The First Punic War (264-241 BCE)

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The First Punic War (264-241 BCE)

Since the beginning of time, man has waged war on his neighbors, his friends and his enemies. In many cases these wars were caused by power-hungry nations that were in the process of expanding their empire and ended up stepping on the toes of another superpower or ally of a superpower. In the case of the first Punic War between Rome and Carthage, Carthage was extending its empire and they stepped on Rome’s toes. During the course of this war the winner was unclear but at times victory seemed eminent for both sides until Rome finally won. The Romans had control in the first part of the war but this would not last. After the Romans first win they decided that they needed a victory over the city of Carthage but this would turn the tides in favor of the Carthaginians. For some 15 years after this defeat of Rome the tides went back and forth between the two but would eventually lead to the Romans victory. After the victory, Rome made some very harsh demands and Carthage filled those demands even though some of them were very extreme.

The first Punic War started with a request by the locals in Messana for the Romans to aid them in defeating the Carthaginians. Messana was at the southern tip of Italy and would be a great asset to the already superior naval fleet of Carthage. Rome saw this to be a good opportunity to halt the expansion of the Carthaginian Empire and to stop the possible attack on Italy (which was controlled by Rome). Despite this fact the Roman council debated on whether to attack on these premises or not, but eventually it was decided that they would wage war on the Carthaginians. The Carthaginians were then told that they must halt their invasion or war would be waged. They did not stop and Rome declared war.

The first battle was fought entirely in Sicily, in 263BCE, and since the Romans were the superior fighters they took the ground battle and continued to prevail until 256BCE. After the victory over Carthage, the Romans began besieging Greek cities that allied with the Carthaginians. The Romans sacked these cities, which caused them to harden their resistance. Rome realized that to beat the Carthaginians they needed to build a fleet and in 261BCE they began building. To counter the Romans inexperience at sea they used a device called a corvus (a large gangplank with a spike on the underside).
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