The Punic Wars (264-146 BC)

"It is through the ways of old and through the heroes of old that Rome stands fast." -Ennius

The Punic Wars (264-146 BC) Click to See MAP

For the next 120 years Rome's attention would be dominated by Carthage, the biggest competitor over the trade routes around the Mediterranean, especially the western side, and history records their conflicts in a series of three wars:

The First Punic War 264-241 BC

The Second Punic War 218-201 BC

The Third Punic War 149-146 BC


Carthage was located at the northern tip of Africa right across the Sea to the south of Sicily. It was founded in 814 BC by the Phoenicians, a middle eastern people and they dominated the western Mediterranean for some three centuries.. Their massive navy closely policed all of the trade in the Mediterranean and made it into a "closed sea." Rome saw all of this as a threat to their economy and security.

The boundaries of Carthage also extended into Italy and they also engulfed all of the areas along the coast of North Africa from Libya to Gibraltar, setting up trading posts all along and in the Mediterranean islands, especially Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. In fact Carthage was so wealthy from her trade that she could hire defensive mercenaries to help maintain order.

When Rome conquered southern Italy they became a threat to Carthage and all policies of friendship were discontinued. Carthage moved to take over the important Straits of Messina in Italy and Rome took action and this marked the beginning of the Punic Wars (Latin "bella Punica), after the word "Phoenician" in Latin. (see Rome and Carthage)