Essay on Carthago Delenda Est: Who Caused the Punic Wars?

Essay on Carthago Delenda Est: Who Caused the Punic Wars?

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In his account of the Punic Wars, Polybius declares “it is my contention that by far the most important part of historical writing lies in the consideration of the consequences of events, their accompanying circumstances, and above all their causes.” Polybius recognized the intricate relationship between circumstances, causes, and their consequences, and in his account of the Punic Wars he seeks to explain the reasons for Rome’s victory over Carthage. For centuries, Rome and Carthage lived at peace with one another, their spheres of influence separate enough to avoid conflict. Rome’s wealth and interests lay in farming and acquiring more land throughout Italy, while Carthage’s economy was naval based, and so keeping trade routes open in the western Mediterranean was most important to them. As late as 279 B.C., Rome and Carthage were allied against Pyrrhus of Epirus, and had signed two other treaties in earlier years. However, as the two powers increased in power and controlled progressively larger geographies, their interests were bound to conflict at some point, and that conflict came in the contest for control of Sicily. The result was a twenty-three year war, the beginning of a series of wars which would last over a century. The end of the first war, and the actions of Rome towards Carthage in the latter’s defeat, laid the foundation for the second war, and it was only after the third and final Punic War that Rome, after coming close to defeat in the second, annihilated Carthage and burned it to the ground, effectively ending the age of Carthaginian power. However, the question must be asked, what were the causes of these wars, and more specifically, which power was more responsible for the conflict? No Punic accounts exist...

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...n alliance, they would have sent aid. Another explanation is requisite, that Rome was eager for war with Carthage and was using the Saguntum incident as pretext for going to war, making it seem like they were fighting a just war for the sake of appearances.

Works Cited
Dio, Cassius. "Roman History published in Vol. II of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914 ." 10 2006.*.html (accessed 3 1, 2010).
Kagan, Donald. On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. New York: Anchor Books Doubleday, 1995.
Livius, Titus. "The History of Rome, Vol. III." Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. 8 11, 2005. (accessed 3 1, 2010).
Polybius. The Rise of the Roman Empire. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. New York: Penguin, 1979.

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