It was in the same year, 367 BC, that the great tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse died, leaving to his son the empire which at the moment seemed destined to dominate Italy, a more mighty power than the expanding republic on the Tiber.
But the future lay with the republic.
At the moment when the consulships in 367 ceased to be the monopoly of the old aristocracy Rome was more powerful than any other single state in Italy. Notwithstanding this, the area of her supremacy was still limited to Latium and a portion of Etruria, and even within that area her domination was liable to be challenged.
And now she was to find herself faced by a new and formidable foe in a new guise, the Samnite confederacy.
The leading feature in the advance of Rome is to be found in the series of Samnite wars beginning in 363 BC and ending in 290 BC.
But before the struggle with the Samnites opened, the ascendancy which Rome had been able to establish after the Gallic irruption was seriously threatened. It was perhaps only because the neighbours who feared her feared still more the Gallic menace from which they had already suffered so severely, that Rome was able to do something more than hold her own. There were, moreover, Latin cities which even allied with the Gauls against her, thereby forcing the rest of the Latins, however reluctantly, to throw themselves in effect under the protection of Rome, in spite of the subordination to her involved. The Latin League was renewed on terms more definitely emphasizing the superior status of Rome (358 BC), and the second Gallic tide was rolled back in 354 BC.
Etruscan cities seized the opportunity to attack Rome in the hour of her embarrassment. She suffered some defeats, but by 351 BC the Etruscans were forced to accept a peace for forty years.
In that year and the next the Gauls renewed hostilities for the third time, only to be decisively beaten by the son of the great Camillus who had beaten them off forty years before.
The Latins were held well in hand, and Etruria was bound to peace for many years to come. At this stage, then, Carthage recognized Rome as the coming great power, and made with her the very important treaty of 348 BC – in the view of some authorities, the first between the two states, while others regard it as a simple renewal of a treaty supposedly made in 509 BC, he first year of the republic.
Roman Treaty with Carthage
In the treaty of 348 BC Carthage had undertaken to respect all Latin territory and coast towns as a Roman sphere of influence, and granted to Roman traders admission to the ports of her dominions of Africa, Sardinia and Sicily, as well as of Carthage itself.
So too were Roman ships of war to enjoy access to these ports in wars against third parties.
The Romans in turn were exluded from settling in Sardinia and Africa and accepted limits of Roman seafaring and recognized the Carthaginian claim to regulate trade in other territories. Also Carthage was granted freedom of military action in Italy.
Roman merchants were accepted to Carthage itself and its possessions in Sicily and Carthaginian merchants were to have similar access to Rome. Though Greeks are not mentioned, the effect of the treaty was to bind Rome, through commercial concessions, not to with Carthaginian attacks on the Greek cities of the south. And a significant distinction was drawn between the protectorate of Rome and those cities which were merely allied with the Romans by treaty. In particular, if Carthaginians should sack a town in Latium which was not under Roman protection, though captives and loot might be taken away, the site was to revert to Rome. A lurid glimpse of what had been going on, out of reach of Dionysius’ warships.
First Samnite War and the Great Latin War
Five years after the conclusion of the treaty with Carthage, Rome was at war with the Samnites. For centuries the Sabellian highlanders of the Apennines had struggled to force their way into the plains between the hills and the Mediterranean. But Tuscans and Latins had held them in check, and for the past hundred years the direction of their expansion had been not on Latium but east and south-east. They had begun to stream into Campania where they had become accustomed to a more civilized life, and in turn had become less warlike and ill fitted to cope with their kinsmen of the hills. The most powerful group of the highlanders, the confederated Samnites, were now, in the middle of the fourth century, swarming down upon their civilized precursors in Campania, as, farther east and south, Lucanians and Bruttians were pressing upon the Greek colonies.
In effect the semi-civilized were hammering the over-civilized.
The Greeks were appealing for help to Epirus, the Campanians appealed to Rome and Rome went to their rescue.
The First Samnite War (343-341 BC) was brief. It was marked by Roman victories in the field and by a mutiny on the part of the soldiery, which was suppressed by the sympathetic common sense of the distinguished dictator Marcus Valerius Corvus, who was said to have vanquished a Gallic Goliath in single combat in his youth.
The war was ended by a hasty peace, owing to the revolt of Rome’s Latin allies who resented their dependence on the dominant city. In effect the Romans deserted the Campanians, in face of an immediate menace to their own position. They had forced the members of the Latin League into the Samnite War without consulting them. The Latins demanded only that they as a group should stand on an equality with Rome. Rome however rejected the proposal and in two years campaigning asserted her supremacy (340-338 BC) in the Latin War.
The effect of the ‘Great Latin War’ was to tighten Rome’s grip upon Latium and to provide her with more lands upon which to settle her ever-increasing agricultural population. The Latin League was finally dissolved (338 BC). Some of the cities were incorporated with Rome, others were admitted to civil but not to political rights of Roman citizenship. All were debarred from forming separate alliances with each other or any external power.
Alexander ‘the Molossian’
On the Italian mainland the Syracusan ascendancy melted away on the death of Dionysius. The great tyrant had made use of the Lucanians and other Italians to bring the Greek colonies under his sway. When he died the Italians combined and formed the Bruttian League against the divided Greeks, pressing them so hard that Tarentum appealed for aid against the barbarian to its mother city Sparta (343 BC).
Sparta responded and King Archidamus headed an expedition. The expedition failed disastrously and the king was killed in battle with the Lucanians in 338 BC.
Greece could not immediately react, but in 334 BC, when Alexander the Great was starting on the great eastern venture, his uncle Alexander ‘the Molossian’ of Epirus answered to call of the western Greeks, perhaps with imperial dreams of his own. His success was rapid, but in 330 BC his career was cut short by the dagger of an assassin before he could consolidate his power in Italy.
When he fell he had already formed an alliance with the advancing Roman state whose foes in the south were also his enemies. But he left no successor to carry on his projects.
The Second Samnite War
The Second Samnite War lasted twenty years and was not a defensive venture for Rome. At first the Roman arms were so successful that in 321 BC the Samnites sued for peace. But the terms offered were so stringent that they were rejected and the war went on. In the same year the two consuls, leading an invading force into Samnium, were trapped in a mountain pass known as the Caudine Faroks where they could neither advance nor retire, and after a desperate struggle would have been annihilated if they had not submitted to the humiliating terms imposed by the Samnite victor Pontius. The troops were disarmed and compelled to pass ‘under the yoke’, man by man, as a fow vanquished and disgraced. This ancient ritual was a form of subjugation by which the defeated had to bow and pass under a yoke used for oxen. (In this case it was a yoke made from Roman spears, as it was understood to be the greatest indignity to the Roman soldier to lose his spear.)
Six hundred knights had to be handed over as hostages.
Meanwhile the captive consuls pledged themselves to a treaty on the most favourable terms for the Samnites.
But the Roman senate refused to ratify the terms, and again the war went on.
