CARTHAGE IN THE PUNIC WARS (264 – 146 BCE)
Oxford Handbook of the Phoenician and Punic Mediterranean
The chapter provides a narrative in broad strokes of the period between 264 and 146 BCE. The sources for the period are heavily biased in favor of the Romans, but the Romans did loom increasingly large in the Carthaginians’ world. In their treaties, our main source for their self-representation, the Carthaginians emphasise their overwhelming but beneficent power, their control of movement around the Mediterranean Sea, and their Phoenician identity. This representation was challenged by Roman actions, generating a hostility that often contributed to the outbreak of war. The Carthaginians’ actions were deeply influenced by their past experiences, but were also innovative. Their strategy in the First Punic War (264–241 BCE) shows signs of path dependency and was a total failure. By contrast, the experience of previous Libyan revolts served the Carthaginians well in the Mercenary War (241–238 BCE). The conquest of Iberia (238–218 BCE) marked a dramatic shift in the focus of Carthaginian power, but the systems of control deployed there built on those used by the Carthaginians elsewhere. The Carthaginian strategy in the Second Punic War (218–201 BCE) was highly innovative, building on their failures in the first war by focussing on the disruption of the Roman alliance system in Italy. Carthaginian economic success was not straightforwardly linked to political control. Trade with Sicily intensified after the loss of the island and there was great economic prosperity in the second century when there was no empire at all. Military ventures, notably the conquest of southern Iberia (238–218 BCE) were undertaken for the sake of prestige, not just for economic reasons. Dividends from mining and trade were not simply enjoyed for their own sake, but heavily invested in militarisation.
Barcids, Romans, sea-power, Iberia, Mercenary Wars, Punic Wars, alliance networks, imperialism