First Punic War

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First Punic War
Part of
Date 264–241 BC
Location North Africa and Roman Republic
Roman Republic Ancient Carthage
Marcus Atilius Regulus
Gaius Lutatius Catulus
Hamilcar Barca
255,000 130,000

The First Punic War (264 B.C. to 241 B.C.) was between the growing power of Rome and the established empire of Carthage.

Setting the Stage

Carthage was situated in northern Africa but was renowned for its powerful merchant fleets throughout most of the Mediterranean for centuries. Rome had secured the Italian peninsula through the might of its armies. The nearby large island of Sicily was a natural place for Rome to expand. Carthage had been active in Sicily for quite some time and considered the island to be part of its sphere of influence.

The leaders of the Mamertines of Messana, engaged in war with Hiero II of Syracuse in Sicily (265 B.C.), sent for assistance for Carthage to aid them in their struggle. Carthage had a long history of conflict with Syracuse over Sicily. Carthage answered the call. At the same time another Mamertine faction had asked Rome to help out against Syracuse. Carthage came and set up shop in Messana, but the Romans arrived and drove then out. Carthage and Hiero II then made an alliance and together besieged the Romans, but were repelled by a Roman army under Appius Caldius Caudex (264 B.C.). Caudex then besieged Syracuse, but was also unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Roman successes under Marcus Valerius Maximus against other areas in eastern Sicily caused Hiero II to make peace and support an alliance with Rome against Carthage, at least in name (263 B.C.). The minor players were out of the way. The stage had now been set for a battle of the titans between Rome and Carthage. The war would continue for over 20 years.

The War


The disaster forced Carthage to make peace, even under harsh terms, after first crucifying Hanno. Carthage agreed to evacuate Sicily and to pay Rome 3,200 gold talents (hundreds of millions in today's dollars) over a period of 10 years. Rome permitted Syracuse to retain control over eastern Sicily, but organized Sicily as its first overseas province. Rome was coming into its own.


  • Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979
  • An Encyclopedia of World History, Kingston Press, 1946