The first punic war

Bogdan U. August 23, 2014 1
The first punic war

Rome and Carthage fought the First Punic War that dragged for about 20 years from 264 to 241 BC. Rome was the dominant power at that time while Carthage was known for its maritime power all around the world. The First Punic War broke out because the two powers wanted control over the island of Sicily.

The two powers had signed several treaties regarding trading rights and their relations were friendly. The close relations changed between these two powers when some soldiers from Syracuse attacked other soldiers from Messina on the island of Sicily and Rome decided to intervene by showing its support for Messina while Carthage showed support for Syracuse. At that time, Sicily was a Carthaginian province. This led to a direct conflict between the two major powers.



Since Sicily was a Carthaginian province, Rome would have to do the unthinkable; it had to win battles at sea. Carthaginians, being descendants of the Phoenicians, were thought to be masters of the sea. Rome, on the other hand, had no working navy.


Map of the The Mediterranean Sea in 264BC. Rome is displayed in red, Carthage in purple and Syracuse in green

Map of the The Mediterranean Sea in 264BC. Rome is displayed in red, Carthage in purple and Syracuse in green

Hamilcar Barca was in charge with the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily. A lot of historians agree that he had been responsible for creating a strategy that his son Hannibal would later implement in the Second Punic War. Hamilcar was skilled in both military and diplomatic matters; but his son, Hannibal seemed to surpass his father’s achievements. Hamilcar’s superior strategy, his influence among the African people as well as mercenaries made him be considered the best commander that the First Punic War ever had. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to win the war with Rome that built 160 ships which came with land bridges. The powerful city also built an interesting device called corvus that could hit the enemy’s ship. This is how Rome won the First Punic War, by cornering Hamiclar Barca in Sicily and forcing him to surrender in 241 BC. This is how Sicily became Rome’s first overseas province.


The peace terms that were mentioned in the Treaty of Lutatius didn’t look too good for Carthage. The once leading naval power had to surrender Sicily and the Aegadian Islands to Rome. Carthage was also forced to return Rome’s prisoners of war without ransom and the treaty also mentioned that Carthage had to refrain from attacking Syracuse and its allies. Rome also demanded other small islands like Lampedusa, Linosa and others. Carthage had to pay an enormous indemnity to Rome and several other peace terms had to be respected by both cities. The peace terms made sure that Carthage would never recover and rise to power.


The aftermath of the First Punic War assured Rome’s first expansion outside the Italian Peninsula. Apart from that, Rome also gained mastery of the sea after 23 years of battle. Carthage was forced to give up the Aegadian Islands, Ustica, Pantelleria, Malta and other small islands. The defeat of Carthage made way for one of the greatest strategic minds, Hannibal, who was renowned for his stalemate strategies that many historians believe were influenced by his father’s great military mind.


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