator. A battle at Geronium almost turned into a disaster for Minucius, who was saved by Fabius.

Hannibal wishes the defection of Capoue and “a bridgehead with Carthage”. As of its arrival in Italy Hannibal did not have of cease to separate the Italian allies from Rome, with a diplomacy evoking a vision of the goals of war and “perhaps projects for the after-war”. The Italian prisoners were released after the battles of Trebia, Trasimeno and Cannes. The treaties left to the cities their autonomy, their institutions, Hannibal asking neither tribute nor Punic garrison; Capoue would have been the capital of Italy. Hannibal, had studied the political situation of Italy and the “legal and economic frustrations” present in certain regions of Italy and wished to bring Rome to accept a treaty following decisive battles.regions joined the Punic camp, the Gauls of Cisalpine rebelled, cities of southern and central Italy, in Sicily a Roman army had to be sent to hold the island, Sardinia rose up and was crushed.

Fabius Cunctator helped by the Marseillaise took the fight to Spain, captured Hannon, a Punic general and settled not far from Sagonte.

In August 216 Hannibal was in Apulia with 40,000 men and was joined by the Romans, 90,000 infantrymen or 80,000 infantrymen and 6,000 cavalrymen. The Romans are crushed on August 2, 216 during the battle of Cannes, the movements becoming “a subject of classic meditation for the strategists of all times” greatest defeat” of Rome, one of the two consuls Paul Emile losing the life and the other, Varroon, saving it only by the flight. The two consuls of the previous year are also killed there. Hannibal lost 4,800 soldiers and 67,000 Romans were killed at Cannes, many soldiers being caught by Numidian cavalry.

Hannibal had refused the day after Cannes the council of Maharbal, master of the cavalry, to march on Rome and chose to isolate militarily and politically his enemy. Hannibal has an intense diplomatic activity. Hannibal gave up besieging Rome, reputed to be impregnable, while waiting for reinforcements, where Titus Livius situates the episode of the “Delights of Capua”. Hannibal signed treaties with Italian cities. Several Greek cities left the Roman alliance. The battle of Cannes generated multiple crises throughout Italy: economic, financial, social and political.

Hannibal wished to extract a peace treaty from Rome and to revise the unfavourable treaties of 241 and 226 but the proposals led by a delegation were rejected by the Roman senate. In a speech to the prisoners Hannibal indicates to fight “only for the dignitas and the imperium”, and thus rejects the destruction of his enemy. The Barcid wishes “to reverse (…) the humiliating situation of the treaties of 241 and 236”.

The Punics ravaged the south of the peninsula and took Taranto.

As soon as Hannibal entered the Po plain, Carthage opened secondary fronts in the Aeolian Islands and in Sicily. Carthage lost Malta in 218. The conflict extended to Sicily, Iberia, the Aegean Sea and the Balkans. Hannibal signed an alliance with the king of Macedonia, Philip V of Macedonia, so that Rome loses the protectorate on Illyria. The alliance is signed because Philip made the steps and because of the resistance of Rome after the crushing defeat of Cannes; it is signed in 215.the plans of Hannibal fail because of the incompetence of its admiral Bomilcar and the absence of junction with Philip V. However the majority of the cities of central Italy, heart of the Roman Republic, remain faithful to Rome, more especially as the Punic armies live on the country.

Hiéron II, faithful to the alliance signed with the Roman Republic at the beginning of the first Punic war, died in 215 BC. Negotiations started then with the grandson and new king Hiéronyme of Syracuse. They lead to projects of treaties, which turn short following the massacre of the king and his family, and the seat of the city by Rome in 212 BC.

After Cannes, Rome welcomed Varro, the defeated and Fabius Cunctator set up a strategy of temporization, refusing the ranged battles and harassing the Punic troops and its allies. Capua is punished in an exemplary way after the resumption of the city in 211. In a supreme war effort, Rome succeeded in aligning 200,000 men in arms and then gradually re-established the situation, taking back one by one the Carthaginian positions, destroying one after the other the reinforcement expeditions from Carthage or Hispania. Hannibal did not have any more “lightning victories” after 215, which were the sign of his strategic domination.

