A Basic Introduction Rome and Carthage – The Theatre of War Punic Wars I and II

 THE period of the wars between Rome and Carthage is something which requires a particularly close examination as it both answers and poses a plethora of questions regarding the raising of the manpower required by the Roman military machine and the speed with which this could be brought to action after Rome’s first military expedition outside of the Italian peninsula. It is a bitter struggle which, in the ancient world, is only nearly rivalled by the equally deadly struggle between Athens and Sparta in the Peloponnesian Wars which culminated in the defeat of Athens and the loss of her thalassocratic empire, though the Punic Wars reached such a level of hatred that only one of the protagonists could survive – loss was to mean annihilation.

There were three Punic Wars, the First 264-241, the Second, or Hannibalic, 218-201 and the Third 149-146 at the end of which Phoenician Carthage was wiped from the map. The outbreak of the first hostilities between the two superpowers of the day is generally accepted as marking the end of the Old Republic and the beginning of the Middle Republican period (Dillon and Garland, Ancient Rome, 173). Whilst Rome held hegemony over all of Italy, she was yet to expand beyond the Alpine Gallic tribal homelands in the northern Transalpine region or across the seas. It was the determination to seize Sicily from Carthage that was to lead Rome to send an army across the Straits of Messina – a short distance, to be sure, but symbolically an immense step in that no Roman army had been posted over the seas prior to this. The one hundred and twenty years which followed this were to see Rome become the mistress of the entire Mediterranean basin, the only area outside of direct Roman control being Egypt which was nevertheless allied to Rome.

Carthage had been founded as a trading colony of Tyre, a mercantile power on the littoral of modern day Lebanon. Like Rome, Carthage had her semi-mythical founders and foundation myths, though involving a queen, either Elissa or Dido, rather than a male founder as Rome, either Romulus or Aeneas, depending upon individual preference. Carthage had natural twin harbours, and, after breaking free from the mother city, she expanded her mercantile power massively, trading with the Eastern Mediterranean right up as far as tin from Cornwall. Through her expanding power and wealth combined with her strategic position in the Western Mediterranean, situated near to the modern day city of Tunis, Carthage soon began to set her own colonies, principally in Spain and on the Balearic Islands. Sicily, from the sixth century, became a battleground for the struggle with the Hellenic poleis under the hegemony of Syracuse due not only to Sicily’s strategic position, but also to its massively productive grain fields. By 500, Carthage more or less dominated Southern Spain, and by the outbreak of hostilities with Rome, the Western Mediterranean and the central area as far as the Hellenic colony of Cyrene in modern day Libya. Carthaginian colonies were, to all intents and purposes, trading areas, though they also brought dominance in military terms over the surrounding areas and the autochthonous peoples. Unlike the Romans, who at most required military assistance from the socii at this point, Carthage required annual tribute from her areas of influence and dominance, either in kind or in military service. The Roman military, despite the allied troops levied when required, was a citizen army in its principal makeup. Carthage, on the other hand, pressed her Libyan subjects into military service as well as employing huge numbers of mercenaries. Despite this and the inherent problems which having a mercenary army would pose, the Spanish allies and a variety of troops under other alliances and mercenaries were a shock to Rome in their dedication and military prowess in battling the Romans, particularly under the command of Hannibal Barca in the Second Punic War and his campaign in Italy where the Romans experienced some of the most complete military defeats in their history, particularly at Cannae. At the outbreak of hostilities, no one would have laid a bet on a Roman victory. Carthage had a massive navy, whereas Rome had a minuscule number of highly ineffective ships, and in land warfare, Carthage had access in abundance to heavy cavalry and war elephants – Rome had nothing to match such leviathans on the battlefield. By the end of the First Punic War, however, Rome had proven herself not only the equal of Carthage, but more adaptive and mastered the great maritime power by beating her on the seas as well as land.

Unsurprisingly, it is in the period of the hostilities of the First Punic War that the Romans begin to set down their own Histories for the first time. This was Rome’s first great imperialistic war, previous conflicts having taken place in her own ‘back yard’ in the subjugation of the peoples of Italy and removing Etruscan and Hellenic threats from the neighbouring areas. It was after the First Punic War that Rome had the first territories in an overseas Empire, seizing control of Western Sicily (Syracuse remained dominant in the Eastern half for a good many decades to come), Sardinia, Corsica and expanding her area of influence into Spain through alliances with the likes of the Carthaginian subject city of Saguntum. Whether it was simply through a welling of learning or whether Romans themselves felt that this was the first time that they had something which was worth recording in detail as a chronology is an unanswerable question. It is with the wars against Carthage that Polybius begins his History, and, along with the inevitable Livy, provides modern day historians with the backbone of our records. The main problem is that the principle sources available to and used by Polybius are lost to us (Philinus and Fabius Pictor, both near contemporaries of the events.). What other sources we have (Diodorus, Cassius Dio) are fragmentary and the Carmen Belli Poenici of Naevius, who served in the army in the latter days of the war, are completely lost other than minor citations. Appian makes mention of the wars, the further writers are not worth mentioning other than that we know they wrote texts dealing with the wars as they are for the greater part lost (L. Cincius Alimentus, Cato, Origines, Quintus Ennius. Biographies of Hannibal and Hamilcar written by Cornelius Nepos and of Fabius Maximus and Marcellus by Plutarch do survive.) Livy, usually our best source, is very sporadic for the period of the Punic Wars, much of it having been lost. The early 3rd century has disappeared in the records, resuming in 219, giving us a highly detailed description of both political and social history as well as a knowledge of the wars until 167 BC when again there is a lacuna in what remains of his work. The final days of Carthage in 146 were recorded by Polybius who, whilst accompanying his friend Scipio, actually witnessed this, but, as with Livy, the majority of his account is lost. However, Appian’s Punic Wars (Libyka) appears to have been closely based on Polybius and therefore has great importance to the modern day historian. All of our records are heavily biased to the Roman viewpoint, all Punic records of events having been destroyed. It is known that Sosylus the Spartan and Silenus of Kaleakte, two Greek authors, accompanied Hannibal on his campaigns – therefore would have shown the Carthaginian interpretation of events, but again, they are lost (Nepos, Hannibal 13.3 – Polybius attacks both of these as ‘simply repeating the gossip of the barber shop’ (3.20))