For six years, till 314 BC, success seemed to flow with the Samnites. Campania was on the verge of deserting Rome. Then the tide turned. But the Roman victory was delayed by the intervention of the Etruscans in 311 BC when the forty years peace reached its end. It was only postponed, however. After the first shock the Romans continuously defeated both their enemies. In 308 BC the Etruscans sued for peace which was granted on severe terms and in 304 BC the Samnites obtained peace on terms probably severe but not crushing.
Fir in 298 BC the Samnites renewed the war. Enemies were stirred up against Rome – Etruscans, Gauls, Umbrians, Sabines – on every side. But they lacked unity, and a shattering victory was won over their combined forces at Sentinum in Umbria in 295 BC.
Nevertheless, the stubborn Samnites fought on till a final defeat in 291 BC made further resistance hopeless, and in the following year peace was made on more favourable terms for the Samnites than Rome would have granted any less dogged foe.
The Campanian cities, Italian or Greek, through which Rome had been involved in the Samnite wars, Capua and others, were now allies of Rome, with varying degrees of independence. Roman military colonies were settled in Campania as well as on the eastern outskirts of Samnium.
The ‘Hortensian Law’
Since the passing of the Licinian Law in 367 BC, the old contest between the orders had dwindled into nothing more than a patrician faction either to evade the law or to recover some fraction of exclusive privilege by indirect methods. In effect the old charmed circle had become extended so as to include a number of plebeian families of influence, wealth or distinction, to whom office was in practice restricted hardly less rigidly that it had been by law to the purely patrician families of old. Technically, however, the disappearance of plebeian disabilities was now finally confirmed by the Hortensian Law (287 BC), which recognized the assembly of the plebeians voting by tribes as a constitutional legislative body.
Meanwhile beyond the effective reach of Rome, the Greek cities, since the death of Alexander ‘the Molossian’ had been suffering continuously from the pressure of Lucanians and Bruttians. In 302 BC Sparta made another effort at Tarentum. Tarentum, by selfish disregard for the interests of her allies, strengthened her own position relatively, but lost the confidence of other Greeks. The Samnite wars of Rome brought the Greek cities into closer contact with Rome, to whose protection many of them were inclining to turn, following the example of their fellow Greeks in Campania.
While to Tarentum, which had entered upon a maritime treaty with Rome as early as 302 BC, the new Roman colonies of Venusia and Luceria in eastern Samnium seemed an intrusion into her own sphere of influence and commerce. The embroilment of Rome in the affairs of southern Italy could not long be postponed.
From 285 to 282 BC she was engaged in a short and sharp war with the Gallic Boii and Senones in the north, which destroyed the latter and pacified the former for forty years to come. But even before that was finished, Rome was drawn in to the southern complications.
Pyrrhus of Epirus (318-272 BC)
With the Lucanians and Bruttians renewing their attacks on Greek cities, the Greek colonies, distrusting Tarentum, in 283 BC appealed to Rome for help. The Romans sent help promptly and effectively.
The wiser heads in Tarentum saw no reason to object, but the popular party was furious and began again to look eastwards for someone to fight their battles for them. The arrival at this moment of a small Roman squadron in forbidden waters was probably excusable as a war measure in defence of Greek allies, but it was a formal breach of the treaty of 302 BC with Tarentum.
The populace of Tarentum lost its head, insulted the Roman mission of apology, made trouble among other Greek cities, and prepared to avenge their grievance by war.
Once again sudden help came to Tarentum from beyond the Adriatic Sea. Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, was nephew and successor of Alexander ‘the Molossian’ who had brought help before. He had also married a daughter of Agathocles of Syracuse, and seems to have regarded himself as a predestined successor, a part for which he was in many way well suited. Sicily rather than Italy, which was to serve as a stepping stone, was probably his real objective from the beginning. He had the reputation of a fire-brand among the ‘Successor States’ (to Alexander the Great’s empire), whose kings seem to have sent him considerable forces, on the understanding that he did not employ them near home.
What Alexander the Great had done to the Persian empire, Pyrrhus evidently thought was possible also in the west, and Tarentum seemed the necessary base for such conquests.
This was not quite what the populace of Tarentum had intended, and the declaration of martial law by the advance guard which garrisoned their city in 280 BC cooled their love for Pyrrhus very quickly. The other Greek cities had not asked for him, and the Romans had no intention of resigning their protectorate to the newcomer.
Pyrrhus evidently had not heard much about the Romans. What he heard now evoked his respect. Still more, what he saw, in hard fighting at Heraclea and at Ausculum.
(It is to Pyrrhus we owe the expression of ‘a Pyrrhic victory’. For after having defeated the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC by inspired use of his elephant corps, but otherwise very considerable cost to his own forces, he reported to have said that one more such victory would lose him the war.)
The Italian dominion was not for him. He had come too late. And if Carthage was the real enemy, as he learned from Agathocles of Syracuse, there was nothing to be gained by quarreling with Rome, too.
Carthage naturally though otherwise and sent a squadron up to the Tiber mouth to offer help against Pyrrhus. The terms of the third treaty with Carthage now concluded in effect an alliance between Rome and Carthage against Pyrrhus.
The effect was to limit Pyrrhus’ career in the west to aggression against the Greek states which he had nominally come to protect, for it destroyed his hopes of allying with either Rome or Carthage against the other.
Veterans of Agathocles, settled now at Messana, offered their help, but Campania and most of the south gave Pyrrhus no encouragement. Only Etruria thought the tide had turned agaisnt Rome, only to quickly discover its mistake.
After two campaigns in which, though he always won battles, Pyrrhus was losing more men than he could afford he moved on to Sicily (278 BC) and the Romans had little difficulty in dealing with his friends and rear guards on the Italian mainland.
The Carthaginians had not waited to be attacked. When Pyrrhus sailed for Sicily, they were besieging Syracuse, his necessary base, and looking for him with their fleet. He evaded their ships however and drove off their field army, captured the cities of Panormus and Eryx and refused their offer to surrender everything in Sicily except for Lilybaeum, which they direly needed if they sought to keep their hold on Sardinia.
But all the while his losses had been heavy and his reinforcements few. Tarentum was hard pressed by the Romans and between them and the Carthaginian fleet he might have been trapped in Sicily.
So in a desperate attempt he returned once more into Italy, to fight one more campaign. He was severely defeated, as the Romans had meanwhile learned how to deal with his spearmen and elephants.
The tide having turned against him in force Pyrrhus returned home.
His parting words were memorable,
‘What a battlefield I am leaving for Carthage and Rome !’
The tale goes that Pyrrhus later died during an assault on Argos, where an old woman seeing him fighting her son sword to sword in the street below supposedly threw a roof tile on his head. Although other sources read that he was assassinated by a servant.
The victory over Pyrrhus was a significant one as it was the defeat of Greek army which fought in the tradition of Alexander the Great and was commanded by the most able commander of the time.
Rome dominant power of Italy
After her defeat of Pyrrhus Rome was recognized as a major power in the Mediterranean, nothing makes this clearer than the opening of a permanent embassy of amity by the Macedonian king of Egypt in Rome in 273 BC.