The Roman victories followed one another in Syracuse in spite of the provisioning ensured by Carthage by sea (Archimedes lost his life because of a Roman soldier at this time, Agrigento in 210 BC, Capua after a two-year siege. As early as 213 BC, the Romans tried to get closer to Syphax, king of the Numidian tribe of Massæsyles, who had diplomatically distanced himself from the Carthaginians for territorial quarrels. The two Scipio brothers then sent three ambassadors to Syphax so that he could become a future ally and the Romans could prepare the ground for a future landing in Africa. This first diplomatic rapprochement does not seem to lead to a treaty. In 210 BC, Syphax sends in his turn an embassy to Rome, in order to seal a treaty, after some successes obtained on the Carthaginians the previous years. The Carthaginians reacted by seeking to ally themselves with the other Numidian tribe rival of Syphax, the Massyls of Gaia and his son Massinissa, which they succeeded in doing and Gaia sent Numidian soldiers to the Hispanic front.

The reconquered areas saw their lands confiscated and the inhabitants reduced to slavery. Sicily is completely Roman in 209, Sardinia being pacified for its part between 209 and 207 BC.

The Roman advance is also present in Hispania from the autumn 218 and Rome beats the Punics of Hannon during the battle of Cissé and during the Battle of the Ebro. Master of the Spanish coast from spring 217, Rome seized the Balearic Islands. The Romans beat the Carthaginians at the end of 216 south of the Ebro.

In spite of disasters as in 211 which saw the death of Publius Cornelius Scipio at the battle of Bétis, the taking of Carthagena by the future Scipio the African allowed the Romans to have a logistic advantage. With this victory Rome held two major maritime bases, Sagonte and Cartagena.

Two Punic armies were sent as reinforcements. Hannibal”s brother Hasdrubal was killed at the Battle of the Metaurus and his head thrown into his brother”s camp. The younger brother Magon Barca failed to provide reinforcements after landing in Liguria.

Hannibal, undefeated militarily, was then stationed in the South of Italy. His situation is particular because he is cut off from Gaul and Carthage because of his weak fleet. He never had a port in Italy.

In 206 BC, Publius Cornelius Scipio became consul and conquered barcid Spain after a decisive victory at the battle of Ilipa won against Hasdrubal Gisco and Magon Barca. Hispania begins to be managed by Rome only from 200 BC, once the war is over.the war of Macedonia concludes in 205 BC by the peace of Phoinikè what contributes to isolate Carthage.

That same year, Syphax and the Carthaginians resolved their territorial quarrel and the Numidian king married the daughter of the Carthaginian Hasdrubal, Sophonisbe. Syphax is now the ally of Carthage and denounces the alliance treaty he made with Scipio the African. Shortly afterwards, Massinissa left the Carthaginian alliance to join the Roman party for two main reasons: his rivalry with Syphax, who had stolen his kingdom at the death of his father Gaia, and the Roman victories in Hispania. The alliance between Rome and Massinissa was concluded in the autumn of 206 BC after a secret meeting with Scipio.

Scipio landed in Africa in 204 BC, following a strategy formulated as early as 218 by the Scipios, and passing through Sicily, near Utica with 25,000 soldiers in order to force Hannibal to return to Africa to protect his rear bases. He obtained mixed results at first, in spite of the help of Massinissa.

Syphax was defeated and captured by Scipio and Massinissa in 203 BC. After the Battle of the Great Plains, the Senate of Carthage recalls Magon, who dies of wounds during the crossing, who lands near Hadrumetus. Scipio was inspired by Hannibal”s strategy and gained support in Africa.

Peace negotiations failed in the spring of 202 and the war resumed. For lack of a sufficient army, the confrontation turned to the advantage of Scipio, nicknamed then “the African”, who had few, but seasoned troops, and especially Numidian cavalry. Hannibal was defeated at the battle of Zama, 30 km north of Maktar, probably in a valley west of the present Siliana. This battle was not, however, a humiliation for Carthage which capitulated in October 202 BC. Scipio and Hannibal would have talked before the confrontation, according to Polybius and Livy.

Peace and consequences

Negotiations for peace began in 203 but the preliminaries were broken off. The treaty was signed in 201 B.C., with harsher conditions than those of 241, a doubling of the indemnity and a reduction in the number of authorized ships.

The defeat of Carthage involves the loss of Hispania, the destruction of the Carthaginian fleet under their eyes, the renunciation of the elephants of war, the prohibition of any military action without the Roman agreement and the payment of a war indemnity, 100 hostages being delivered. The payment of this tribute of 10 000 talents (258,5 tons of silver. Three months of food were to be provided to the Roman troops. The Numidians were also declared independent and the Romans recognized the help given by Massinissa at the end of the conflict. Carthage was guaranteed the possession of the territories east of the Phoenician Pits. Rome interfered in the internal affairs of its opponent.