Relations between Carthage and Rome had not always been based upon mutual antipathy, however – indeed we know of three treaties between the two powers, the first dating from the earliest days of the Republic, traditionally in 509/8, with two subsequent treaties in 348 and 279. All three of these treaties seem to show Carthage as the dominant partner, restricting Roman interests to the land within the confines of the Italian peninsula and not on the seas which evidently were the realm of the Punic navy, though the third does appear to put the Punic naval power almost at the disposal of Roman requirements as part of a symmachy against Pyrrhus of Epirus. The three treaties emphasise heavily the mercantile interests of Carthage rather than land acquisition and the limitation of Roman influence in Punic territory. Polybius (3.22.4-13) cites the main points of the Treaty of 509/8 – the Carthaginians were to control all trade which the Romans conducted within the Carthaginian sphere of influence and were highly restrictive in where they (the Romans) could sail. In return, the Carthaginians agreed not to interfere in the affairs of the Latin towns, and that any Roman who visited the ‘part of Sicily which is under Carthaginian control, he shall enjoy equal rights.’ The second treaty is somewhat more specific in limiting the Roman sphere of influence, more or less excluding Romans from any settling in Punic territory and severely restricting the trading rights in the Carthaginian sphere of influence; as with the first Treaty (it should be noted that both Livy and Diodorus incorrectly term this Treaty of 348 BC as the first Treaty. It is, however, they who date this one, Polybius not doing so. As Richardson has pointed out, however, there is a discrepancy in Livy, 7.27.2 who first refers to foedus ictum, but then changes this later to foedus renovatus in 7.83.2; Richardson, JH, Rome’s Treaties with Carthage: Jigsaw or Variant Traditions? In Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, Editions Latomus, Bruxelles, Vol 315, 2008, 85, n. 10) Sicily is accepted as being divided into two spheres of power, (the Punic dominated west and the east under the sway of a confederation of Hellenic poleis under the hegemony of Syracuse), the Carthaginians stipulating clearly so, but also that Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearics are under her sway alone. The areas to which the Treaty applied also show that, by this time, Carthaginian sway had expanded in Libya. Polybius further demonstrates that Roman expansionist policies in the Italian peninsula were to remain free from any Punic meddling and that no permanent military presence by Carthaginian forces was to be permitted in Italy, which is a reiteration of the first Treaty of 509/8. Carthage, in this Treaty, remains very much the dominant partner and makes it very clear where Roman presence will be tolerated, under which circumstances and for how long it will be permitted. Rome presumably accepted the first Treaty through the need for a powerful friend at the instigation of the Republic and the second to allow her expansionism in Italy, at which time she had no interest in expanding across the seas to challenge the military might of Carthage. The third Treaty, again undated by Polybius, but the references to the mutual enemy in the form of Pyrrhus of Epirus do demonstrate it to be the Treaty dated to 279 by both Livy and Diodorus.

‘The Romans made another final treaty at the time of the invasion of Pyrrhus, before the Carthaginians had started the war for Sicily; in this they maintain everything in the existing agreements, and add the following: ‘If they make an alliance with Pyrrhus both shall make it a written condition that there shall be provision that they shall go to the assistance of each other in the country which is under attack; whichever has the need for help, the Carthaginians shall provide the ships for transport and attack, but each shall provide the pay for their own men. The Carthaginians shall aid the Romans by sea, if necessary. But no one shall force the crews to land against their will.’ (3.25.1-5)

Whilst still underlining the restrictions on the mercantile front, this is an extremely generous treaty from the Roman point of view, as it puts the Carthaginian navy at her service under a symmachy, and, moreover, at Carthaginian cost – Rome would simply have to pay and supply her own troops. This gives us an idea of how concerned the Carthaginians appear to have been at the threat from Pyrrhus, who had twice defeated the Romans and who was turning his attention to the relief of the Greek poleis on Sicily, as well as the possibility of a full treaty between Pyrrhus and Rome which would give the Greeks full access to southern Italy as well as bringing troops from Tarentum and the other Hellenic allies if the military threat from Rome were removed. The fact that the Carthaginians were willing to propose such a defensive treaty with the Romans as well as offer a high degree of naval help at the expense of the Punic exchequer does seem to imply that the Carthaginians did not yet view Rome herself as posing a major threat, presumably due to an almost total lack of naval capacity and ability, but equally great concern at the presence of Pyrrhus who drove the Carthaginian forces back to the west of the island, only holding him at their massively fortified city of Lilybaeum.

The question then arises how, a mere fifteen years later, the Romans chose to break with their previous military tradition and cross to Sicily with martial intentions. Polybius (4.4) states that it was to help the Mamertines in their struggles with Messana and Rhegium. Despite the three treaties, none of the relations between Carthage and Rome proved effective in avoiding the outbreak of the First Punic War. The simple reality is that, other than a possible fear of total Carthaginian control over Sicily and a possible subsequent expansion into Italy proper, the Romans had no viable pretext for their invasion of Sicily – as said above, a watershed in Roman history as it was their first military expedition beyond the shores of Italy and the way they conducted their conquering of Sicily over the subsequent 23 years was to be the blueprint for the Roman determination and ruthlessness in her future military campaigns, though it was to present a wider problem.

The question must be asked as to why Rome chose to break her treaties with Carthage and launch an invasion of Sicily as it must have been evident to the Romans that such an act of aggression would lead to overseas wars and a very long and bitter struggle against the other great power of the Western Mediterranean. Bellomo (Polybius and the Outbreak of the First Punic War: A Constitutional Issue in SCO 59, 2013, 71-90) in his excellent paper upon which I rely heavily here, has pointed out that the difficulties arise in Polybius 1.11.1-3 and its translation:

‘They were therefore in great apprehension lest, if they also became masters of Sicily, they would be most troublesome and dangerous neighbours, hemming them in on all sides and threatening every part of Italy. That they would soon be supreme in Sicily, if the Mamertines were not helped, was evident; for once Messene had fallen into their hands, they would shortly subdue Syracuse also, as they were absolute lords of almost all the rest of Sicily. The Romans, foreseeing this and viewing it as a necessity for themselves not to abandon Messene and thus allow the Carthaginians as it were to build a bridge for crossing over to Italy, debated the matter for long, and, even at the end, the Senate did not sanction the proposal for the reason given above, considering that the objection on the score of inconsistency was equal in weight to the advantage to be derived from intervention. The commons, however, worn out as they were by the recent wars and in need of any and every kind of restorative, listened readily to the military commanders, who, besides giving the reasons above stated for the general advantageousness of the war, pointed out the great benefit in the way of plunder which each and every one would evidently derive from it. They were therefore in favour of sending help; and when the measure had been passed by the people they appointed to the command one of the Consuls, Appius Claudius, who was ordered to cross to Messene.’ (Translation of Thayer, E, Loeb, 1922)

The Mamertines were a mercenary force originally from Campania who had seized the city of Messana after fighting in Sicily. This was taken as a direct challenge by the city of Syracuse, the Tyrannos of which, Hiero, had in recent times undertaken a major expansionist programme. After suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of the Syracusan phalanx at Longanus in 264, the Mamertines turned both to Carthage, who had a hostile relationship with the Syracusans and held the west of the island, and the Romans under ties of ethnic relationship for assistance. The difference in approach lay in their offering to the Romans a deditio meaning that they would be willing to offer the surrender of the city and their personal future to the Romans, whom they viewed as kinsmen, though they did accept a Carthaginian garrison. This was the cause of the dispute of which Polybius tells. In recent years, the Romans had dealt with mercenaries who had seized Rhegium, and therefore questioned the usefulness of overtly allying with Mamertine mercenaries. As Badian (Foreign Clientelae, 1967, 34-5) has argued, though, moral scruples would have played little part due to differences in the situation and that the senate’s delaying was due to the certainty of subsequent war with Carthage.