In 272 BC, the year of Pyrrhus” death, the powerful Greek city of Tarentum in the south of Italy was surrendered to the Romans, other Greek cities and the Bruttian tribes with their valuable forest-country surrendered likewise, undertaking to supply Rome with ships and crews in future.
New Roman colonies were founded in the south to further secure the territory to Roman domination. In the north the last free Etruscan city, Volsinii, revolted and was destroyed in 264 BC. There, too, new colonies were founded to cement Roman rule.
Some Greek cities may still have seen themselves as mere allies of Rome. But in effect all Italy now, from the Straits of Messina to the Apennine frontier with the Gauls became governed by one singular power, – Rome.
At this stage in history things might have rested for some while in Italy, if it had not been for the legacy of Agathocles of Syracuse. During his reign Agathocles had made large use of free companies of highland irregulars from the mainland. And the town of Messana had fallen at Agathocles’ death into the hands of one of these free companies – the Mamertini (‘sons of Mars’) – who made themselves a nuisance to their neighbours on both coasts, and to all who used the Strait of Messina.
They had recently been in league with a company of their Campanian countrymen, who, being in the Roman service, had mutinied, seized Reghium, and held it against the Romans for ten years. The revolt had been suppressed in 270 BC by the aid of the commander of the Syracusan forces, who bore the name Hieron (or Hiero as the Romans called him), and immediately after had made himself king of Syracuse (270-216 BC). In 265 BC Hiero thought it time to make an end of the Mamertine pirates. And so far as their own merits went, no one was likely to be aggrieved. But if he did, what was to happen to Messana and who had something to gain by using the Mamertines to obtain a footing there, or to prevent Hiero from gaining one ?
The Mamertines were not Greeks, and could make themselves very useful to Carthage, the traditional enemy of all things Greek. On the other hand, they were of Italian origin, and Rome now stood as the conscious and very efficient protector of all Italian interests. The Mamertines offered themselves and their Sicilian city to the Romans and thereby brought Rome itself to the cross-roads of destiny.
If the Romans helped the Mamertines, who were at best pirates, they would offend Hiero, their friend as well as their own Greek allies whose seaborne trade was suffering under Mamertine piracy.
They would probably also offend Carthage, and Carthage could put much trouble in their way. The Mamertines, while they were of Italian origin, were being threatened by the city which had shown most capacity for managing Greek interests on a large scale. If Rome refused help, would Carthage herself step in ? And what were the prospects of legitimate Italian trade, with Carthage in control of the Strait ?
Left to itself, the senate might have abandoned the Mamertines to their fate, and Carthage, evidently expecting this, and encouraged by another faction in Messana, sent their required help. This settled the matter. Popular clamour and business interests combined to force the senate’s hand. The senate itself though was still reluctant to intervene and simply passed the buck to the comitia tributa. And so it was decided not to declare war, but to send an expeditionary force which would try to restore Messana to the Campanian mercenaries.
At the sight of a Roman force arriving the Carthaginian commander lost his nerve, embarked his troops and sailed home. This in turn angered the Carthaginian government felt humiliated, angrily executed its own general and resolved to recapture Messana.
Rome had officially worded their decision as such that they were coming to the aid of the Mamertines against the threat from Syracuse. No mention was made of the Carthaginians. And, true to their word, they continued the war against Syracuse, once they had captured Messana. Carthage however was enraged and made alliance with Syracuse, reconciled Hiero with the Mamertines, and sent over a fresh force to support both against the Romans. By the end of the year, however, they had been expelled from the neighbourhood of Messana, and Hiero was shut up in Syracuse. But the main issue was now clear, wether Rome or Carthage was to guide the fortunes of Sicily. Hiero saw this clearly, and for the representative of Greek interests there was but one course of action possible. For nearly five hundred years Greek and Phoenician had worked and plotted and fought for this central region of the west.
To co-operate with Carthage now, against the new power which had delivered the Greeks of Italy from Etruscan, Samnite and Lucanian, repelled the Gauls and wrecked the designs of Pyrrhus for an empire of Epirus, would be folly.
Under Roman protectorate, Syracuse and all western Greeks would be safe. With Greek subsidies, ships and crews Rome could be trusted to win and Roman victory would mean the expulsion of the Phoenicians from Sicily.
Hiero accordingly offered the Romans the possession of Messana, a substantial part of his other Sicilan territories and a subsidy of one hundred talents annually for fifteen years if they would guarantee his ‘kingship’ of Syracuse. It was a small price to pay for security unattainable otherwise. And for the Romans, too, the bargain was a good one (263 BC).
And so began almost by accident the first major war in world history to be waged, not for gold, territory or power, but for principles. The Punic Wars lasted, in three parts with intermediate breaks, for over a century. By the time they finally ended, Carthage, a once shining city state with, according to the Greek geographer Strabo, 300 cities in Lybia and 700’000 people in its own city, would have been annihilated.
The First Punic War (264-241 BC)
The Punic Wars is the generally used term for the lengthy conflict between the two main centres of power in the western Mediterranean, Rome and Carthage. Carthage was originally a Phoenician colony. The Latin name for a Phoenician is ‘Poenus’ which leads to our English adjective ‘Punic’.
The First Punic War begun almost accidentally but it was to be a hard struggle, and the result was long doubtful.
In the first three years (264-261 BC) the Romans captured the great fortress of Acragas, which they called Agrigentum, still the next city of in Sicily after Syracuse, and confined the Carthaginian forces to the rugged western districts around their own ports. But by resigning territory Carthage simplified the problems of defence on land, and was able to raid not only Greek coast cities, but also the long Roman lines of communication, which were mostly within reach of the sea. For this state of things there was but one remedy. If Rome was to win, Rome had to have a fleet. And in the second stage of the war (260-253 BC) not only was this accomplished, with liberal help from Greek naval allies organized on a grand scale, but in spite of early defeats, and other disasters due to Roman inexperience, the traditional seamanship of the Carthaginians was foiled by mechanical devices for bringing their ships to a standstill and so fighting a land battle on water.
The Romans built entire fleets to match the Carthaginian numbers and crewed them with marine commandos trained in hand-to-hand fighting. It the age of only such rudimentary artillery such as catapults the usual naval tactic was to attach grapples to an enemy ship and then overwhelm the opposition with superior numbers.
The losses on both sides were enormous. The Romans, however, managed to commit ever more resources into the struggle.
In 256 BC the destruction of the Carthaginian ‘grand fleet’ off Heraclea on the south coast of Sicily by a Roman squadron, encumbered though it was with a convoy of transports, laid open the way to Africa. Here the natives rose against their masters, as they had risen for Agathocles, and the Roman force advanced within sight of Carthage. At this point peace might have been made. But the Roman commander Regulus demanded too much. The Carthaginians found in the Lacedaemonian adventurer Xanthippus a soldier of genius to reorganize and lead their forces. Regulus was defeated and captured and the survivors off the onslaught on land were wrecked on their homeward journey.
Rome’s first African venture had failed (255 BC).