Carthage withdrew to its African territory, and was now under threat from Massinissa, who had taken over his kingdom and won over Syphax; he enjoyed a very long reign and “a powerful economic, human and political interest”. The Numidian standing army numbered 50,000 men. The Numidian king took power in 206 and Numidia became a Roman protectorate in 203. Emboldened by his relationship with Rome and by the decline of Carthage following its defeat, Massinissa demanded the return of the lands that had belonged to his ancestors and taken by Carthage since their installation. The clause made all abuses possible.

Massinissa was cautious until 195, but in 193 he took the small Syrte and this capture did not provoke any reaction from the Romans. Ten years later, he took a new territory and Carthage was weakly supported by Rome. In 172 Rome is again seized of a new Punic complaint following the capture of 70 places in central Tunisia.During the Numidian encroachments of the Punic territories, Rome is conciliatory towards Carthage until 167. At the end of his reign, which built “a true centralized and Hellenized state” the kingdom of Massinissa goes from the borders of Cyrenaica to Mauritania. Massinissa consistently brought reinforcements to Rome throughout his reign, with Rome providing constant support to his ally in return.

In spite of the final victory, this war marks deeply the Romans. The war caused many human losses and the number of legions increased from 6 to 28, the Senate was strengthened, as was the prestige of certain individuals.

Italy changed profoundly following the devastation caused by the war: landed property was concentrated, with small peasants giving up their plots of land, which had been aggregated into vast latifundia, to rich landowners.

In spite of the rigour of the peace treaty, the Punic city recovered its economic power and offered wheat to Rome during the new war which opposed it to the Macedonians. Seizing the pretext of the violation of the peace treaty of 202 – Carthage had raised an army to push back Numidian incursions – the Roman Senate decided to launch an offensive in Africa, with for goal the destruction of the rival city.

Second interwar period

Ten years after the end of the war, around 191, it wished to pay the balance of the war debts, which was refused by the Senate of Rome. Carthage, after the second Punic war, which deprived it of its external possessions, quickly found a prosperity because of “a hard work” and also knew a demographic growth. This wealth is a witness of the quality of the development of the African territory that the city had, which delivers important quantities of wheat and barley to the winner. The Punic city also turned to the eastern basin of the Mediterranean to trade. The archaeology however can make doubt of this new wealth: the coins have indeed a title of precious metal which decreases, and an impoverishment of the funeral furniture.

This prosperity has an architectural translation proven by archaeology with the new district called Hannibal built on the slopes of the Byrsa hill, with collective housing, shops and workshops and the new developments in the Punic ports. The new developments of the military port seem to confirm the warlike will of Carthage.

After the war the public life resumes in the Punic city, with political fights. Returned without problems to Carthage and withdrawn from public affairs in 200 taking care of the development of the Byzacene, Hannibal after the war withdraws in the lands of origin of his family, near Hadrumète (current Sousse). Hannibal was recalled by the people of Carthage to alleviate the difficult situation and he played a leading role in 196-195, being elected suffet. Once in power, he denounced the corruption of the government as being the cause of the defeat of the first Punic war, which attracted deadly hatred. He took measures in favor of the population, trying to reform the constitution of his city, which attracted enmity among the Senate of Carthage. Denounced as preparing a new war in Rome, he fled to Hadrumète, Kerkenna then Tyre, finally to Antiochos III in Syria then in Bithynia, where he committed suicide in 183-182, betrayed by the king Prusias. According to Diodorus Carthage would have wished to intervene militarily as an ally in Syria but the help is refused by the Romans.

The Punic factions were divided between a democratic faction, heir to the Barcids, favourable to the fight against Massinissa, and an aristocratic faction favourable to peace, behind Hannon the Great. A faction favorable to Massinissa and to the control of the Numidian king over North Africa would also have emerged, some members being banished when the democratic faction took power.

Carthage is almost continuously attacked by Massinissa, ally of the Romans. Massinissa is very old and his kingdom may be threatened with extinction. The encroachments concerned both the coastal area and the west and center of present-day Tunisia. In 167 it is authorized by its ally to seize the Emporias of Large Syrte. Burgeon considers that these events date from 193. The seizure of these settlements, including Leptis Magna, enabled Massinissa to take possession of a rich commercial area and to assert himself as a Hellenistic king. He seized the Great Plains perhaps in 152, comprising about 50 localities. He also took the middle valley of the Medjerda and Tusca.