Polybius, who would have been witness to this debate, points out that the problem had to be faced in two separate parts – the first being the senatorial debate which failed to come to a conclusion to solve the situation after agreeing to accept the Mamertine request due to an almost equal split between those who wished to pursue military action and those who wished to avoid it, the second part being conducted by the consuls before the Assembly where the carrying argument was the restoration of the Roman hegemony after so many difficult and indecisive struggles prior to this. As this decision was passed by the Assembly, it became binding and the consul Appius Claudius was sent at the head of a force.

This is an easily understood point of view, showing that the decision of whether to go to war or not was left in the hands of the plebs, though under strong persuasion of the consuls, the only real question being to which Assembly Polybius is referring as the comitia tributa had the responsibility of handling cases of deditio whereas military matters lay under the prerogative of the comitia centuriata; an interesting argument under the question of constitutional enactments at this period, but whichever Assembly it was, it nevertheless holds little practical point other than showing the senate was not able to come to a decision itself.

This, however, rests on the proviso that this translation be correct. It has been suggested that a different translation is more apposite here, mainly resting on Polybius’ use of hoi polloi meaning ‘the many’ in Greek (Taubler, Imperium, 1, 100 nt 2, De Martino, Costituzione, 276, Gianelli, Repubblica, 295, Calderone, Polibio, 7-78, Eckstein, General, 80-83 cited in Bellomo, op cit). These have put forward that hoi polloi here does not refer to the plebs but rather a majority in the senate and as such there would have been no reason to consult the Assembly – whichever that may have been. This matter is rendered even more difficult by the use of dogma in 1.11.3, as Polybius uses the same term for a decree of the plebs AND for the senatus ultimum consultum.

‘In the first case [ie popular decree], if the popular assembly had already arranged to send aid, then Polybius had apparently no need to point out that the same assembly ratified a decree. In the second case, however, it is inexplicable that the people’s decision to send aid was to receive a ratification by the Senate when the same Senate had been unable to reach a solution. In fact, if the Senate had approved the sending of aid to the Mamertines, then it had no reason to leave the final decision to the people, and conversely, if it was against the resolution it could always block the popular vote by convincing a tribune to put his veto.’ (Bellomo, ibid, 75)

This question must remain a point of debate for scholars. There is, however, a further question. Polybius gives the impression that all of this occurred more or less simultaneously. Diodorus Siculus, Zonaras and Cassius Dio paint a rather different picture of events, dividing the process into two separate SEQUENCES of events as opposed to two sections of one event, as Bellomo has argued. According to Zonaras, the expulsion of the Carthaginians was actually under the auspices of C. Claudius, a military tribune sent to Messana by the consuls (8,9), and Diodorus Siculus states clearly that there was a Roman presence in the city before it was besieged (23.1.2). It should be noted, however, that the existence of C. Claudius is questioned by many historians. The second, decisive, move by the Romans came after the combined forces of Carthage and Syracuse, who had concluded an alliance after the Mamertines had agreed to a foedus with Rome (Livy, 30.31.4and had forced out the Carthaginian garrison, began to lay siege to the city. This was the point where Ap. Claudius was dispatched to Messana. This does seem to tie in with Polybius in 3.26.6 when, bringing up the outbreak of the First Punic War for a second time, lays the blame for the war at the feet of the Romans:

‘…for having accepted the Mamertines in an alliance and IN A SECOND MOMENT having sent them aid.’ (My capitals)

This being the case, the debate referred to by Polybius would most likely be the one regarding the sending of an armed force commanded by Ap. Claudius under adsignatio provinciarum as, if this be accepted, the deditio with Messana would have been adopted in a prior debate and therefore it was to rescue the military tribune who was already in the field under extra sortem. This is further supported if Polybius’ use of the term strategoi refers to the consuls rather than its usual Greek meaning of generals as it would be under the consular imperium that the declaration of war through a senatorially instigated lex de bello indicendo would be delivered to the besieging Syracusan and Punic forces after the collapse of any last diplomatic talks to end the situation peacefully. Thus, Polybius’ ‘hoi polloi’ is apparently neither of the possible comitiae nor a senatorial majority. Bellomo (78) suggests that this would refer to the third possibility – a magisterially convened contio – this appears to tie in very well with Polybius’ account that the consuls brought pressure to bear as it was before a contio that the orators of the day could bring their full rhetorical skills into play to sway popular opinion as neither of the other assemblies permitted debate, only simple a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. This is key as evidence shows that it was extremely rare for the opinion of the contio not to be reflected in the final votes cast by the actual legislative assemblies.

A full-time standing army was not actually to appear until the principate; the legions at this time consisted of citizen soldiers who, in their census classes, fulfilled the property requirement to serve in the army in time of war. For the rest of the year, they continued in their everyday lives. The majority of those who fought in this citizen army were the farmers; they were the largest group (estimates put the number of Romans involved in agricultural work as high as 75%) and it was believed that the hard physical labour they did rendered them the toughest and most efficient soldiers. In the period where Rome had kept her military ambitions within the confines of the Italian peninsula, this was not especially problematic as it implied a short campaigning season with its ritual instigation and termination and therefore the opportunity for the farmers to sow crops in spring and return to harvest them at the end of that year’s campaigns. The fact that the requirements to serve in the legions also demanded a landholding meant that the state did not have the problem of giving soldiers something else to do when they left the legions or at the end of the war. By waging military campaigns across the seas, however, Rome now prolonged the campaigning season and the conquered territories required a full time garrison, therefore the standard post campaign procedure could no longer hold true. This also meant that the citizen body, whose wealth lay below that of the census requirements to serve in the army (capite censi) remained an untouched pool of men who otherwise could have been called up for military service, remained outside the available conscripts as they were unable to afford the equipment necessary to serve. It was Gaius Marius who, in 107, was to remove this bar and levy soldiers from the capite censi.