Carthage however had suffered severely in prestige as well as equipment, and might have suffered worse had not the next year’s Roman fleet been wrecked on its way to Africa (253 BC), with the result that for a while only coast defence squadrons were in commission, and Roman commanders concentrated their resources on the reduction of enemy fortresses in Sicily.
By 250 BC only Lilybaeum and a new naval base at Drepanum remained untaken, and it became clear once more that these remote ports might hold out indefinitely, if the Romans could not blockade them also by sea. Again Carthage tried to compromise, but her overtures were flatly rejected.
The established Roman tradition affirms that the rejection was due to the action of the captive consul Regulus, and the story, wether true or not, has set him among the heroic figures of the world. For five years he had been held prisoner by the Carthaginians. Now they sent him with their embassy to Rome, under parole (parole= word of honour not to escape), never doubting that all his powerful influence would be exerted in favour of liberty.
Nevertheless, so runs the tale, with no illusions as to the cruel fate which awaited him, he set aside all thought of self, and advised the Romans to take no thought of him, and urged them to refuse the offered terms. He might easily have broken his parole and remained at Rome a free man, but his high sense of honour stopped him from doing so, and he returned to Carthage with the disappointed and angry ambassadors, there to suffer a barbarous death at the hands of his vindictive captors. But at Rome the memory of him was cherished and revered, as the supreme example of Roman courage, to which Rome loved to think that she owed her greatness.
So Rome resolved to see the war to a satisfactory end and began building ships again, and training crews and admirals in naval skills.
At this stage it was a serious disappointment that in renewing their treaty with Hiero in 248 BC they had to forgo the Syracusan tribute. Sicily was, indeed, nearly ruined by the long war, and in particular by the cost of great sieges at the distant west end. Henceforward the cost of these operations and of the renewal of the fleets feel principally on the Romans themselves, while any trade they had had was paralyzed by Carthaginian cruisers, which ranged as far north as the coast of Latium.
A fourth stage of the war opens in 247 BC with the appearance of a Carthaginian commander, Hamilcar Barca, well worthy of the honorary name (Barca, or Barak, means ‘lightning’) that he bore.
But vigorous privateering and by establishing fresh raiding ports at Ercte and Eryx, he prolonged the desperate resistance of the blockaded fortresses, and all but exhausted Rome’s resources and determination.
Finally in 242 BC, the perilous experiment of naval action was adopted once more by the senate. The new fleet was built with private subscriptions, but it was well found, and at least efficiently handled. Its sole commission was to cut off supplied from the Sicilian fortresses, and in this it was not only succeeded, but had the good luck to intercept and destroy the last ill escorted convoy that Carthage was able to send. The Carthaginian government could do no more. There were native revolts in Africa and mercenaries will not fight long without pay. Hamilcar was prepared to persist, but was induced at last to conduct the negotiations himself.
The Roman terms were severe. Carthage was to evacuate Sicily and surrender it to Rome, with all adjacent islands, to restore prisoners and deserters, to pay an immense indemnity spread over ten years and to promise not to make war in future against Hiero or his allies. Hiero’s territory was enlarged, and his independence as an ally of Rome guaranteed. Messana and a few other cities were received likewise into ‘free’ and equal alliance. But the rest of Sicily remained in Roman hands as conquered territory, administered by a resident governor and chief justice, sent annually from Rome, and paying Rome a tribute on all produce, and harbour duties on all imports and exports. (241 BC).
Roman Annexation of Sardinia and Corsica
If Rome had suffered heavily in the war, Carthage was almost ruined. and the peace brought worse disasters still. First, the vast mercenary forces which had been levied, but not yet transported to Sicily, mutinied for not having been paid. And for three years the Carthaginians carried their lives in their hands, while the ‘truceless war’ raged till Hamilcar’s strategy and personal influence outmatched the blunders of the government and the blind fury of the rebels, and exterminated the survivors of the army he had hoped to command. Though Rome refused to take advantage of this African mutiny, it was another matter when Hamilcar was at last able to set sail for Sardinia to deal with a similar rebellion there. This the Roman senate chose to regard as a breach of the peace treaty, and by way of compensation extorted not only an additional indemnity, but the surrender of Sardinia itself, and Corsica also.
Probably the mere knowledge that Hamilcar was at sea at all bred panic and cruel injustice. But whatever the motive, the possession of these imperfectly civilized islands gave Rome frequent anxiety thereafter. And worst of all, provoked Hamilcar to the vast project of reprisals in Spain, which occupied the remainder of his life.
Sardinia in due course, became a Roman province on the same model as Sicily, Corsica merely derelict territory at the disposal of the senate and any Roman speculator who cared to venture there for timber or minerals.
Carthaginian Expansion into Spain
The Carthaginians had not lost everything, though they had been driven out of waters where they had collided with Greeks and increasingly with Italian traders also.
There were two paths still open to them. their original exploitation of Africa, both the mountainous north and the oases and caravan routes towards the Niger basin, in the first place and the development of trade in the farther west of the Mediterranean. Conservative managers were prepared to be content with Africa, relying on mutually advantageous trade with their late enemies, to make good their losses of oversea territory. Hamilcar Barca on the other hand was for the bolder plan of forestalling Greek and Roman alike in Spain, while that was still possible.
Spain, to which Hamilcar now turned (238 BC), with the sceptical and lukewarm agreement of the Carthaginian government, was a new, rugged and barbarous country which held great promise. The northwest boasted metal-yielding highlands, to the northeast lay the wide Iberus (Ebro) valley, which gave its ancient name to the whole Iberian peninsula. And in the south lay highlands and the Balearic isles very rich in copper and other ores, as well as the valley of the Guadalquivir river with its almost tropical fertility and silver mines.
How the new city of Carthago Nova, founded by Hamilcar’s successor Hasdrubal the Elder, flourished, and what success was achieved in conciliating native peoples and exploiting the region’s natural wealth, is evident from the treaty which was agreed between Hasdrubal the Elder and the Romans in 226 BC, by which the Iberus river (Ebro) was to be recognized as the defining border between their relative spheres of influence.
As Rome, though busy enough since the First Punic War along her northern frontiers, had no footing yet beyond the Apennines, this Ebro frontier clearly represented only the reasonable claims of Massilia and other old Phocean settlements. But it illustrates the indifference with which responsible people in Carthage regarded Hamilcar’s doings, that this agreement seems to neither have been rejected nor confirmed. And certainly the Romans made no secret, a few years later, of their alliance with Saguntum, which lay nearly a hundred miles south of the river Ebro, and moreover was of strategic importance to the rich coastal plain of Valencia. The date of this alliance is unknown, so it is unclear if it had been signed earlier or later than Hasdrubal’s agreement.
Six years after the treaty between Carthage and Rome, in 220 BC, all the native peoples of Spain up to the agreed border had been subjugated by the Carthaginians or held at least some form of agreement with them. Only Saguntum remained not only independent but positively allied with Rome. Hasdrubal the Elder was dead.
