At the dawn of the, in 264 B.C., Rome was master of Italy, but controlled no colonies or provinces outside of the Peninsula. Although many coastal towns in Italy had significant fleets and trading networks, Rome, the capital city, did not command a significant navy and its economy was not dominated by merchants. One hundred and twenty years later, Rome had entirely subdued both the Carthaginian empire in the west and the Macedonian empire in the east. She had provinces and allies throughout the Mediterranean and was the undisputed master of the seas. Although it took another century to expand and consolidate her power, by the time Rome finally vanquished, she was in command of a vast empire and the only question that remained was how it was to be governed.
Punic Wars: 264-145 B.C.—There were three Punic Wars, but the second was by far the greatest threat to Rome and the most transformative. The first Punic War lasted 24 years, and forced Rome to establish itself as a permanent Naval power. It was won primarily by perseverance: Rome gained some Carthaginian territory during the conflict but failed to achieved a decisive victory. Carthage capitulated as much because of internal troubles as due to pressure from Rome. The best known Roman hero of the first Punic War was, and the best known Carthaginian heroes were and .
The second Punic War was a catastrophe for Rome and all of Italy. The early part of the war was fought entirely on Italian soil at great cost to Rome and its allies. The Battle of Cannae was the worst loss in Roman history, yet it was only one of several disastrous defeats inflicted on Rome by its implacable Carthaginian foes. Eventually the tide of war turned when Rome attacked Carthaginian strongholds in Spain and Africa. Again, perseverance through great difficulties changed the fortunes of Rome from great peril to ultimate victory. This time Rome continued the fight until it won a decisive victory against Carthage and eliminated its threat as a military power. The outstanding character of the Second Punic War was undoubtedly the Carthaginian, who is universally acknowledged as one of history's greatest generals. Some of the Roman generals who opposed him over the years included , , , , and , but it was , who drove Hannibal out of Italy, defeated him on Carthaginian soil, and brought the bloody war to a final close.
The third Punic War was fought without serious provocation, for the purpose of destroying Carthage altogether. Although Carthage had been eliminated as a military threat, the ruling classes in Rome desired to exterminate it, partly out of concern over its continuing commercial success, and partly out of contempt for its culture (which did involve some heinous elements, such as human sacrifice.) The Romans correctly saw Carthage as an existential threat, but destroying the capital of the Carthaginian trading network failed to eliminate its influence. Phoenician colonies, mines, trading stations, and merchant alliances were spread throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. When their capital city was destroyed many Carthaginians simply migrated to other towns and colonies where they continued to oppose the Roman government through bribery, corruption, and duplicity.
Roman Macedonian Wars: 209-146 B.C.—Thein the east were not as protracted or ruinous as the Punic Wars, but resulted in territory and plunder for the Romans. The Romans valued many elements of Greek civilization, unlike the Carthaginian civilization, which they despised. Therefore they preserved or imitated much of Greek culture rather than destroying it. Captured Greeks were the most valuable of all slaves and were frequently employed as teachers, tutors, or household servants rather than laborers.
The first Roman campaign against Macedonia was fought during the second Punic War, after king Philip V of Macedonia took advantage of the disruptions in Italy to seize some contested territory on the North Adriatic. Two subsequent campaigns fought over the next thirty years resulted in much plunder, which helped re-invigorate Rome after its losses in the second Punic War. The Battle of Pydna in 168 B.C. destroyed the power of the Macedonian kingdom in Greece and the subsequent destruction of Corinth, following a rebellion of some Greek city states, ushered in the Greco-Roman, or Hellenistic era.
First Punic War
|Captured by Carthage in first Punic war; urged Rome keep fighting at cost of his own life.
~ 255 BC
|Spartan mercenary general in first Punic War; captured Regulus, led Carthage to victories.
d. 229 BC
|Carthage's most able general in first Punic War; father of Hannibal.
Second Punic War
|Carthaginian general, invaded and laid waste to Italy for sixteen years.
|Elected dictator to resist Hannibal; counseled delay, not direct assault.
d. 211 BC
|Tried to intercept Hannibal in Gaul, but was defeated at Ticino River and Trebbia.
d. 216 BC
|Consul at the Battle of Cannae; opposed the confrontation, but died on battlefield.
~ 216 BC
|Led Rome to disastrous defeat at Cannae. Survived and tried to rally the troops.
|Besieged Syracuse during the second Punic War, but the ingenious war weapons of Archimedes frustrated the Romans.
d. 207 BC
|Fought against Scipios in Spain; killed after he crossed the Alps to aid Hannibal.
~ 150 BC
|Commander of Carthaginian army during the third Punic War, and the Siege of Carthage..
|King of Numidia, allied with Rome against Carthage; fought at Zama.
|Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.
Third Punic War
|Roman censor, urged destruction of Carthage before third Punic War.
|Led the siege of Carthage during the third Punic War.
|Taken as Greek hostage during Macedonian wars; historian of Punic Wars.
|Led Rome against Philip V in second Macedonian War.
|Led Rome against Macedonia at the Battle of Pydna and was victorious.
|Rome intervenes in a land war against Carthage in Sicily..
|Roman naval victory at Battle of Mylae.
|Roman victory at Battle of Ecnomus—the largest naval battle of the age.
|Defeat and capture ofat Battle of Bagradas.
|Regulus defies Carthage and is murdered
|Hannibal lays siege to Saguntum, a Roman ally, on the coast of Spain.
|Hannibal crosses the Alps and meets a Roman army at the Battle of Trebia River.
|An Roman legion is ambushed and Consul is killed the Battle of Lake Trasimene.
|Low point: Roman disaster at Battle of Cannae.
|Death ofat the Siege of Syracuse.
|killed at the Battle of Metaurus River.
|Carthage decisively defeated byat the Battle of Zama.
|—Roman victory at Battle of Cynoscephalae.
|—Antiochus III of Syria defeated at Magnesia.
|—Roman victory at Battle of Pydna.
|Rome destroys Corinth after putting down a rebellion of the
Core Reading Assignments
|Guerber - The Story of the Romans
|Ancient Ships to Destruction of Carthage (7)
|Macgregor - The Story of Rome
|Romans Build a Fleet to Destruction of Carthage (28)
|Abbott - Hannibal
|Harding - The City of the Seven seven
|Rome and the Carthaginians to Rome Conquers the World (3)
|Tappan - The Story of the Roman People
|Romans Conquer Carthage to Rome Becomes the Capital (2)
|Morris - Historical Tales: Roman
|The Fate of Regulus to The Fate of Carthage (5)
|Church - Lords of the World
Easy Reading Selections
|Haaren - Famous Men of Rome
|Regulus to Cato the Censor (3)
|Dalkeith - Stories from Roman History
|Of Hannibal to Of Scipio Aemilianus Africanus (5)
|Church - Stories from Ancient Rome
|The Beginnings of Empire to The Critical Struggle (cont.) (3)
|Winlow - Our Little Carthaginian Cousin of Long Ago