The Romans moved very quickly, decisively defeating the Carthaginians in 263, after which Hiero, the Tyrant of Syracuse, made an alliance with Rome, bringing an unstipulated number of Hellenic poleis with him. This was an alliance which was to last for the following five decades, but more importantly, gave the Romans a secure footing in the eastern part of Sicily. The following few years saw the Roman forces attempting to seize Carthaginian towns one by one, but the long drawn out process was too expensive in time and manpower as well as money – they quickly realised that expansionism was severely hampered by the Carthaginian control of the seas, meaning that resupplying the Punic strongholds was an easy process, so the Romans went for the obvious solution; to challenge Carthage in her own element – the sea. Very rapidly, the Romans set about constructing a fleet from scratch after, according to legend, bringing up a Carthaginian trireme from shallow waters where it had sunk and, having dismantled it, learning how build an effective warship. The fact remained that the Carthaginian navy was much more effective in the ramming warfare of ancient sea battles, so the Romans, using the ingenuity which was to become their trademark, made an addition of a large hooked structure termed the corvus (crow or raven) which would be brought down on the deck of the opposing trireme, linking the two ships and rendering the fight more like a land battle; a fight in which the Romans knew themselves to be superior. 260 saw the Romans win a massive victory at Mylae in western Sicily (Dillon and Garland, op. cit, 4.10 Gaius Duilius, consul 260 BC, ILS 65, 185), but even this did not prove decisive and, despite their advances, the Roman forces were unable to drive their Punic enemies from the west of the island. As the conflict dragged on, Carthage replaced her lost ships and the balance was again such that the war became more of a stalemate, neither side capable of crushing the other. There seemed only one solution, and in 257 the decision was made to invade the Carthaginian homeland rather than protracting the Sicilian campaign (Polybius, Histories 1.26.1-3). The campaigning season of 256 started with a massive victory over the Carthaginian navy off the coast of Sicily, opening the way for the two consuls of the year to invade North Africa with a huge military force in the late summer. However, despite the large amount of treasure which they plundered, the Romans had underestimated Carthaginian determination when her homeland was threatened. At the end of autumn, Carthage did sue for peace, but the conditions set by M. Atilius Regulus were of the harshest kind and Carthage rejected them outright. The end of the campaigning season without an outright victory left the Romans with what, for them, was a novel difficulty. Supplying the entire force over the winter was not feasible, and so the decision was taken that the bulk of the forces would return to Italy whilst Regulus would remain with 20,000 men and forty ships. Carthage seized her chance. A Spartan general was hired to command the land forces (Appian, Roman History (Punic Wars) 1.3-4) and a large force of war elephants was assembled. In spring of 255, the Romans met the forces of Carthage on the field of battle, both armies approximately the same size. Regulus proved himself incapable of adapting to the tactics of the Carthaginian army and kept his forces in the tight ranks of the standard Roman formation. Spartan expertise was little required; the elephants were sent in at a charge, smashing the Roman ranks and shattering their formation, the Punic cavalry following quickly on to deal with the routing Romans. Of the 20,000 in Regulus’ army it would appear that around 3,000 managed to make good their escape whilst Regulus was himself taken along with some 500 prisoners, the rest of the Romans corpses strewn across the battlefield. Polybius tells us that subsequently, the Roman navy defeated the Carthaginians once more, enabling them to rescue the survivors of Regulus’ debacle. However, a strong gale slammed into the fleet as it was approaching Sicily and smashed the Roman ships against the rocks just off Camarina, sinking some 184 out of 264 triremes and drowning what must have amounted to tens of thousands of men (Polybius tells us that each trireme had a crew of 300 to which must be added the majority of the 3,000 rescued legionaries). Polybius refers to it as the greatest navel disaster ever to his knowledge. Undeterred, over the winter of 255-254, the Romans succeeded in constructing some 140 new ships as well as apparently raising enough new troops to replace the almost 20,000 lost by Regulus and in the storm, again emphasising the enormous pool of prospective combatants upon which Rome could draw. Despite an attempt to raise more of their own troops and employing large numbers of mercenaries, the Carthaginians were unable to match this Roman resolve and commitment, and in 254, the Romans seized Panormus, the main Carthaginian port city on the northeastern coast of Sicily. This victory had such a deleterious effect on the prestige of the Punic forces that five further Hellenic poleis defected to the Roman side. Despite this, the Romans spent the campaigning season of 253 in raiding North Africa, strategically achieving absolutely nothing but, thanks to being caught up in another gale, 150 ships were lost on the return to Italy. Appian tells us of the fiscal problems which both sides were suffering in 252, trying desperately to find the funds to continue the war:

‘The Romans and the Carthaginians were both at a loss for money, and the Romans were no longer able to build ships, being exhausted by taxes, though they raised an infantry force and sent it to Libya and Sicily year after year, while the Carthaginians sent an embassy to Ptolemy, son of Lagus, king of Egypt, asking to borrow 2,000 talents. He was on friendly terms with both the Romans and the Carthaginians, and tried to reconcile them. Being unable to do so, he said that one should help friends against enemies, but not friends against friends.’ (Appian Roman History F1)

It can be seen here that the determination on both sides was not matched by their abilities to pursue the war, the Romans making the token gesture of sending expeditionary forces to Sicily and Libya, but with no effective outcome, and the Carthaginians begging for the funds to provide the military with all that it needed. The fact that the third great power in the Mediterranean, Ptolemaic Egypt, long standing amicus both of Rome and Carthage, was unable to make any headway in bringing about a peace between the two nations so ravaged by the conflict does, however, underline the determination on both sides to pursue the war until there was a victor.

At some point around 250, Regulus was sent to Rome by the Carthaginian suffete to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners. Regulus swore that he would return and honour the terms of his captivity. The Romans referred to bad faith as Punic Faith; after Regulus, it would hardly be surprising if the Carthaginians referred to bad faith and betrayal as Roman Faith. Instead of delivering the required terms, Regulus delivered a speech before the senate demanding that the Romans hold on to their Carthaginian prisoners as Rome could afford the loss in manpower whereas Carthage could not. The senate accepted his request and the Carthaginian terms were refused. Regulus then, however, did return to Carthage as his honor and dignitās demanded, knowing that the inevitable punishment would be death by torture – the standard punishment of the period. Regulus’ actions increased the fās of his family and was in later decades held up as an example of Roman honour and pride – the putting of the good of Rome before the personal good and a reinforcement of the values inculcated in the mos maiorum; on a more basic level, it showed the Roman understanding of strategic sense. According to the records, once again Rome put her efforts in to the reconstruction of her fleet, with some 120 new triremes being built. While the preparations for the next campaigning season were being made, news apparently reached Rome that a huge force of some 30,000 Carthaginian mercenaries had attempted to seize back Panormus and had suffered an horrendous defeat (Polybius, 1.40), costing the lives of 20,000 men. This news altered the Roman strategic plan and they chose to launch an attack on the most important Carthaginian city on Sicily, Lilybaeum. This was far from the easy victory the Romans hoped for – Lilybaeum, unsurprisingly, was massively fortified and defended and the siege was very long. To add to their difficulties, the Romans suffered a series of defeats – in 249 a fleet was crushed at Drepana off the Sicilian coast under the command of the consul P. Claudius Pulcher, forcing another fleet to come to defend the Southern Italian littoral where the Carthaginian fleet drove it against the rocks and destroyed it also. The ships were not equipped with the corvus as the Carthaginians had learned how to negate its effectiveness (Bagnall, N The Punic Wars. Rome Carthage and the Struggle for the Mediterranean, London, 1990, 86). It is not until the census of 247 that we can see the true effect the war was having on the Roman population – the results of the census for that year show that there had been a seventeen percent drop in the citizen numbers since the start of the war. The series of defeats suffered by the Romans in 247 and the following two years meant that there was a necessary hiatus in hostilities, but no peace. It was in this lull in hostilities that Carthage made her fatal (and totally incomprehensible) decision to consolidate and expand her territories in North Africa to increase her army whilst laying up her fleet and making no attempt to increase her naval power to a point where the Romans would be incapable of matching her. Militarily Carthage can be seen to have set herself on a long and painful suicide.