In 221 BC had been murdered by a man whose chieftain he’d had put to death. Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, had succeeded to Hasdrubal’s command.
Hannibal had been made to vow in childhood to hate all Romans. It was obvious that his succession could only lead to trouble with Rome. In fact, wise heads in Carthage had done what they could to prevent his succession to the Spanish viceroyalty. But the Carthaginian army worshipped him and would accept no-one else. The Spanish venture had been throughout a personal enterprise of his family. There was no obligation to support Hannibal, and in case of trouble he could be disowned.
It seems certain that Carthage itself did not want another war with Rome.
Nor did the Romans want one. Since the treaty with Hasdrubal the Elder they had been forced to undertake campaigns against renewed aggression by the Gauls. They had been forced to occupy territory as far as the Po, to found colonies at Placentia and Cremona, for the defence of the passage of this river, and to raid beyond it as far as Mediolanum (Milan). The great Flaminian Road had just been carried forward to the Adriatic coast to ensure communication with their new conquests. They had had little wars in Liguria and also in Istria, and in 221 BC their whole field force was in Illyria across the Adriatic destroying the league of pirates which had been harrying the east coast of Italy.
The significance of the Illyrian affair is not to be overlooked. Piracy had long been rife in the Adriatic Sea, with which until recently Rome had scarcely been concerned. But the Punic war had left left her with a fleet it otherwise would hardly have acquired. And she now used her newly acquired power to best of her ability. In suppressing the Illyrian pirateering power, Rome appeared as the protector of Greek commerce, a champion of Greek interests against the barbarians. And by doing so Rome was preparing the states of Greece to turn to her as protector against Macedon.
All these operations tended to consolidate the Roman power in Italy.
But for Rome they had been costly and exhausting. And the last thing she desired was to be forced into a war likely to prove still more costly and still more exhausting, of which the issue would be extremely doubtful.
Accordingly, when the news reached Rome that Hannibal was attacking Saguntum, the Romans sent him only a formal protest. And when this was ignored, took up the affair with the responsible government of Carthage. Here opinion was divided. One party wished to surrender Hannibal and compensate Rome, but Hannibal’s friends prevailed. And while the Carthaginians debated, Hannibal succeeded in taken the city.
This disunity and lukewarm support for Hannibal among the Carthaginians was a factor which should prove decisive in the war to come.
When the Roman envoys arrived, their message to Carthage was simple – ‘Peace or war, as you choose.’
The Carthaginian government tried to argue about details of the treaty of 226 BC and its conflict with Rome’s separate alliance with Saguntum. But the Roman envoys’ position remained the same, – ‘Peace or war, as you choose.’
And as the peace was broken, war it was.
The Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, like the first falls into distinct stages. The Roman plan of attack was to invade Africa at once with the first army, and at least disorganize Carthaginian mobilization. The second army was sent to Massilia, in case Hannibal should interfere with friends of Rome north of the Ebro. A third force was obviously required to garrison the Gaulish territories between the Apennines and the Po, which had only surrendered three years before, and were known to have been visited by agents of Hannibal, and to have promised him free passage if he should try to reach Italy by land.
Some of the Gauls indeed revolted at once, and delayed the departure of the northern force to Massilia, till it was too late to stop Hannibal even at the Rhône. For this was his master stroke, to circumvent both Roman sea power and Rome’s Greek allies between Ebro and Alps, and establish an enemy base in the heart of the Roman dominion. He certainly counted on such measure of support from his friends in Carthage as would deplete the Roman garrisons in Italy for the defence of Sicily and the south. With good fortune the Roman first army might be shut up in Africa, and destroyed there like that of Regulus in the First Punic War.
Hannibal crosses the Alps
But the Roman army commanders reacted to Hannibal’s strategy as best they could. The southern army was diverted, just as it was sailing for Africa, and brought round by sea to the Adriatic flank of the northern front, where the new military road gave it direct reinforcement from Rome. Consequently when Hannibal after unprecedented hardships descended on the Italian side of the Alps, he found a Roman field army strongly posted under shelter of the new garrison colonies on the Po.
More happily still for Rome, the force that was too late to intercept Hannibal at Massilia was led at once into Spain, to disorganize his only sure source of reinforcements and undo the empire-building of his father and himself.
Hannibal’s tactics and leadership, however, were as brilliant as his strategy. His first Italian campaign in 218 BC broke Roman resistance north of the Apennines at the fords of Trebia and Ticinus. His next destroyed their whole army at Lake Trasimene in Etruria, and seemed to open a straight road to Rome. But the third year found him not at the gates of Rome, but far to the southward, now in Apulia, now in Campania. And even the victory in which he destroyed yet another whole army at Cannae (216 BC) brought him no nearer to his goal than when he abandoned Etruria.
There were several reasons for this. A flying column such as his necessarily consisted of cavalry, and for horse pasture Italy has no large plains except for the far south. The greater corn-lands also are all remote from Rome. No nearer indeed than Campania. Therefore, if Rome itself did not fall at the first assault, it was necessary to find some such Italian base, and await reinforcements from Carthage or Spain.
As long as the Roman colonies in the area stood, the countryside dared not rise even if it wished to do so. And it was the worst disillusionment of Hannibal, that the peoples of Italy, and even what was left of the Etruscans, gave almost no sign of disaffection with Rome. Hannibal could remember the ‘Truceless War’ between Carthage and her mercenaries, and the African campaign of Regulus was only ten years before his birth.
But this was quite another situation. The subjects of Carthage had been ready enough to make common cause with her enemies, but Rome’s bold experiment of clemency after surrender, and progressive incorporation in her own commonwealth had succeeded too completely for any cessation to take place.
Hannibal’s first stroke than had failed. But he had established himself in southern Italy, where Pyrrhus had fought, and he had secured possession of Campania. It was another thirteen years before he left Italy by his own choice. He had, however, no seaport, and, what was worse, no assurance of help from Carthage, which seems to have taken little further part in the war, except for a raid on Sardinia in 215 BC, when it ought to have been sending men to Hannibal, and the landing of a small force in southern Italy in the following year.
Capture of Syracuse
Two strokes of ill luck, however, befell the Romans in this middle period of the war. Hiero of Syracuse died in 216 BC, a very old man. Herio’s grandson Hieronymus acceded to the throne and sided with Carthaginians. But ancient Syracusan feuds soon saw Hieronymus murdered. The popular party seized the chance to revive old dreams of a Syracusan empire. These were encouraged by Hannibal, and also by the Carthaginian government, which profited by the Sicilian revolt to reoccupy a large part of the island. Rome therefore sent forth a Roman expedition under the command of Claudius Marcellus who laid siege to Syracuse by land and sea. But under Hiero Syracuse had been enormously fortified, and equipped with powerful catapults and all kinds of fantastical war machinery devised by the genius Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse. By these devices no direct assault was possible, leaving no other options to the Romans but to blockade the city as best they could. Alas, in 212 BC, Marcellus in a surprise night attack managed to capture the outer defences of Syracuse, though it took until 211 BC before a traitor inside the city opened a gate to enable the capture of Syracuse. The death of Archimedes, one of the greatest geniuses of mankind, It is hence attributed to Marcellus’ capture of Syracuse, where the great thinker was slain amongst the turmoil that befell the city as it was stormed by Roman legionaries. With the capture of Syracuse Hiero’s hoarded riches were made available for the conduct of the war. Even so, Carthaginian forces were not completely expelled from the province until 210 BC.