The Carthaginian territory at the time of the third Punic war was between 20,000 and 25,000 km2. Burgeon considered that the alliance with Massinissa was intended to weaken Carthage because of the blows suffered. The city sent an embassy to Rome to protest against Massinissa”s takeovers, which also sent emissaries: Rome decided nothing but maintained the status quo resulting from the Numidian”s tour de force. In 174-173 Massinissa took more than 70 cities and Carthage protested again with an embassy to Rome the following year. Gulussa was part of a Numidian embassy in 172, then the following year; this last embassy would have concluded with an arbitration favorable to Carthage.

The faction favorable to Massinissa is expelled from Carthage, and takes refuge with the Numidian king.

Successive embassies were sent to the Punic city, including one in 153 BC led by Cato the Elder following new encroachments. The Carthaginians doubted the neutrality of the embassy and refused arbitration. Carthage led by Carthalon had previously tried to stop Massinissa, but the party decided to fight with the Numidian king rises in power. The policy in Rome was crossed at the same time of fluctuating alliances. In 152 a Roman embassy included Scipio Nasica.

The renewed vigour of the Punic city noted, its rearmament aroused fears on the part of the Romans, a political faction being decided to end it or 152-151. In 151 BC the tribute is completely paid, and an anti-Roman party takes importance in Carthage. Rome is on its side released by the victory in 150 in the Iberian peninsula of Scipio against the Celtiberians, it has the free rein to regulate the Punic question.

The third Punic war consisted in a campaign intended to bring the Roman troops to work for the siege of Carthage, which lasted three years from 149 to 146 B.C. because of the resistance shown by the population.

This last conflict, wanted with “a revolting cynicism” is qualified by Claude Nicolet of “war of extermination, and almost a genocide”, which marked its contemporaries durably. Hours-Miédan considers the Roman position as “of the most insignificant bad faith, as at the time of the first Punic war, (…) without valid reason (…) whereas Carthage expressed its desire of peace”. While the city is disarmed, the war lasts three years.

Casus Belli

Driven by the fear of having to face the Carthaginians again, the Romans came to consider the total destruction of Carthage.

As early as 152 BC, Cato the Censor, visiting Carthage for an embassy supposed to intercede between Carthage and Massinissa, was worried about the revival of the wealth and power of Carthaginians, because at that time, Carthaginians had no more empire to maintain. The economy of the city, so much agriculture, trade that the craft industry, was flourishing in spite of the blows of boutoir of the Numidian king and the society became more and more Hellenized.

Back in Rome, Cato the Elder brandished in the Senate some magnificent figs coming from Libya, mentioning that the city which produced them was only three days away from the Urbs. Few senators were fooled by Cato”s clever maneuver because many knew that the journey between Rome and Carthage took at least six days, four in favorable wind conditions, and that the said figs came from one of Cato”s estates in Italy, but the Romans were gradually preparing for a new war against Carthage.

Cato wishes to demonstrate the threatening proximity, and marts in leitmotiv the famous sentence Delenda Carthago est (Carthage must be destroyed!). From now on, between 153 BC and 149 BC, until his death, Cato ends all his speeches with the famous sentence. To motivate his supporters, Cato recalls the atrocities committed by Hannibal Barca”s army in Italy during the second Punic war, a war in which he had participated.

Cato in his speech wished to put forward “geostrategic and psychological scopes”;. The posterity of the sentence of Cato is related to the myth and the tragic end of the Punic city. For Burgeon the objective of the orator is the fight against the Hellenism which penetrated deeply in the Punic city and which threatens the Roman moral values.

The majority of the Roman Senate rallied to the proposal of Cato, and Scipio Nasica (nephew of Scipio the African) who advocated a peaceful approach with Carthage represented the minority party. Nasica feared at the same time, following the disappearance of Carthage, the power of Numides and internal problems with the Roman Republic.

Polybe was to develop in one of his books the causes of the war, unfortunately this work is lost. According to Burgeon, “prudence requires that we guard against making clear-cut choices” about Roman motivations.

Fear of Carthage”s newfound prosperity and possible rearmament may have been an element. The annexations of Rome would be related to this fear. The legendary Punic bad faith, and the supposed decadence of the constitution of the Punic city which had become an ochlocracy constituted a “moral justification of the conquest”.

The thirst for booty expected by the victory over an opulent city is also a reason, especially since the victories allowed an enrichment of many citizens of different social classes. The conquest also allowed to get rid of commercial competitors and to put at the disposal of Rome the agrarian wealth of the city.

