The First Punic War

"Remember, Roman, to guide the nations with authority. Let these be your arts: impose the laws of peace, And spare the humbled and lay low the proud." -Vergil

The First Punic War (264-241 BC) Click to See MAP

When Carthage moved into Messina in northern Sicily the local Greek cities under Rome's protection cried out to Rome for help. Rome sent an army to Sicily and the wars began. Carthage was larger and wealthier than Rome yet Rome was superior in its manpower and its loyal citizenry. The biggest threat to Rome was not in the land battles but in the Sea battles because of Carthage's huge navy and her naval skills.

Rome's Naval Strategy

Rome, being very inferior and inexperienced in sea battles had to think quickly. After finding an abandoned Carthaginian warship they built 100 duplicates in 60 days. They soon built over 200 warships and won huge victories at sea. They also developed a strategy where they invented a large hook like drawbridge called the Corvus or Raven and would thrust it out and catch a hold of the enemy ship which would then allow 120 soldiers to march onto the vessel. This tactic would turn their naval battle into a land battle and it proved successful for Rome , who had won every major sea battle of the first Punic War.

After winning many victories the Romans lost 200 of their ships and 100,000 men to very violent storms off Camarina in 255 BC. They soon regrouped and defeated Carthage in 241 BC with a third fleet of warships. It took approximately 20 years for the Romans to drive the Carthaginians out of Sicily. This would mark Rome's first overseas territory.

Not very long after the Romans took the islands of Sardinia and Corsica from Carthage in order to have more control over the sea. After 23 years Carthage sued for peace and a peace treaty was signed. The Carthaginians had to pay a large sum of money known as an "indemnity" to Rome for the costs of the war.

The Romans soon dominated the Mediterranean Sea and built a merchant fleet. All the trade and customs would be monitored by Rome and they patrolled the sea continually against Pirates. (see Illyrian and Gallic Invasions)