In the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC, Rome, after consolidating its hold on the Italian peninsula would soon come up against the power of the Mediterranean, Carthage. Carthage was Phoenician city founded in 814 BC, and the term Punic relates to the Latin and Greek words for Phoenician. From the founding of the Republic, the powerful Carthaginians had long supported Rome in its bid to secure its own independence and strength in Italy. As late as 279 BC, the two states were allied against Pyrrhus of Epirus in order to contain his expansionist goals, but as Rome's strength grew as a result, so did the rivalry and animosity between the two.
Carthage was, in this time period, by far the greatest sea power on the Mediterranean. Naval authority and vast merchant routes brought wealth and power to the North African city. By the time Rome gained control of all of Italy, Carthage held sway over North Africa from Libya to Gibraltar, much of southern Spain and the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and part of Sicily. Contact prior to Roman control of Italy was limited, but with Rome now within striking distance of Sicily, conflict was inevitable. When the Sicilian city of Messana revolted against Carthaginian rule in 264 BC, the Romans, once again, jumped at the opportunity to expand under the guise of aiding another city.
This initial Roman invasion of Sicily touched off a series of three wars that would last over 100 years. Some of the greatest battles and commanders in world history were on center stage in the conflicts. Men such as Hannibal and Scipio Africanus were immortalized through the legendary achievement and by the end, the ingenuity and technology brought on by warfare advanced Rome to incredible power. Carthage would end up a blip on the radar of history, while Rome became the power of the western world through its victories.
Conflict with Carthage, however, was not the only source of strife for the growing Roman Republic. In some cases, Rome's expansion beyond Carthaginian territory grew as a direct correlation to the Punic Wars. Illyricum, on the Adriatic, Macedonia and Greece would all become the target of Roman domination and political whims. The years 264 to 146 BC, would transform Rome from a young Republic to a powerful Empire.
Did you know...?
In approximately 814 BC, Carthage was founded by Phoenician settlers from the city of Tyre, bringing with them the city-god Melkart. Traditionally, the city was founded by Dido, and a number of foundation myths have survived through Greek and Roman literature.