By the season of 243-242, the Roman forces were sufficiently recovered to have constructed yet another 200 warships and they sailed against Drepana in summer 242, the site of their defeat in 249, expecting a major engagement (Polybius, 1.58.9-59.8). Upon arriving, there were, however, apparently no Carthaginian ships at all. Carthage had to move swiftly and managed to put a fleet of some 170 ships out to sea, but the sailors were out of training, the fleet was weighed down with the supplies required by the garrison and they were quite simply undermanned and outclassed. They tried to run the Roman blockade, but were crushed and had to flee while there still remained something of an active Carthaginian navy. This became the straw which broke the Carthaginians’ backs and they were obliged to accept what on the surface were relatively fair peace terms proposed by the consul, but which the senate refused to ratify and made much harsher, including the ceding of Sicily to Rome as well as a much larger sum in reparations over a period of ten years, both of which were evidently designed to combine to crush Carthaginian power in the Italian Mediterranean at least, if not on a wider scale (Polybius, 1.61.8-63.3; 3.27.1-10)Historians debate greatly as to whether Rome won the war, or Carthage lost. The Romans suffered enormous losses, – 247/6 census figures show that the population had fallen from 292,234 adult male citizens to 241,212. Polybius cites a figure of 700 triremes lost, each manned by 300 crew-members (1.63.4). While the Romans did succeed in taking all of Sicily other than Syracuse by 241, they had only minor success in threatening the Carthaginian homeland through a lack of men and resources as well as a long term strategic plan of how to remove the Punic threat when there. Carthage on the other hand fought a reactive war, never taking the initiative – the Second Punic War was to demonstrate what happened when she did. There was no Carthaginian plan of how to carry the war to the Romans and fight in Italy, despite the fact that she had the opportunity after her victory at Drepana. Even after the peace, Carthage still controlled the rich lands of North Africa, Libya and the silver rich southern Spain, and had the military capacity to expand in Spain as far as the Ebro. The levels of hatred left in the Punic psyche along with a strong capacity to expand and rebuild were enough to ensure that, whilst in technical parlance Rome was the victor, acquiring Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, her first overseas territories (although Sicily was not to become a province until after the defeat of Syracuse in 211), in practical terms, it can be viewed as a long hiatus with the inevitability of further conflict when Carthage felt herself a capable opponent of the Republic.

The aftermath of the war caused Carthage even greater problems, as she now was unable to pay the huge number of mercenaries in her employ. The troops, in accordance with the terms of the harsh peace with Rome, left Sicily in 241 and were transported to Carthaginian territory in North Africa. They still expected the level of reward which had been promised them; rewards which Carthage could not longer supply, and the troops revolted, laying waste to Carthaginian towns and being joined in revolt by a number of the non-Phoenician populations. The Sardinian garrison revolted as well. It took the Carthaginians all their efforts, but in 239 they massacred one army and crushed the second in 238. Rome remained silent during the Mercenary Wars and played no part, but, for reasons unknown, changed policy radically when it came to dealing with the Sardinian garrison in 238, whom they took under Roman protection. Carthage, determined to retake Sardinia, objected to the Roman actions and protested; in return Rome declared war against Carthage, knowing that after the efforts to defeat the mercenaries in Africa, Carthage was without the troops, resources and likely the will to be able to take on Rome again, and as such had to sue for peace; the conditions were the abandonment of claims to Sardinia, leaving it to Roman occupation, and the payment of another enormous fine (Polybius, 1.10.3 cites a figure of 1,200 talents). The Roman action is in reality completely unjustified and that of an outright aggressor against a weakened opponent – even Polybius, normally the most Roman of non-Romans, found the actions of the Romans inexcusable and indeed shocking. Rome was, however, to pay for breaking her neutrality and humiliating Carthage in that it gave the Punic nation the hatred and determination to pursue the Second Punic War.

The subsequent twenty years saw the rendering of Sicily and Sardinia into praetorian provinces (David, J-M, La République Romaine, Editions Points, 2012, 42 ‘…depuis 227 deux préteurs étaient régulièrement désignés, l’un pour gouverner la Sicile, l’autre la Corse et la Sardaigne. L’habitude se prit alors peu à peu de qualifier les regions qu’il gouvernaient du terme provincia qui désignaient primitivement leur sphere de competence.’) by the Romans as well as military campaigns into Cisalpine Gaul, the area between the Po and the Alpine foothills. The treatment of the Gallic tribes in this region was to give Hannibal a secure foothold in the north of Italy when he crossed the Alps through the bitterness, hatred and resentment which the treatment of the tribes at the hand of the Romans instilled. During the same period, Carthage did not simply lick her wounds. As Rome expanded over the remainder of Italy and into modern day Switzerland, Carthage, requiring new soldiers to replace those lost in the Mercenary Wars as well as the lost pools of mercenary military, began to expand her areas in Spain, which also gave her access to the silver deposits to boost her empty treasury. The records tell us that the Carthaginian forces landed at the city of Gades (Cadiz) in 237, led by Hamilcar Barca, head of one of the great Carthaginian Houses, accompanied by his nine year old son, Hannibal, a boy who would grow into the man most feared by the Romans through the rest of their history – the herald of disaster was to become ‘Hannibal ad Portas!’ – ‘Hannibal is at the Gates!’

Polybius states bluntly that, for him, it was not the military action taken by the Carthaginians in Spain, but rather the hatred which this Hamilcar had for Rome after the humiliation of the end of the First Punic War which led inevitably to the Second (3.6.1-8). Hamilcar had been involved in leading the Punic armies in the Sicilian defence, the Mercenary War and in the expansion of power and influence in Spain. This loathing of the Romans was, according to Livy, something which he brought up his son Hannibal to believe and honour, even, though Livy admits that this may be anecdotal, that, prior to the embarkation for Spain, Hannibal was taken by his father to the High Temple of Ba’al Sha’man, the king of the Punic divinities, and there made to swear upon the altar that he would ever be the enemy of Rome, ‘touching the offerings’ (Livy, 21.1.3-5). What is perhaps most disturbing to the modern day mind – and an excuse for the annihilation of western Phoenician culture on the part of the Romans – is that, according to Punic religious rites, the offerings to Ba’al Sha’man would consist of children who would be sacrificed by strangulation and immolation to appease their god (Historians debate heatedly the use of child sacrifice at Carthage, many denying it, despite the number of cremated children’s remains in graveyards near the tophets. Very recent archaeological research (2012-2014) does seem to supply conclusive evidence that the practice did not die out with the Phoenician mother cities, but was continued in Carthage, even up to the fall of the city in 146 BC).