The reduced territory of the Punic city as well as the conditions of peace made that it was not any more a source of danger. For Rome the geostrategic reason was nevertheless important and it was necessary to contain the ally Massinissa, to prevent him from conquering the Punic territory and from becoming “a too cumbersome ally”. However, the thesis is fragile because of the age of the Numidian king and the system of succession that leads to a split in the kingdom of the deceased. Rome would have also wished to recover a site particularly favorable to the exchanges as well towards the Mediterranean as towards Africa.

The war is part of the Roman imperialism, started with the second Punic war according to Carcopino. According to Burgeon the third Punic war is the sign of an “intentional imperialism”.

A Numidian embassy led by Micipsa and Gulussa was attacked and forced to turn back. Massinissa resumed the attacks and laid siege to Oroscopa and Carthage raised an army to face him, supported by Numidian horsemen and commanded by Hasdrubal the Boetharch.

A few months later, Carthage intervened against Massinissa in 150 BC. Hasdrubal was locked up in a stronghold, and underwent a siege: with famine and epidemics, he negotiated with the Numidian king and his army only returned to the Punic capital in tatters and with a war indemnity of 5,000 talents to be paid in 50 years as well as a recall of the Punic citizens who were favourable to the Numidian king and who had been exiled. These partisans are recalled and those of the nationalist party are exiled or flee.

According to Rome, Carthage violates the treaty of 201 BC concluded to end the second Punic war. Two Punic delegations in Rome do not receive any wish from the latter to avoid the war. Utique, old rival of Carthage, offers its assistance to Rome not displeased to have thus a not negligible bridgehead.

Rome decides the war and sends an embassy in the same time, formulating requests towards the Punic city. It then asks the Punic city for 300 hostages of the Punic high society and disembarks at Utica. The hostages are delivered and sent to Ostia.

The Carthaginian delegation which presents itself in 149 BC in front of the Roman Senate does not obtain the right to express itself and offers the deditio of their city. Punic emissaries are presented new requirements. Rome asks for the fleet and weapons useless following the deditio. 200 000 weapons and 2 000 catapults in spring 149.

The Romans then demanded that the inhabitants leave the city, which was to be destroyed, to settle about 15 km from the sea and give up their cults, requirements unacceptable for Carthage because the renunciation of the maritime character condemned the city to death. The city tries in vain to play the religious fiber to make give up. The deditio formulated by Carthage gave the right to Rome to act in this way, the procedure being a surrender without conditions. The acceptance is a sign of the Punic ignorance of the Roman right.

The Punic deputies announced the news on their return, and riots ensued during which senators in favor of giving in to the previous demands of the Romans were massacred, as were some Italians present. The war is then declared shortly afterwards by the Punic Senate, which enrolls slaves previously freed. A truce of one month requested is refused.

Start of the war and military operations

Rome had about 50,000 men who went to Sicily in the spring of 149. According to Slim, Mahjoubi, Belkhodja and Ennabli, there were 80,000 infantrymen, 4,000 horsemen and 50 quinqueremes.

Carthage appealed to Hasdrubal the Boetharch for the external defense of the city, another called Hasdrubal “related to Massinissa” taking care of the city. It prepares its defense by making weapons in the summer 149, the women offering their hair, to make ropes of catapults. Carthage recovered goods from the cities that were loyal to it, as did Rome. The Numidian king Massinissa was not warned of the Roman intentions, and took umbrage by refusing to offer the requested help. An aid proposed thereafter is refused.

The Roman command is initially mediocre, vis-a-vis a well defended site: the seat is unfavourable with the Roman army vis-a-vis a site whose peninsula is surrounded by walls. The wall which cuts the isthmus on 5 km is according to Appien triple and each part is thick of more than 8 m and comprises two stages, having turns every 60 m. The defense is moreover assured by 300 elephants, 12 000 horses and 720 000 soldiers. According to Lancel it is more likely a “triple line of defense”, with a ditch, a small wall preceding the high wall.

The military operations are led initially by two consuls, Manius Manilius, in charge of the ground troops and Lucius Marcius Censorinus in charge for his part of the fleet. The two consuls tried an approach on the side of the isthmus and the northern side of the lake of Tunis, without success in spite of the opening of breaches. The Romans did not expect such resistance from their adversaries, “disarmed by treachery”. The Roman army is also touched by the disease, perhaps the pulmonary plague, in connection with the excessive temperatures and the presence of the lake of Tunis, forcing a displacement. The Roman fleet was damaged by flaming boats sent against it by the Carthaginians. Censorinus left the seat of Carthage to preside over elections to the Centuriate Comices in the autumn of 149 and returned to take Zembra.

