The first of the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome broke out in 264 BC. It took place entirely on the island of Sicily, and arose when the Carthagininan city of Messana revolted against Carthage. The Romans intervened against the Carthagininan response, and responded in turn by beseiging many of their other Sicilian colonies. Carthage then attempted to raise the seiges with its navy, only to have it defeated, leaving them in an untenable position. in 241 BC, the city-states signed a treaty in which the Romans kept Sicily, and the Carthagininans paid war damages (both of which they could easily afford). In 238, however, Carthage's mercenary troops were acting rebellious, and Rome took advantage by seizing the island of Corsica (a move that even Roman historians remember as rash and unethical). Carthage became extremely angry, and sent the general Hamilcar (Father of Hannibal) and his son-in-law Hasdrubal to Spain to found colonies and build up a military presence. This escalation is what eventually led to the Second Punic War.

The 1st Punic War (264-241)
The 'Mamertines' (sons of Mars, Campanian mercenaries), defending Messana, appealed to Rome and Carthage for help against Hiero of Syracuse. Following the landing of a Roman army, Syracuse and Carthage formed an alliance; but after the defeat of their armies at Messana, Hiero allied himself with Rome. The Romans conquered Sicily as far as Agrigentum (261).

260 Naval Battle of Mylae. Victory of the Romans with newly constructed ships (modelled after a 5-oared Punic vessel they had found stranded). With the invention of the boarding bridge, land-war tactics were used in naval warfare.

256 Naval victory of the Romans at Cape Ecnomus enabled them to land in Africa. Advance of the Roman army to Carthage, which sued for peace, but then rejected the severe Roman peace conditions.

255 Battle of Tunis. Utilizing cavalry and elephants, the Carthaginians were victorious under the Spartan mercenary leader Xanthippus. A Roman fleet transporting the survivors was destroyed by a storm. The Romans for the moment gave up naval warfare; however, they conquered Sicily, except for the Carthaginian bases of Lilybaeum, Drepanum and Eryx. A newly built Roman fleet was victorious at Panormus (250), but was destroyed at Drepanum in 249. After years of wearying petty warfare with Hamilcar Barca, another Roman fleet was financed by a forced loan from senate members (200 penteres).

241 Naval victory of the Romans off the Aegates Islands. Peace treaty: Carthage gave up Sicily (1st Roman province, 227) and paid a war indemnity of 3,200 talents over 10 years.

After revolts of mercenaries and Libyans against Carthage, the Sardinian mercenaries appealed to Rome for aid. Rome declared war on Carthage and forced a cession of Sardinia (238, united with Corsica to become 2nd Roman province, 227) and payment of a further 1,200 talents. The Tyrrhenian Sea became the mare nostrum of the Romans.

229-228 A Roman fleet fought the Illyrian pirates. Elimination of piracy, payment of tributes by the Illyrian queen Teuta. The Illyrian coast was under Roman rule from 219. After an advance by the Celts,

222 victory of the Romans at Clastidium and conquest of Mediolanum, capital of the Celtic Insubres. Establishment of colonies (Placentia, Cremona, Mutina) and construction of the Via Flaminia.

From 237 reorientation of Carthaginian policies (the Barcids). Carthage conquered Spain to compensate for the loss of Sardinia and Sicily, obtaining the ore-rich south-eastern regions in 236 (Sierra Morena), which made possible the payment of the last instalment of war indemnities to Rome (231). Foundation of Carthago Nova (227).

226 The Ebro Treaty: Hasdrubal, Hamilcar's son-in-law, promised not to cross the Ebro for unfriendly purposes. The Romans reorganized Carthaginian rule South of the Ebro. After Hasdrubal's murder (221), Hamilcar's eldest son Hannibal became Carthage's commander-in-chief.

219 Roman-Carthaginian conflict over Saguntum, which was conquered by Hannibal despite Roman intervention. Demand: surrender of Saguntum and extradition of Hannibal. Carthage refused, whereupon Rome declared war.

See the Second Punic War...

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