» » » » Appian, The Punic Wars
Over the next few years, the Carthaginians and Romans clashed at sea and on land. Minor Carthaginian advances were made in 260 and 259 B.C. but were repulsed and a number of Roman offensives were staged in the years that followed. The situation in Sicily had become a bit of a stalemate; though the Romans were often on the offensive, the time it took for the Romans to besiege and capture the Sicilian cities allowed the Carthaginians to repulse and reverse many of the Roman gains (Lazenby 81). However, during this time the Romans had had considerable success at sea. Thus, the Romans, hoping to force a definite conclusion to the conflict, decided to strike directly at the Carthaginian homeland.
The invasion of Africa in 256 B.C. represents another clear stage in the conflict; the Romans sought to further expand the scope of the war. It was a way of putting further pressure on Carthage (Goldsworthy 91). It also reveals the Roman confidence in their capabilities; Roman troops had only left Italy for the first time 8 years prior, and now were preparing for an invasion of Africa. The voyage from Sicily to Carthage was about 400 miles, and the Romans would need to transport an entire army that distance while defending against the still formidable Carthaginian navy. The Roman perceptions about their capabilities convinced them that they could undertake this operation, and thus contributed to their expanding of the conflict (Lazenby 81).
The Consul Marcus Atilius Regulus led the campaign and was initially enormously successful, ravaging the Carthaginian countryside and destroying the Carthaginian army at the battle of Adys. Regulus then sent envoys to Carthage to negotiate terms of peace. This attempt at peace was significant, but also demonstrates the nature of the Consular office. Regulus’s term was almost at an end, and he wanted to finish the war and take the credit before a successor arrived to gain an easy victory. Indeed, this followed a precedent set by past holders of the office; in many ways, personal ambition and the quest for glory were significant factors contributing to when the Roman leadership decided to seek peace (Goldsworthy 87). The terms of the treaty, however, were enormously harsh: the Carthaginians would need to give up Sicily and Sardinia, release all Roman prisoners freely whilst ransoming their own, pay the Romans an indemnity and annual tribute, only make war and peace on the approval of Rome, and only retain one warship for their own use while providing 50 to serve under the Romans. The Carthaginians, though at a disadvantage, were not at the end of their resources and refused to accept the terms. Faced with a Roman refusal to grant concession, the talks failed.
The Second Punic War | Ancient Wars
This lesson covers the three Punic Wars
Like Rome, Carthage came to be involved in the Mamertine/Syracusan dispute because of national concerns and perceptions, and would thus find itself in a war against Rome. Carthage’s willingness to send a garrison to Messana can be traced to the political realities of Sicily at the time: Carthage was a Sicilian power, and was concerned about its hegemony over the island. A Punic alliance with the Mamertines would mean no more Mamertine raids into Punic Sicily or against other Sicilian states friendly with the Carthaginians (Hoyos 44). It also meant the extension of Carthaginian influence into the northeast side of the island, whereas it had been concentrated in the south and west before. Carthage’s actions were thus a continuation of their long-term attempt to dominate Sicily (Goldsworthy 75).
Overview of Events of the First Punic War - ThoughtCo
The history of the Carthaginian Empire is important when considering why the Carthaginians were so quick to respond to the Mamertine request for help. Because this dispute became the catalyst for the First Punic War, understanding Carthage’s historical interests in Sicily and Messana helps explain the sources of the conflict. Founded as a Phoenician trading city before the beginning of last millennium B.C., Carthage aggressively expanded its holdings in Africa and overseas up until its first clash with Rome. It had come to dominate much of the coast of Africa throughout the 5th century B.C., setting up trade posts and dominating the key trade routes of the western Mediterranean. Carthage had been involved in Sicilian affairs for centuries before the war, but in the decades leading up to the conflict she found herself embroiled in conflict on the island; as a result of victories over Pyrrhus a decade before the war, Carthage was the master of all of southern and western Sicily (Goldsworthy 28-32). The enormous fertility of the island contributed significantly to Carthage’s wealth, and because of Carthage’s mercantile nature the Carthaginian leadership highly valued their Sicilian possessions and hegemony. With this in consideration, it is easy to see why the Carthaginians were so invested in the dispute and reluctant to back down when Rome became involved.