Philip V of Macedon allies with Hannibal
The other misfortune was the dislike of Rome by Philip V of Macedon (which had arisen with Rome’s earlier involvement in Illyria), and the help consequently rendered by him to Hannibal from oversea, until the Romans stationed a strong squadron war ships in the Adriatic and later managed to capture Hannibal’s Adriatic ports. Meanwhile Philip’s attention was distracted by encouraging a coalition of Greek cities against him. Not only did this make Macedonia a useless ally to Carthage in the Punic War, but it also further confirmed Rome as the protector of the Greek cities agianst the Macedonians.
Hannibal’s situation in Italy became steadily worse. Capua, which had fallen into his hands after his victory at Cannae was besieged in 212 BC by the Roman army and destroyed utterly in the following year for its treachery to Rome. Tarentum, which deserted to Hannibal in 212 BC and should have been invaluable, had Carthage used this direct means of communication to send him reinforcements, was retaken in 209 BC. And the long-expected rising in Etruria and in a few Latin towns, when they did at last take place, were half-hearted, and easily suppressed. The ‘Fabian tactics’ adopted by Q. Fabius Cunctator, of remaining on the defensive against Hannibal and refusing battle, had now been mastered by the Romans and gave the enemy little chance to gain spectacular successes like those of the first three campaigns. The whole country was sick of the war. The invader had outstayed his welcome, and a veteran army ages rapidly without reinforcements. Hannibal had left in Spain his brother Hasdrubal, with instructions to follow with another flying column like the first.
But the strategy of the Scipios, who had occupied first Massilia and then Tarraco near the mouth of the Ebro, in the first year of the war, made this plan impossible.
Their occupation of Tarraco was a counter-stroke to the Carthaginian ‘New Carthage’, and their personal qualities and diplomatic skill shook the allegiance of native leaders in Spain, and even in Numidia. There was a reaction, however, about 212 BC, for the Spanish tribes found that they had only made a change of masters, and attempted to free themselves from the new ones. But the young and brilliant Publius Cornelius Scipio succeeded in 210 BC (or 209 BC) in capturing ‘New Carthage’ in a surprise attack, and with it much treasure, a fleet and, best of all, Hasdrubal’s Spanish hostages.
By this time, however, Hasdrubal was ready. He slipped past Scipio’s forces, spent the winter of 208 BC quietly in the central highlands of Gaul, and entered Italy unopposed in 207 BC. Only the skillful co-operation of the two consular armies prevented his junction with Hannibal, which seemed inevitable. Leaving in the south only a portion of his army, which effectively masked his movement, C. Claudius Nero raced north with a picked force, joined his colleague Livius, surprised, defeated and killed Hasdrubal at the Metaurus river, east of the Apennines, and was back in the south before Hannibal discovered that only a skeleton force had been facing him. The battle of the Metaurus destroyed Hannibal’s last hope of receiving reinforcements.
Meanwhile Scipio had expelled the remaining Carthaginians from Spain, defeated their counter-attack in 206 BC, and persuaded Masinissa, a leading chief of the Numidians, to exchange the Carthaginian for a Roman alliance. Having returned to Rome, he was then allowed to raise a fresh army largely composed of Italian volunteers, for a blow at the heart of the Carthaginian rule in Africa. Here, his old friendship with Masinissa enable him to distract and eventually capture Syphax, the chief Numidian ally of the Carthaginians, and cut off the source of their supply of cavalry. Hannibal was paralyzed. Rome had been relieved of the Macedonian complication in 205 BC and was able now to concentrate upon the war in Africa.
Hannibal’s last stand at Zama
By 202 BC the condition of the Carthaginian home territory was desperate. Hannibal, and his other brother, Mago, who had escaped from Spain and landed on the coast of Italy, were recalled to defend Carthage itself, and attempts were made to obtain peace before the situation became more serious. But Scipio and Masinissa, each for his own reasons, persisted. They defeated the last field army that Carthage could rake together at Zama, and were able to impose their own terms.
Carthage formally surrendered Spain, and all other dependencies outside the home district of Africa. Even within the narrow limits, no war was to be declared without Roman permission. All ships but ten were surrendered, all elephants, and prisoners of war. And the enormous indemnity that was imposed – ten thousand talents spread over fifty years – made the Carthaginians practically tributaries to their Roman conquerors. Masinissa received the whole of Numidia and Roman citizenship, as the ‘friend and ally’ of the Roman people, so that he could invoke Roman intervention in Africa, whenever it was convenient.
Hannibal was allowed to remain in Carthage, and did what he could to restore public confidence and credit. But his old political enemies were too strong for him, and in 190 BC he was banished, and spent the rest of his life at the courts of Greek kings in Syria and in Asia Minor.
With the Second Punic War at an end Rome stood as a new confident power, free of direct threats to herself. The Roman army had just shattered the Carthaginians and was no doubt larger than the government had ever intended it to be. At this point, free from the burden of the Carthaginian menace, Rome was a power of great potential.
Wars against Macedon and Syria
Two years had not elapsed after the battle of Zama when war was for the second time declared between Rome and Macedon. The peace of 205 BC had never been more than a hostile truce.
Philip V’s strategy of consolidating and extending his despotic rule over the free cities cities in Greece the Aegean and the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) was scarcely disguised.
In 201 BC he carried carried troops across the Hellespont and set about the conquest of Caria. He was alas driven back by the stiff joint resistance by the fleet of Rhodes and Attalus, king of Pergamum.
This moment of weakness proved disastrous to Macedon as it saw Athens and other Greek cities seeing their chance of ridding themselves of Macedon rule. The Greek cities broke away and appealed to Rome for help (200 BC).
After the hardships of the struggle against Hannibal, the Roman people had had enough of fighting. And yet the senate was convinced that the choice was not before war and peace, but between war in Macedon or in Italy. For sooner or later Philip would attack. So Rome chose war.
Though the Roman campaigns if 200 and 199 BC were ineffective. In 198 BC the command of the Roman and allied army was granted to Titus Quinctius Flaminius, and Rome’s choice proved to be a wise one.
He succeeded in winning over the Achaean League, which had been reluctant to join forces with the Aetolian League of Greek cities.
Then, in 197 BC Flaminius was able to bring Philip of Macedon to a decisive engagement at Cynoscephalae in Thessaly, where the infamous Macedonian phalanx was decisively defeated by the Roman legions.
After Cynoscephalae Flaminius could dictate his own terms – to his Greek allies as much as to the defeated Macedons.