Whatever the truth of this tale, what is definite is that Hannibal assumed command of the Carthaginian forces after Hamilcar’s demise in 229 and the subsequent assassination of the latter’s son-in-law, Hasdrubal, who had taken control until 221. There are no remaining Punic sources, but there is little reason to doubt Livy’s statement that the Barca factio had gained hegemony in Carthage from 237, as this is the year in which Hamilcar had taken control of the forces in Spain. The importance of Spain lay not in the immediate booty which would, according to the laws of diminishing returns, have simply been a short term solution to the immediate fiscal problems of the treasury in the period leading up to the Second Punic War, but rather in the massive silver deposits which were freely exploited by the Carthaginians as they progressed in their domination of the Iberian peninsula – indeed, the Romans were to adopt the identical process in the coming centuries. It is Dio (F48) who makes clear that the double problems of the reparations payments to Rome, which, remember, Polybius states had been raised by 1,200 talents after the seizure of Sardinia, combined with the double losses of the income from Sicily and Sardinia, had left the Carthaginians in the direst of financial straits. In examining the reasons as to why the Second Punic War began, there is an important caveat; the only records of the protagonists, their words and their actions are those left by the Romans. Nothing of the Punic record remains, and even the works of the two Greeks who accompanied Hannibal throughout his campaign have disappeared from the record. Whilst there is little reason to doubt the words of Livy, Polybius et al, their writings must be approached with the memory that these were either Romans or Roman sympathisers and allies. Also the character of Hannibal must remain enigmatic, again due to the fact that only Roman records remain of this almost ‘bogeyman’ figure whom the Romans appeared to regard with a mixture of hatred, fear and grudging admiration. Doubtlessly, as we know from his exceptional achievements and the fact that he managed to hold together an army of such disparate peoples for the length of time he did by dint of sheer force of will and personal loyalty from his men, and the fact that, after his final defeat at Zama in 202, the Romans would not cease to hunt him until he committed suicide in the Eastern Mediterranean, give modern day readers at least an insight into the character of a man who has fascinated since he launched his army at Saguntum in April or May 219.

The question of the legal position of Saguntum is a vexed one – even the ancient sources seem to contradict one another. At some point prior to 226, Hasdrubal had founded the new colonial city of New Carthage, modern day Cartagena. When a Roman delegation arrived to find out what was happening, there was an agreement made that the Carthaginians would keep their forces south of the river Iber – believed to be the Ebro. This is where the question arises. If this be so, though it must be acknowledged that many Roman historians make the highly questionable claim that Saguntum was north of the river, then the city lay in the agreed sphere of influence of Carthage and hence outside of Roman jurisdiction. Polybius claims that Hannibal was the aggressor and treaty breaker, but he is either unwilling or unable to clarify why this was the case (Polybius, 3.6.1-8; 9.6-10.6). What is much less doubtful is that Hannibal was fully intent on provoking a war with Rome, whatever the political standing of Saguntum (Polybius records Pictor’s account that Hannibal started the war on his own initiative (3.8.1-8, 11) which ties in with Livy, 21.5.1-3, though Polybius himself states clearly that Hannibal consulted the Carthaginian government before acting in 3.15.8). The Greek city was an obvious target, whether north of the Iber or south; Hannibal’s forces were composed of a massively diverse international force with as many different styles of fighting and he evidently wished to test the capacity of the elements of his army as well as how the styles would complement one another. Saguntum, whether north or south of the river, had a treaty of defence with Rome (Treaty of 226 BC, a renewal of a previous one of 241 BC; cf Livy, 21.2.7 for the supposed peculiar independent status of Saguntum) and it must have been obvious to the Carthaginians that an attack would provoke war whilst being secure that no Roman forces (Polybius, 2.24.2-17 for the figures of Roman army in 225 BC – the total, based on a contemporary survey to ascertain the military capabilities in case of a Gallic invasion, is 768,300. For a comparison in 217 BC, cf Livy, 22.36.1-4) were in a position to come to the aid of the hapless Greek colonists. The siege took some eight months, more than enough time for the Romans to take at least a token action in support of their allies, but, embroiled in a major conflict in Illyria, the senate ignored the problem until after Saguntum had fallen. It was a year later, in spring of 218, that the senate sent a delegation to Carthage with the command that Punic forces withdraw and Hannibal be handed over to the Romans to be tried as a war criminal (Livy, 21.18.1-19.5 for the meeting of Q. Fabius Maximus with the Carthaginian suffete and the terms.). Carthaginian anger, which had been festering since the defeat in the First Punic War, and particularly the annexation of her province of Sardinia by the Romans, now rose up and the suffete refused, accepting the declaration of war. The Romans saw this as a war instigated by Carthage through the attack on Saguntum, therefore Rome stood without war guilt, the Carthaginians blamed the Romans for their declaration of war, claiming that, as Saguntum lay south of the Iber and had been aggressive towards an ally of Carthage, the Romans had no right to make any moves on that account, and that the declaration of war was Rome’s alone (Polybius, 3.30.1-4 apportions blame equally after putting both claims). The reality is that such debates are pointless sophistry. Neither side would have given way to the other, such was their mutual distrust and hatred; the question of the First Punic War had never truly been solved satisfactorily, leaving nothing other than a situation resembling a dormant volcano which would day inevitably erupt. From Rome’s crossing of the Straits of Messina, only one of the great powers would survive, no matter how long that struggle were to last.