In addition to the army locked in the city, the besiegers had to face an army of 10 000 infantrymen and 2 000 horsemen led by Hasdrubal. The Romans tried to refuel in the country but they were chased by Hamilcar Phameas. Scipio Emilian won several feats of arms and his fame grew.

Manilius decides to attack Hasdrubal at Néphéris, near the djebel Ressas. Not following the advice of Scipio, the Roman army is forced to retreat. Scipio saves some detached Manilius from the group and obtains a crown from his troops.

The old king Massinissa died in 148, at the age of 90. Scipio was close to the Numidian king. In the spring of 148 Scipio had been invited by the dying king to help him with his succession and he appointed him executor of the will: the sons of concubines were discarded and the three legitimate sons, Micipsa, Gulussa and Mastanabal shared the responsibilities while all three were kings, in the interest of Rome”s control over the kingdom. Gulussa helps the Roman, and defections in the Punic camp appear.

A new attempt of Manilius against the Punics of Nepheris fails again. However, Phameas changes camp and joins Scipio with his men. Manilius was replaced by Calpurnius Pison at the head of the army, who arrived in the spring of 148 in the theater of operations with his propreter L. Hostilius Mancinus. The newcomers find a discouraged Roman army.

The Romans changed their strategy and chose to attack the external establishments of Carthage to undermine its supply, thus Kélibia, Néapolis or Hippagreta, in spite of promises made to the inhabitants. This attitude involves defections numides towards the Punic camp, Hasdrubal trying an approach towards Micipsa and Mastanabal. The Carthaginians promise to help Andriscos to maintain a pressure against Rome on a second front, but this last is crushed in 148

The operations are carried out by Scipio Emilian, who comes to an end and is nicknamed for that “Scipio the African” (or “Scipio the second African” not to be confused with his predecessor Scipio the African). Scipio returns with Phameas at the beginning of 148 and, from his return, the Romans know a succession of victories.

In December 148 Scipio, carried by the people, was elected consul in spite of the opposition of Spurius Postumius Albinus Magnus, second consul, for age reasons. He was consul at the same time as Caius Livius Drusus. Volunteers were recruited in Italy and Africa and Scipio was back in Africa in the spring of 147.

Mancinus, who had disembarked in spring 147 near Gammarth, a place made difficult by nature, or Sidi Bou Saïd was rescued by Scipio. It is necessary to note a disagreement of the sources on the military qualities of Mancinus, who reached the consulate in 145. According to Burgeon, the capture of the city was a joint effort by Scipio and Mancinus, although he was in a delicate situation.

Scipio restored discipline in the Roman army. He attacked Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the spring of 147 and on two sides simultaneously. The attack took place in the north-western corner of the fortifications and the bridgehead was established from a tower belonging to a private individual. The Punic troops withdrew to Byrsa, the old city. In spring 147 the major part of the suburb is conquered, Hasdrubal the Boetharch makes torture and massacre of the Roman prisoners on the rampart as well as senators who are hostile to him.

During the summer of 147, all of Megara passed to the Romans and Scipio had ditches dug, one of which covered the 4.5 km of the isthmus. He had a sort of rectangle built with a wall and a high tower facing Carthage. The loss of Megara created famine in the Punic city, which could only be supplied by the sea. At this stage 30,000 soldiers and workers were defending it.

Scipio decided to block the access to the port by creating a dike. The facilities of the military port were rebuilt a little before the middle of the second century and archaeologists were able to determine a capacity of 170 ships. The ships were built according to a stereotyped mode allowing a fast construction, according to the elements resulting from the excavations of the Punic Wrecks of Marsala. The Punics created another access for their port and 120 ships in less than a year. A fleet was built with the beams of the houses but the effect of surprise was missed, the naval battle had unfortunately for the Punic city no decisive result.

The Romans managed to reach the port from the dike, a breach in the wall not being able to be sealed by a Punic counter-attack which was quickly stopped. Driven by the desperate situation of the besieged city, Hasdrubal tried to negotiate with Gulussa in autumn 147. The Numidian gave an account of the discussion to Scipio, who in return charged Gulussa with offering Hasdrubal and ten families their lives, a proposal that the Punic rejected.