Though as Flaminius left Greece two years later, the Aetolians, Rome’s closest allies during the contest, had been treated with little respect and were left angry at Rome. Though powerless to act against her, they and others among the Greek cities found a new ally in the ambitious king of Syria, Antiochus III, who had benefited from Macedon’s weakness by seizing the Greek cities in Asia which Philip had been forced to withdraw from.
In 192 BC the Greek cities of the Aetolian League rose up against Rome, but of the three cities in which the Romans had garrisons they only succeeded in capturing the city of Demetrias.
With equal recklessness Antiochus cast aside the invaluable advice he was receiving from Hannibal who as residing at his court and invaded Greece with a totally insufficient force.
The end of ths desperate scheme was not long in coming. Early in the next year (191 BC) Roman armies, with the co-operation of Philip V of Macedon, were entering Thessaly. To protect the south Antiochus occupied the historic pass of Thermopylae.
But just as with Leonida’s famous Spartans of old, the almost impregnable pass was taken by a separate force which forced its way over the hill and fell into the rear of the defenders.
Antiochus escaped with only a remnant of his army left alive and set over to Asia.
Rome enters Asia for the first time at the Battle of Magnesia
But the Romans, under the command of Lucius Scipio followed him there, after a combined effort by Rome and Rhodes, defeating the Phoenician fleets at the sea-battle Myonnesus.
Near Magnesia the Roman army met with a huge, but ill disciplined army of Antiochus III.
The Roman victory was complete, ancient sources numbering the losses of Antiochus at 53000 men, and the Roman losses at four hundred. Antiochus escaped with his life but could only sue for peace, but under the terms for peace he had to agree to surrender his fleet and war elephants and all his territorial possessions north of the Taurus mountains, as well as paying Rome a substantial amount.
Rome as a conqueror of the aggressive king of Syria, exercised her right of distributing the territories from which she had ejected him. However, Rome did not yet claim any Asiatic territory for herself. Hence all the lands were shared out between Pergamum and Rhodes, Rome’s close allies in this campaign.
Roman Campaigns in Cisalpine Gaul and Spain
Though whilst Rome was busied with its Macedon and Syrian adventures in the east, it neither rested in the west. Within a decade after her victory in the Second Punic War, Rome had at last gained dominance over the quarrelsome Gauls in valley of the river Po and their equally hostile neighbours, the Ligurians, in north-western Italy.
Soon Roman roads and military colonies were rendering the north of Italy as secure as any part of the peninsula. Before long the whole of what had been the Gallic and Ligurian area, independent of Roman authority, was transformed into a Roman province of Gallia Cisalpina (Cisalpine Gaul) which, with peace established, soon began to prove a highly flourishing area.
Further to the west, in Spain, Rome now owned all the territory which had been previously held by the Carthaginians.
The authority she enjoyed there however was at best dubious, the natives being warlike and by no means took kindly to the idea of being controlled by Rome. In any case, in two thirds of the peninsula such control was non-existent.
Nevertheless, by 197 BC Rome had set up the first provincial government, dividing the dominion into a nearer (northern) and farther (southern) province. The immediate result was a rising of the Spanish tribesmen. The subjugation of the rebellious tribesmen was entrusted to Cato, consul in 195 BC, who four years later distinguished himself at the Thermopylae.
He inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Spanish tribes, and by the severity of his measures and the speed of his movements soon brought the whole northern province under control, at least for the time being.
Though the Spaniards, resentful of his tyrannical measures, were back in rebellion again, no sooner was his back turned.. There followed years of constant fighting, which was only ended in 179 BC by the sympathetic policies of the praetor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (the son-in-law of Scipio and later father of two yet more famous sons).
The Third Macedonian War
For several years after the defeat of Antiochus, Rome was involved in no foreign wars in the east. But the uneasiness of the populations under her power grew. Philip V of Macedon continued to plot and scheme, but dared not risk another conflict with Rome. But in 179 BC Phlip V died and his son Perseus succeeded him.
With this new king the rivalries between the Macedonian throne and king Eumenes II of Pergamum reached new heights. But Eumenes was a vital ally of Rome and in 172 BC he brought charges against Macedon before the Roman senate. The verdict of the senate was a forgone conclusion. When an attempt was made to murder Eumenes on his way home, it was assumed that Perseus was the instigator.
In 171 BC declared war.
But Rome met with no swift successes. in 171 and 170 BC her consular armies under Crassus and Mancinus were defeated. But in 168 BC the command was given to an old and tried commander, Aemilius Paullus, the brother-in-law of Scipio Africanus. He reorganized the forces and at Pydna won a victory as overwhelming as that of Cynoscephalae. A few weeks later the unhappy Perseus, deserted and betrayed by his followers, come into the camp of the victor and surrendered.
As a power Macedon was eliminated. Perseus was banished to the small county town of Alba Fucens wher he should spend the rest of his life. The country was divided into four ‘republics’, each prohibited from any political or commercial relations with each other, deprived of all leaders, and thus left to conduct their own administration as best they could. Illyria, the realm of king Genthius, who had sided with Macedonia, was also broken up, in its case into three republics.
Epirus, which had joined Macedon in the fight against Rome, was mercilessly punished. No fewer than seventy towns were required to deliver up all the gold and silver they contained, their walls were levelled and 150’000 inhabitants were sold into slavery.
Roman Misgovernment of Spain
Despite the wise measures which had pacified Spain during the governorship of Gracchus, the Roman administration was soon after conducted on the lines of tyranny again.
Before long, the whole country was seething with hatred of its new masters, and praetors or consuls who could barely hold their own in the field against the hardy tribesmen did not hesitate to save their authority by acts of the grossest injustice and treachery. The senate, minded to keep control at any price, condoned any such actions, though not without protests from Cato and his supporters, who were as honest as they were pitiless.
The Fourth Macedonian War
In the years that followed the fall of Perseus, Macedon and Greece had sunk into a increasing misrule. In 149 BC there appeared a new Macedon claimant to the throne, Andriscus, calling himself Philip and pretending to be the grandson of Philip V and son of Perseus.
The pretender had soon been allowed to achieve some rather humiliating successes, defeating the local militias and re-uniting Macedon to a single state. Rome was forced to act, but their first small detachment of troops sent in haste suffered a heavy defeat and Thessaly was overrun by Andriscus’ forces (149 BC).
But in 148 BC a stronger Roman force under Q. Caecilius Metellus defeated him, forced him out of Macedonia and alas ran him down in Thrace.
The War against the Achaean League
In Greece meanwhile the by now miserably disorganized Achaean League had extended its jurisdiction over the Peloponnes, though Sparta refused submit to such ambitions and appealed to Rome.
The senate dispatched commissioners to the council of the Achaean League assembled at Corinth to.
To prevent further harassment, Sparta, Corinth and Argos, were to be released from the League’s jurisdiction. Such were the Roman demands. The council lost its head and insulted the Roman commissioners. Rome still gave them a chance in 147 BC to satisfy her demands, but the leaders of the League wouldn’t listen and instead attempted to stir up a war of liberation against Rome (146 BC).