Rome chose Spain to be one theatre of war, the command assigned to P. Cornelius Scipio, and an assembling of military might in Sicily under his co consul in preparation for a full scale invasion of Africa. Hannibal was definitely one of, if not the, greatest strategists of the ancient world, and he had learned the lessons of facing the seemingly unlimited pool of potential recruits for the citizen army of the Republic. To him, the solution was obvious – cut Rome off from that pool by taking the war to Rome’s heartlands in Italy. In the May of 218, he assembled a huge force of some 50,000 foot troops, 9,000 cavalry, heavy and light, and thirty seven elephants in New Carthage and began his march north, subduing the Spanish north of the Iber. Despite hardships, he reached the Rhone by September of the same year. Scipio’s army, marching to Spain, was very close by, but rather than giving battle, Scipio sent his army on under the command of his brother Gnaeus and hastened back to Italy to engage Hannibal with a somewhat depleted Roman force which was engaged in a campaign against the Gauls in the north. Rather than taking the coastal route into Italy as would have been expected, especially with it being October, the Carthaginian forces crossed via the Alpine passes in two weeks, though at immense cost – almost half the army and all but two of the elephants (Polybius, 3.60.5 Livy cites the ridiculous figure of 36,000 men lost 21.38.3-5, a figure attacked by Polybius as exaggeration – 3.56.2). Nevertheless, it was a massive logistical triumph and, portraying himself as a liberator from Roman domination, he was soon joined by numerous Gallic tribes. Taken somewhat by surprise, the Romans recalled their army on Sicily from its invasion of Carthage and marched north at forced pace. The first major conflict took place at the River Trebia in December. It was here that Hannibal proved for the observer that his tactical ability far outstripped any advantage which the massive Roman numbers may have offered and the Romans were put to rout. Even Roman records admit that Rome lost nearly 18,000 out of 36,000 men whereas Hannibal’s losses were manageable, despite the fact that he lost the last of his elephants here. In a brilliant propaganda move, Hannibal took care of all non Roman prisoners after the battle, and released them without ransom the following day to return home unimpeded, proclaiming to all that he had no reason nor desire to enter into conflict with the non Roman peoples of Italy, only the Romans. This message, he hoped, would undermine any support Rome had, and that the socii would abandon their mistress in favour of their Punic liberators, as well as bringing any neutrals, especially the Etruscan Dodekapoleis into the war on his side. Such would not only deprive Rome of much of her potential soldiery, but would also bolster the losses in the Carthaginian army and supply support in food and logistical difficulties (Polybius, 3.77.3-7; Livy, 34.60.3).

In summer 217, the Romans met the Carthaginians in a second major battle on the shores of Lake Trasimene (Polybius, 3.81.1-84.7) on the 21st June, and again suffered a huge defeat, being caught in a hammer and anvil trap by the Carthaginians. Some 15,000 Romans died and another 10,000 prisoners were captured; Hannibal was now within 80 miles of Rome herself. As after Trebia, Hannibal made a point of releasing all the non Roman prisoners. Hannibal continued south along the Adriatic coast, keeping the Apennine mountains between him and the last remaining major Roman force. When he reached Apulia, he moved to spread defections from Rome amongst the Greek poleis in the south, hoping that such would bring other Latin cities with them. The situation at Rome was seen as so desperate that the Dictatorship was resurrected after a lull of some thirty years, and Q. Fabius Maximus, later called Cunctator, was appointed. His strategy is shown in the cognomen – the Delayer. He did not intend to face the Carthaginians in open battle until he was ready and on a field of his choice. Instead, he chose to limit Hannibal’s plundering operations as far as possible, and particularly to cut down his access to food. Whilst Fabius Maximus was later credited with saving Rome from the rapacious Carthaginians (Ennius, Annals, 360-2 ‘One man by his delays restored our state for us. He placed no rumour above our safety; as such in later times – even today – the glory of this hero shines bright, greater than it once did.’ Ennius in this gives us the impression that Fabius Maximus was not given this gloria at the time of the Hannibalic war, however), in such a time of emergency and climate of fear, his delaying tactics were exceptionally unpopular. Rome had suffered two ignominious defeats in her own backyard, so to speak, and allowing this same force which had inflicted those defeats simply to wander around southern Italy, causing as much trouble as possible was unacceptable. Moreover, Hannibal’s hopes for defections were starting to pay dividends. When the Dictator’s term of office expired in early 216, it was not renewed, and the pursuit of the war fell to the two consuls for the year, L. Aemelius Paullus and C. Terentius Varro. The command was alternated between the two consuls, Paullus on odd numbered days, Varro on even. The demand for a victory was immense, and Varro was determined to bring it to Rome, so, as he was commander on 2nd August, battle was given on the Plains of Cannae on the banks of the Aufidus (Polybius, 3.113.1-118.5). There were eight full Roman legions, the First, Second and Third amongst them, as well as a similar number of allies, massively outnumbering their Punic opposition – an estimated 48,000 legionaries and 6,000 cavalry with enough allied troops to bring the Roman forces to an approximate 80,000 against a maximum 35,000 infantry and some 10,000 cavalry under Hannibal. It is known that Paullus did not want to fight on the day (Livy, 22.44), but Varro’s desire for a victory and his supreme confidence, combined with the date being an even number, allowed him to dismiss Paullus’ concerns and give battle, even though it was on Hannibal’s terms. Despite the huge advantage in numbers, the Carthaginians, through a stroke of pure genius, surrounded the larger Roman forces and slaughtered them, Paullus losing his life, though Varro fled the field and managed to return to Rome (Polybius, 3.116.13). Perhaps surprisingly, he appears not to have paid any price, the defeat being put down to Hannibal’s skills rather than Roman incompetence. It is known that the same Varro was granted proconsular imperium in Picenum in 215-213 and later imperium pro paetore in Etruria during 208-207. Hannibal honoured Paullus with a full funeral for dying on the field with gloria. There were only some 15,000 escaped from the Roman force and it is estimated that as may as 50,000 died on the battlefield. Polybius estimates Carthaginian losses at only 5,700, mainly amongst the Gallic allies. The effect on the military nobility was even greater – as well as one of the consuls, an ex-consul from 217, nearly one half of the officer corps and some eighty senators lay dead on the field at Cannae. To prove the scale of his victory, the gold rings of status were gathered from the dead nobility and poured out in front of the Carthaginian senate. Again, Hannibal insured that the non Roman prisoners were released and sent home. Hannibal is often criticised for not marching on Rome: ‘He knows how to win a battle, but not a war’ is the supposed comment from his brother, but the reality is that Rome was a massively fortified city and he had neither the men nor the equipment nor machinery requisite for such a siege; to have carried out such a campaign would have been folly, and Hannibal was no fool on the field of battle (Livy, 22.51.1-4). Rome had almost nothing to fall back on other than her determination, her self belief and her absolute refusal to back down in the face of adversity – on this front, Rome was unbeatable. Livy (22.57.2-6; 9-12) underlines the fear that gripped the Romans, emphasising the religious aspects of prodigies that showed the gods had turned their faces from Rome as well as the execution / sacrifice of a Vestal Virgin on charges of fornication and the subsequent death after flogging of the minor priest who had been her lover, a certain L. Cantilius. The Sybilline Books were consulted and Q. Fabius Pictor was sent to offer prayers and consult the Pythia at Delphi for divine guidance, though a political attempt to gain support amongst the Hellenes would probably certainly have been another side to his mission, and two Greeks and two Gauls were buried alive in the Forum Boarium as a sacrifice.

