First Punic War

The First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic, the two great powers of the Western Mediterranean. For 23 years, in the longest continuous conflict and greatest naval war of antiquity, the two powers struggled for supremacy, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa. The war began in 264 BC with the Roman conquest of the Carthaginian-controlled city of Messina in Sicily, granting Rome a military foothold on the island. The Romans built up a navy to challenge Carthage, the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean, for control over the waters around Sicily. In naval battles and storms, 700 Roman and 500 Carthaginian quinqueremes were lost, along with hundreds of thousands of lives. Command of the sea was won and lost by both sides repeatedly. A Roman invasion of Carthaginian Africa was destroyed in battle at the Bagradas and the Roman consul Marcus Atilius Regulus was captured by the Carthaginians in 255. In 23 years, the Romans slowly conquered Sicily and drove the Carthaginians to the west end of the island. After both sides had been brought to a state of near exhaustion, the Romans mobilized their citizenry's private wealth and created a new fleet under consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus. The Carthaginian fleet was destroyed at the Aegates Islands in 241, forcing the cut-off Carthaginian troops on Sicily to give up. A peace treaty was signed in which Carthage was made to pay a heavy indemnity and Rome ejected Carthage from Sicily, annexing the island as a Roman province. The war was followed by a failed revolt against the Carthaginian Empire. The Romans exploited Carthage's weakness to seize the Carthaginian possessions of Sardinia and Corsica in violation of the peace treaty. The unresolved strategic competition between Rome and Carthage would lead to the eruption of the Second Punic War in 218 BC.


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