War and Conflict
The Roman Conquest
What were the Punic Wars?
The Punic Wars were three major campaigns that Rome waged to expand its empire. Messina (a present-day province of Sicily, Italy) was the site of the First Punic War, which began in 264 B.C. when warring factions in the trade and transportation center called for assistance from both Carthage and Rome. The Carthaginians arrived first and secured the city. But the Romans, who had girded their navy for the battle, arrived and drove the Carthaginians out (241 B.C.), conquering Sicily. Messina became a free city but was allied with Rome.
The rivalry between Rome and Carthage did not end there: The Second Punic War (218–201 B.C.) was largely fought over control of Spain. When the great Carthaginian general Hannibal (247–183 B.C.) captured the Roman-allied city of Sagunto, Spain, in 218, he then crossed the Alps and invaded Italy, where he was met by and defeated the Roman armies. The deciding battle in the Second Punic War was fought in the North African town of Zama (southwest of Carthage) in 202 B.C. It was there that the Romans under general Scipio Africanus (236–183 B.C.) crushed the Carthaginians under Hannibal. Rome exacted payments from Carthage, and Carthage was also forced to surrender its claims in Spain. In 201 B.C. the two powers signed a peace treaty, which held for five decades.
The Third Punic War erupted in 149 B.C. when the Carthaginians rebelled against Roman rule. By 146 B.C. Carthage, which had been richer and more powerful than Rome when the Punic Wars began, was completely destroyed in this third and final conflict with the Roman army.