The Romans occupied the winter of 147-146 to annihilate the resistance at Cape Bon. Nepheris was supplying Carthage and had to be taken to end the war. An army was destroyed at Néphéris and the fight was very unbalanced, no reinforcement could be brought to the besieged. After three weeks of siege at the beginning of 146, the city was taken by a stratagem: concentrated on an action aiming at the cracks in the walls of the city, the allies of Carthage were deceived by another decisive attack.

Scipio proceeds to a religious ceremony, the evocatio and the devotio of the divinities of the adversary, undoubtedly Baal Hammon and Tanit or Juno and Saturn in the interpretatio romana.

The final assault was made in the spring of 146 at the cothon, the commercial port, the Carthaginians setting fire to the installations to slow down the attackers in vain. After having taken the circular port the soldiers took the agora of the city and stripped the statue of Apollo of gold leaves, and it was sent later not far from the Circus Maximus. The last defenders gained the citadel, Byrsa, a military place but also a religious place because it was the place of the temple of Eshmoun (Carthage).

The siege ended in 146 B.C. with the complete destruction and burning of the city, after a particularly fierce street war, part of the harbor area. The battle raged for six days and six nights, a time limit symbolizing “the end of a struggle”.

The final siege of the citadel located on the hill of Byrsa passes by street fights, provided with houses with floors; three streets led from the agora to Byrsa. The assailants fight in each of the houses to advance, deciding to set fire to the buildings. The inhabitants are crushed by the horses and the tanks, atrocities quoted by the sources and confirmed by the French excavations of the hill of Byrsa. The archaeologists found traces of installations and fights (bodies, bullets of slings, weapons).

On the seventh day, a delegation asked for their lives to be saved. 50,000 people left the citadel according to Appian, a figure that should be reduced to 30,000 because of the size of the site. 1 000 or 900 people remain locked up in the temple of Eshmoun. The last fight was held at the top of the hill, in the temple.

Hasdrubal the Boétarque goes to Scipion and implores his pity, provided with stemmata, “bands of suppliant”. The Roman grants a truce to the last defenders. The wife of Boetharch, Sophonisbe, committed suicide by throwing herself into the flames, “like a new Dido”, followed by her children and a thousand survivors, “preferring the flames to shame”. She would have slit her children”s throats before making a speech to the victor inviting him to punish her husband who “had betrayed his country, his gods and his children”, before setting fire to the temple. The fire continues during six days,.

Diodorus of Sicily evokes a scene between Scipio Emilian and Polybius: Scpio cries and answers Polybius who asks him the reason by quoting verses of the Iliad: “A day will come when Ilion, the holy city, will perish, where Priam and Priam”s people, skilled in handling the spear, will perish”: he fears that a disastrous destiny will befall his country. Scipio is thus depicted as “a hero not devoid of emotions and imbued with humanity” and the scene is “plausible”.

Legend and consequences

Rome celebrates the victory by games. The defeated is plundered by the soldiers even if Scipio makes put aside the richnesses of the temples, being careful not to recover anything. The city is destroyed on order of the Senate but important vestiges remain in certain places thus on the sides of Byrsa, with an elevation going until 3 m.

The legend of the salt sown on the land to make it infertile for fear of the resurrection of the power of Carthage, spread by Sozomen and Boniface VIII, was disseminated in the 1930s by Hallward and then beaten down by many historians, the soil nevertheless being declared sacer, i.e. cursed during a ceremony that no one was supposed to live in. Rome “keeps the corpse” according to the expression of Mommsen. The territory of Carthage became ager publicus.

Before the beginning of the siege, the population of the Punic capital is estimated between 200 000 and 400 000 inhabitants. Strabo mentions the figure of 700,000 inhabitants but it is not realistic. The capture of the city, “the first genocide in history” according to Kiernan, led to the death of 150,000 people. Not far from Byrsa, Alfred Louis Delattre excavated two mass graves containing several hundred bodies. According to one interpretation, these dead were buried by Carthaginians taken prisoner after the capture of the city.

In 146 BC, after the capture of the city, Scipio Emilian sent 55,000 inhabitants into slavery, including 25,000 women. Kiernan thus asserts that the Romans did not massacre the survivors, contrary to the Athenians during the capture of Melos in 416 BC. Survivors migrated to the Greek world.

Formerly Punic Africa continues to be so: the civilization does not collapse with the fall of the city of Hannibal and lasts a long time, and is called from this moment neo-Punic. The language and the religion are maintained. Septimius Severus, born in Lepcis Magna, had members of his family who spoke only Punic. Two centuries after the destruction of Carthage, inscriptions continue to be engraved in this language, including in Sardinia until the second century of our era. The religion persists: the two main deities of Carthage, Tanit and Baal Hammon, are called African Saturn and Juno Caelestis and are the object of an important cult until the Christianization of the region. The titles of Carthaginian institutions, such as suffetes or rabs, continued to be used in the cities until the reign of Marcus Aurelius. The process of acculturation in Rome, slow, will never be total.