Left with no other option the Roman army which had just conquered Macedon marched down to Corinth, dispersing resistance on its way. The commander of the Greek troops attempted to lead an army in battle against the approaching Romans outside Corinth, but his troops fled at the very beginning of the battle.
The city of Corinth was sacked, the men massacred, the women and children were sold into slavery.
The illusion of independence in Greece had now been wiped aside. Macedonia and Greece (under the name Achaea) were annexed as provinces of Rome.
The Third Punic War
In the west the recuperation of Carthage since the Second Punic War had given amazing proof of her vitality. With Hannibal in exile, his political opponents were in power, seeking to gain good relations with Rome, rather than displaying Hannibal’s open hostility.
But roman friendship was hard to gain. All Italy, as well as Rome itself had suffered irreparably in the long war.
To add to Carthage’s troubles Masinissa, who was king of Numidia and a close Roman ally, was not only harassing their borders but gradually clawing land away from them, claiming these territories to be his under the peace treaty signed by Carthage after its defeat at Zama.
Closer and closer Masinissa’s horsemen came within striking distance of the southward caravan routes of Carthage, endangering her trade.
Carthage alas complained to Rome. So, in 150 BC a Roman commission of inquiry was sent to Africa to sort matters out between Carthage and Numidia. But the leader of the commission was Marcus Cato, whose hatred and fear of Carthage became legendary.
In spite of the sanctions and conditions imposed on Carthage there was a possibility that it might rise again and once more wreak havoc on the Roman Empire. And Cato the Elder believed this more than anyone else. He sought Carthage’s destruction like no-one else. It is said that he even contrived to drop a Lybian fig on the floor of the senate. Then, as the senators admired its size, he warned that the land from which it came was only three days away by sea. Furthermore he famously incorporated the words ‘Carthage must be destroyed !’ (Delenda Carthago !) in every speech he held in the senate, no matter what the subject of the matter debated was.
With this Cato the Elder leading the commission of inquiry it was obvious from the beginning that the commission would find in favour of Masinissa. The result was yet further attacks by Numidian horsemen. Carthage lost patience and responded, fighting back.
No doubt, this was exactly what Cato the elder had hoped for, as it breached the terms signed by Carthage after its defeat in the Second Punic War. For Carthage was not allowed to take up arms without Roman permission.
The senate, egged on by Cato, and having already made plans for such an occurrence, voted for war. They sent out a trained army of 80’000 infantry and 4’000 cavalry to whom they had given orders not to occupy Carthage, but far more to raze it to the ground.
Everything short of the worst was offered by the Carthaginian government to avert war, but in vain. The Roman commanders had their orders. The effect was that the desperate war party took control of the city of Carthage. Moderate men, who had tried to save peace, were massacred together with the Italian residents. A army was raised from the city itself and its neighbouring towns and tribes.
Meanwhile the Roman army, having allowed the Carthaginians too much time to organize, was losing more men through sickness (due to camping out in marshes) than it lost by fighting the enemy.
After two years of blundering, Scipio Aemilianus was elected to be consul and commander in Africa (147 BC). With good leadership Roman victory was inevitable for Carthage was a mere shadow of the power she had once been.
The northern suburbs of Carthage were soon occupied without difficulty. Then Scipio undertook huge engineering works to close the harbour entrance of Carthage and thereby cut off the supplies coming in by sea.
He waited for winter to pass before he ordered an assault on the city. The charge succeeded and they broke into the city, but still needed six days and six nights to fight their way from house to house.
Alas the remaining Carhaginian resistance in the citadel refused to surrender and was burned.
The Third Punic War had lasted merely three years. Carthage was devastated, utterly destroyed. However, Carthage was duly defeated and destroyed. The 50’000 survivors of the siege were all sold into slavery.
Carthage was levelled with the ground by the Roman army, cursed and ploughed over. The same fate befell other cities in Africa.
The city Utica was now made capital of the Roman province of Africa. Numidia remained a free ally of Rome, but with Masinissa having died, it was now in the hands of his three quarreling sons and hence posed no threat. Tripolitania also came under Roman rule, but was purposely kept separate from the African province.
Desparate struggle in Spain
While Macedon and Carthage were being defeated for good, the Spanish tribes remained stubbornly defiant. Hash blows were dealt them by the consuls Lucullus and Galba in 151 and 150 BC and yet they could not be broken.
In the south the Lusitanians found a brilliant leader in Viriathus, who in 142 BC maneuvered the Roman consul Servilianus into a trap, and was able to dictate terms so reasonable that they were even accepted by the senate. Viriathus was even recognized as a friend and ally of Rome. Nevertheless two years later the new consul, Caepio, not only attacked the friend and ally but arranged his assassination. It was a blow from which the Lusitanians did not recover.
No less stubborn though were the Celtiberians, whose principle fortress was the city of Numantia. Here the fighting, temporarily suppressed by Lucullus, broke out again in 143 BC. The fighting proved too much for successive Roman commanders until in 137 BC the consul Mancinus was even forced to capitulate, the terms being negotiated by quaestor Tiberius Gracchus, a man whom the Spaniards trusted, for he was the son of the Gracchus who had been so sympathetic towards Spanish interests before.
The senate though refused to accept the treaty and the war was renewed. Against a foe as fearsome as the Spaniards a brilliant commander was obviously required. Rome hence in 134 BC turned to her greatest soldier of the day, the conqueror of Carthage, the second Scipio Africanus (Scipio Aemilianus).
He was in fact not a candidate for the consulship that year for he was legally disqualified from standing (having held the consulship in recently) but the election was carried by unanimous vote of the comitia tributa, the assembly of the tribes, and in the face of such huge popular support the legal technicalities were set aside.
But even for Scipio the task was no easy one. It was not until he had restored discipline to the demoralized troops that in 133 BC he set about his Numantian campaign. Like Carthage the doomed fortress of Numantia held out grimly to the last moment. When there was nothing left to eat but human flesh, it finally surrendered. And like Carthage it was then obliterated, so completely that its very site was forgotten.
The First Slave War
In the same year as Scipio’s election to the consulship (134 BC), his colleague, Fulvius Flacchus, was called to deal with a terrifying rebellion of the slave population in Sicily. A huge slave population had been built up all across Italy as a direct result of Rome’s vast military successes of the previous century. The slave revolt was accompanied by savage atrocities by the slaves against their masters.
Its suppression in 132 BC was marked by wholesale atrocities on the part of Flacchus when in one place there was no fewer than twenty thousand crucifixions.
Rome inherits the Kingdom of Pergamum
In 133 BC king Attalus III of Pergamum died without heirs. The dynasty had been loyal to Rome through all the shifting policies of the last seventy years. And Attalus, dying, bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman people, if only to solve the problem of succession.
His only demand was that Pergamum and other Greek cities of his kingdom should not have to pay tribute to Rome. The senate accepted the condition joyfully, knowing that the kingdom of Pergamum was indeed extraordinarily prosperous.
Inevitably a pretender appeared, challenging Rome’s entitlement to the throne of Pergamum, giving some trouble for a year or two, but the Roman claim to Pergamum was established without any serious difficulty.