The Punic Wars

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“In the year 264 BCE, when reaching the South of the Italian Peninsula, the Romans clashed with a city-state of Phoenician origin placed in North Africa: Carthage. This city had already established its power in the West of Sicily. In many aspects, Carthage was the opposite of Rome: it was a sea and maritime power, and their wealth and influence were based on trade. Also, since they could never be sure of the loyalty of those peoples under their rule, they depended on many mercenaries for fighting their wars.

During the First Punic War (264-241 BCE) the Romans crossed the sea and defeated the Carthaginians with the assistance of other Italian tribes. As a result of this conflict, Rome had a new province in the year 241 BCE, Sicily, and they soon occupied and included Sardinia under their domains.

In the year 218 BCE the Carthaginians challenged Rome again attacking Saguntum, in Hispania, causing the Second Punic War (218-202 BC). From their bases in the recently-added province of the Iberian Peninsula, and led by a military genius –Hannibal-, the Carthaginian army invaded Italy through the western part of the Alps.

Rome fought for its very survival for sixteen years in Italian land. However, the Senate could cope with the successive crisis and disasters, and could turn the situation over: their Italian and Greek allies maintained their loyalty; a Roman military force disembarked in Hispania and cut the communications between Hannibal and his army and their bases; an increasing number of soldiers were recruited among the Italian peasants for fighting the Carthaginians.

Eventually, under the command of the great general Scipio the African (Scipio Africanus) the Romans conquered Northern Africa, forcing Hannibal to leave Italy, and then being beaten in 202 BC. Carthage never recovered its splendour”.

WALBANK, F.W. La pavorosa revolución. La decadencia del Imperio Romano de Occidente (Madrid: Alianza Universidad, 1987), pág. 15. [Adapted and translated by JJAC]

  1. Mention all the geographical locations of this text.
  2. How long did the Punic Wars lasted for? Do a diagram with the dates and locations of the Three Punic Wars.
  3. Why is Carthage –according with the text– the opposite of Rome? How was Rome?
  4. What was the consequence of the First Punic War?
  5. Look for information about Hannibal (birth and death dates and places, family, main events of his life, etc.) and write three lines about him.
  6. Look for the main victories of Hannibal in Italy.
  7. What military tactics did the Romans use for defeating Hannibal?
  8. What areas were new Roman provinces as result of the Second Punic War?




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