With the fall of Carthage, the Romans spared seven Punic cities and razed five others. Large Punic cities had rallied to Rome, Utica and Leptis Magna, and the Carthaginian civilization had spread in the Berber world.

Scipio makes restore to the Sicilians the product of the plunderings of the first Punic war. The libraries of Carthage are destroyed or carried away where they were translated into Greek. Only Magon”s treatise on agronomy in 28 volumes was translated into Latin by order of the Senate, and was successful in Italy in the second half of the second century BC.

Utique became the capital of the province of Africa, the ager publicus before sharing included 55 000 km2 and was shared between winners or exploited against royalties. Scipio had the fossa regia dug, the new border for the new territorial entity of 25,000 km2 and left to collect the triumph in Rome. The territory was carefully registered and administered by a magistrate with the title of proconsul from Sylla onwards, this administration freezing the Numidian progression.

The city itself is the subject of an attempt of colonization at the time of the Gracchi in 123-122 to respond to the misery of a layer of the Roman population and which fails, but the process will be especially the fact of the Julio-Claudians, Caesar in 46 and Augustus in 29.

Consequences for Rome

Rome is at the crossroads before the last of the Punic wars and this event is a turning point in imperialism.

The consequences of the war, with the development of large farms and the ruin of the small peasantry, announces the crisis of the Republic and the birth of the war for profit.

The Punic Wars, abundantly recounted by ancient sources, have inspired writers, scholars and historians to this day.

Myth of a survival of Carthage in Brittany

In the course of the 19th century, Breton scholars and other theorists of the Phoenician origin of the Breton peoples put forward the hypothesis of a Carthaginian presence in Armorica. Indeed, according to Pierre Georgelin, survivors of the Third Punic War would have taken refuge in Armorica, in the most northern Carthaginian colonies, and would have constituted the Venetian people, who disappeared from the sources at the end of the first millennium BC. According to them, the Gallic war would be the IVth Punic war, these Carthaginian colonies of Brittany having reconstituted the power of their metropolis.

Punic Wars in the Nazi imagination

As Hitler asserted in Mein Kampf (1924), world history is in Nazi ideology determined by a struggle of the races. The opposition between Rome and Carthage was claimed to be an opposition between two Weltanschauungen, one Nordic, idealistic, agrarian, the other Semitic, materialistic, trading.

Encouraged by Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg was one of the first Nazi authors to propose an analysis of the Punic Wars: the Roman and Nordic populations had to confront for the first time the Asian and Semitic populations. The discourse of Cato the Elder took on a racist meaning, Rosenberg deploring the fact that the Romans had not taken advantage of their successes to “destroy all the Syrian, Asian and Judeo-Semitic hideouts”. The latter would then have taken their “racial revenge” with the conquest of the Roman imperial throne by the Severan dynasty.

During the Second World War, German propagandists often exploited the memory of the Punic Wars. Stalin was presented as a new Hannibal. In 1943, a collective work, Rome and Carthage, by German antiquarians led by Joseph Vogt, was published, defining the Punic Wars as a “racial struggle saturated with hatred” between the Roman Republic and the “fundamentally Semitic” maritime city of Carthage.

To galvanize units disappointed by the defeats of summer 1944, Goebbels recalled the defeats suffered by Rome during the Second Punic War, which had not prevented victory. Similarly, German defeats would not prevent the Reich”s final victory.

In the first months of 1945, Hitler, seeing himself as a new Cunctator, waiting for the right conditions to crush his opponents in a gigantic encircling battle, referred extensively to the example of the Second Punic War.

On April 1, 8 and 15, 1945, the weekly newspaper Das Reich reported on the subject at length. In his weekly editorial, Goebbels again spoke at length about the Second Punic War. The historian Walter Frank wrote a popular article on the attitude of the Roman Senate during this war, and on the panic that seized Rome when Hannibal crossed the Alps, explaining the Roman victory by the courage of the Romans. The NSDAP newspaper also exploited the theme, in a less scholarly and more explicit manner, in its mid-April 1945 editions.

Brief bibliography on the Punic Wars

Related articles


  1. Guerres puniques
  2. Punic Wars