The victory at Cannae combined with the rebellious nature of the south of Italy did begin to bring about defections from Rome. It is hardly surprising that yet again the Samnites rose up in rebellion, along with a number of Apulian cities, but his greatest gain was Capua in 216, the main town of Campania and one of the largest urban settlements after Rome herself (Livy, 23.4.6-8; 7.1-3). Unfortunately for Hannibal, however, very few towns followed Capua’s lead and the majority of the Campanian allies remained loyal to Rome. The Hellenic poleis were another matter. Hiero was assassinated and Syracuse abandoned her alliance with Rome in 215, declaring war in 214. Furthermore, in 212, Tarentum was betrayed and captured by the Carthaginians, causing a rush of defections amongst the other poleis of the former Magna Graecia. Rome used this time to rebuild her forces, recruiting from any group available, including prisoners and even freeing slaves who were ready to fight in the legions. By 211, there were not the usual four legions, but some twenty five. Rome was verging on bankruptcy even to the point that the legions stationed on Sicily would have to see to their own needs. The key objective, however, was to prevent Hannibal from having access to reinforcements while the Carthaginians spent 215-213 taking new towns and the Romans moved to recapture rebel towns and cities. By 211, Roman determination won out – Capua had been retaken after a prolonged siege (Livy, 26.16.5-10) and Syracuse had surrendered to a Roman force. The fact that she fielded 25 legions gave the Romans the opportunity to put large armies against Hannibal and simultaneously undertake further military operations abroad, including the campaign against Philip V of Macedon in 211. More particularly the Romans moved against Spain. Whilst there had been rather indecisive conflicts there since Gnaeus Scipio had arrived in 218 with his brother’s army, there had been a major African revolt in 214-213 and Carthage had been obliged to recall a large number of her troops to deal with it. The Scipii brothers, Publius and Gnaeus recaptured Saguntum in 212, but overstepped their abilities in 211 and suffered a major defeat in which the brothers and a large part of their army were killed. Their imperium was assumed by an officer not from the senatorial class, but there was no alternative, and the Romans retreated to the Ebro. In late 211, reinforcements from the sieges at Capua and Syracuse arrived to support the remainder of the defeated army. The command was given to the twenty five year old P. Cornelius Scipio, and it was both a bold and brilliant move (Polybius, 10.3.1-7 for the character of Scipio). By late 210, he had a force of some 30,000 men and, helped by a feud between the Punic commanders, captured New Carthage in the spring of 209; in one battle, Scipio shattered Carthaginian power in Spain. What Punic forces remained headed south or into the hinterlands. In 208, Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s younger brother was defeated at Baecula in the south of Spain, though he managed to escape with the majority of his force and, abandoning Spain to Rome, he moved to join Hannibal in Italy. Despite reinforcements from Carthage, the final major battle in 206 took place at Ilipa, finally removing Spain from the Carthaginian Empire. So sure was Scipio of his control, he returned to Rome in 205 to win the consulship. The main objective of 207 was to prevent Hasdrubal and his 20,000 troops from joining up with Hannibal in Italy. Hannibal was obliged to remain in the south in order to hold on to what he had gained over the previous years, and so Hasdrubal was forced to try to make his way south. The Romans waited until they knew whether he was going to head through Etruria or down the Adriatic coast, following the route Hannibal had taken some ten years previously. A captured messenger betrayed the Barcid plans and the Carthaginian reinforcements were crushed on the banks of the river Metaurus under the command of the consul, C. Claudius Nero, Hasdrubal dying in the battle (Polybius, 11.1.1-3; 3.3-6; Livy, 27.51.11-12). Hannibal must have realised that he was soon to be forced to abandon his campaign in Italy, as there was no hope of any meaningful level of further reinforcements, neither from Carthage nor from his Macedonian ally, Philip V. By 204, the Romans had retaken all the area not directly under Hannibal’s control or of another attempted back up force in the north, and in 203 the Carthaginians recalled both armies for the defence of the homelands. Scipio had managed to convince the senate to allow him to carry the fight to Africa despite the disapproval of the likes of Q. Fabius Maximus (Plutarch, Fabius Maximus, 25.1-4; 26.2-3; 27.1 presumably this was in light of the chaotic debacle of Regulus’ campaign of 255 BC), and, after one failed attempt in 204, he succeeded in taking Utica as well, after defeating a relief army, as well as all the countryside around. Carthage lost a further major land battle and a desperate sea battle outside Utica, and was subsequently forced to sue for peace. Scipio sent the Punic terms of surrender and the senate deliberated, finally agreeing to them. However, a Roman supply convoy was driven aground, after the Carthaginians had been notified of the acceptance of terms and the people, desperate with hunger, seized the food, an action which had the concomitant result of meaning that Carthage had rejected her own terms by an immediate violation of their own treaty. Combined with this, though, Hannibal returned; the seemingly invincible general was back home and Carthaginian spirits rose, despite the defection of Numidia, after a rebellion under its new prince, Masinissa, from Carthage to Rome. Hannibal, pushed on by Scipio’s ravaging of the lands around the capital, moved against Scipio, but was not able to take the field before the arrival of the Numidians. At Zama in 202, Scipio inflicted a crushing defeat on Hannibal and his veterans of his Italian campaign and he was forced by his men to flee the field rather than be captured (Polybius, 15.14.1-9). The Second Punic War, like the First, ended in a crushing defeat for the Queen of the Seas. Carthage had to accept incredibly strict terms – she lost all her lands other than in the immediate environs of the city, had a hugely limited army and fleet and had to seek Rome’s permission to wage war, even a war of defence. Reparations of 10,000 talents were set, which were to be paid in annual instalments over five decades – a massive sum for a defeated state that relied on trade for its income. The Punic Empire was crushed, Masinissa, now king at the grant of the senate, was given the ‘lands of his ancestors’, the interpretation of which would ultimately lead to the Third Punic War, and the city was now no more than a tributary state with little or no freedom to act independent of senatorial ratification from Rome. Hannibal eventually persuaded the Carthaginian suffete and people that it was a simple decision between this treaty and annihilation while Scipio celebrated his triumph (Livy, Histories, 30.45.1-7) and was awarded the cognomen Africanus.

An uneasy peace continued for the next five decades, but the Romans evidently looked on the peace as a lull in their ultimate goal of crushing Carthage once and for all. Two separate occurrences demonstrate this, never mind Cato the Elder’s constant ‘Carthago est delenda’ end to his speeches (Plutarch, Cato the Elder, 26.1-27.5). When Carthage asked to pay off the whole amount of the reparations forty years early in 191 BC, the senate refused, evidently not willing to release their enemy from her obligations to Rome. Further, when Rome was embroiled in wars in the East, Carthage offered a large grant of grain, Rome insisted on paying in order that there be nothing other than a simple purchase rather than a favour. Rather more telling was their reaction to Masinissa who pushed ever further into Punic territory with no Roman inhibition; Carthage was not permitted to defend her territory without senatorial permission, which never came. These occurred once a decade more or less, in 193, 182, 172, and 162; whilst Rome made it clear she was not backing Masinissa in 193 and 182, the senate took no interest in 172 and in 162-161 actually supported Masinissa, causing Carthage to lose territory worth approximately 500 talents per annum. During the subsequent decade and a half, Carthaginian embassies were met with little more than disdain at Rome and in consequence Punic reaction became increasingly bitter towards Rome. It was growing ever more evident that a final facedown was drawing closer, though it would not actually begin until 151.


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