in this article, we will talk about that how did the First Punic War Happen? – History of the Roman Empire no one could stop the roman republic so far that it seemed to be the case as the Romans had spread their authority all throughout the italian peninsula it wasn’t until rome now turned to the nearby island of sicily that its invincibility would come under the spotlight after all the roman republic was not the only expanding power of the day and one other in particular had also set its sights on sicily carthage.
the carthaginian empire was a powerhouse spreading across north africa spain the balearic islands sardinia and corsica though technically an amalgamation of phoenician city-states and only informally an empire with the city-state of carthage at the helm this was the one rival that could truly send a shiver down roman spines up to this point roman carthage had been formal friends.
they had established alliances commercial ties and mutual enemies even but when the roman republic began to consider taking sicily for itself there quickly came to light one inevitable consequence the romans would have to fight off the carthaginian empire nonetheless after a domino effect of events such a consequence would come whether rome wanted it to or not in 288 bc.
a group of mercenaries referred to as the maemertines began to occupy the sicilian city of masana after conquering the town the mammartines quickly became uncomfortable with their surroundings and reached out to both rome and carthage in hopes of gaining some degree of protection by 265 bc at first only carthage came to their aid and agreed to assist the mamor times particularly against syracuse if a carthaginian garrison could be set up in missana.
this was a fair deal to the mercenaries and so they accepted the terms rome by this point had not been extensively interested in sicily although a debate came about as to whether they should come to the aid of the mammartines who were fellow italians still the roman senate was torn between those who felt that the mamma tines had wrongly stolen missana and did not deserve their protection versus the rest who saw the potential selfish benefits of entering sicily.
after a general assembly decided to support the arguments of the latter although worried about the potential reaction of carthage rome unwaveringly gathered the necessary men under the command of appius claudius cowdex and set off to establish a garrison of its own in mesana whether there would have been a conflict simply from the roman arrival or not is a question that would never be answered.
because instead the mamertines reacted to the news of the coming roman garrison by urging the carthaginians to leave carthage was deeply displeased and offended by this request as they had already come to the mamma tines aid and were now being forced out simply to be replaced by rome in retaliation the carthaginians decided to form a new alliance with syracuse holding nothing back.
this new coalition besieged messina as the romans arrived in sicily the war began immediately as the romans neared the city anno the carthaginian commander warned his empire’s former allies that they soon would not even be able to wash their hands in the sea not expecting such an aggressive response so quickly the romans offered a peace deal to anno but this was immediately rejected.
nonetheless the romans could not be swayed by carthage or even syracuse there is debate as to whether the syracusans and carthaginians voluntarily withdrew or if the romans swiftly defeated them but regardless the siege was ended upon the roman arrival to messiah and still the romans could in fact wash their hands in the sea the next move for the romans who now understood the real and imminent threats that would be posed by allowing carthage to continue.
its expansion throughout sicily was to deal with syracuse another commander manius valerious maximus masala took some of the roman troops up to syracuse and ambushed the city unable to defend themselves and unwilling to wait for carthaginian assistance syracuse surrendered and agreed to align with the romans and abandoned carthage.
a few surrounding cities followed suit now fearing the potential backlash if they refused although the war would scarcely be fought on land the romans were quick to besiege the carthaginian ally of acrogas when the carthaginians attempted to come to the rescue of their friend and lift the siege they too were put down by the romans and the city was sacked.
this infuriated carthage and began a back and forth contest of taking and losing cities between the two sides although the focus of warfare began to take a shift toward the sea initially the carthaginians had a superior naval force and more experience with such conflict the romans however were unfazed by this and understood that in order to win the war they would have to establish a navy of their own in a streak of good luck a carthaginian warship was spotted on low tide by the romans.
who captured the vessel and likely utilized it to create copies for their new naval force with some innovative additions one of these upgrades made by the romans was the corvus which was essentially a bridge that could be moved in any direction and utilized to lower infantry troops from the superior roman army onto the carthaginian ships.
this addition proved to be greatly beneficial for the romans and helps to give them the upper hand throughout the naval warfare not many details of the series of raids and skirmishes have been maintained over the years but it seems clear that the first few years of the conflict were more or less a stalemate with now rome and carthage fairly equal at sea and a slight advantage for the romans.
on land though not many land battles were fought aiming to grab the high ground in some form the romans now look to africa carthage’s home soil four legions under the command of marcus regulus attilios arrived in modern day tunisia as the first punic war raged on overseas oddly the senate quickly called for the withdrawal of two of the legions.
but the rest remained in africa and quickly occupied the city of tunis in 255 bc as negotiations continued to fail the carthaginians were far from giving up nonetheless and one of their commanders a spartan by the name of zamtipus returned with a 16 000 strong army and routed the romans in africa only 2 000 of the roman troops survived to flee but they too perished on their way out as a storm at sea wrecks the fleet of nearly 100 000 men.
who had rescued them on the journey home the following year the war would resume back in sicily once more the romans continued to gain territory and pushed the carthaginians further and further out although when they attempted to return to africa their ships were again destroyed at sea keeping the carthaginian homeland safe in sicily the hopes of carthage remained.
a risk but the war was far from over despite consistent victories rome was yet to seize and hold all of sicily the war was draining both sides and there seemed to be no end in sight as the city of lily bayou refused to fall to the romans despite valiant efforts to take it the battle of japan brought about a remarkable carthaginian victory at sea and with momentum.
in their favor the carthaginians beat down the romans once again in the battle of fintius shortly after bringing about a long break in a significant naval conflict nonetheless following these battles in 249 bc carthage had lost all of its sicilian holdings aside from the libaum and drapana as the romans battered the city walls in desperate attempts to finally free the island of carthage’s grip.
then carthaginian commander hamilkar barka ambushed the enemy using repeated guerrilla attacks despite temporarily capturing eric’s barco was not able to do much given the depleted state of a carthaginian army having failed to garner monetary support from egypt as they had hoped the carthaginians were close to having no choice but to surrender.
whether they knew this or not the romans decided that this would be the time to attack by sea once more in 242 bc gaios lutatio’s catulus led a 200-ship fleet back to sicily and straight to tripana by the next spring the carthaginians would collapse under the roman bombardment nearly broke and exhausted from the years of war carthage was ready to call it quits and entered into serious peace negotiations for the final time.
the treaty of lutartius would at last bring an end to the first punic war under its terms the carthaginians were required to withdraw entirely from sicily and additionally had to pay a significant sum of 3200 talents in indemnity over the next decade after 23 years of war that had battered both parties remarkably.
the romans had finally triumphed and proved once again although the roman republic may stumble it would not yet fall despite first having no solid plans to take sicily and hefty concerns about even considering such a campaign by the end of it all rome had taken sicily and not even the carthaginian empire could stop it.
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