First Punic War
Fight of influences
See also: War of Pyrrhus in Italy
The relations between Rome and Carthage are cordial as long as the Greek domination on the Mediterranean basin lasts. Indeed, from the agreements of exchanges are concluded in 508, 348 and 306 as well as a treaty of mutual defense in 279. Moreover, Carthage sends into 279 a fleet to Ostie to support the Romans against Pyrrhus. But, in the middle of the III E, the Greeks are definitively isolated of the Western Mediterranean because they pass under the domination of the successors of Alexandre Large the (itself died in 323), the king de Macédoine. Their convergent interests having thus disappeared, the two rival cities are found only face to face.
The Romans note that Carthage has a considerable advance: shores of North Africa while passing through a good part of the Hispanie, the punic city has many territories. But, over all, all the island S of the Tyrrhenian Sea are Carthaginian (Corsica, Sardinia and Balearic Islands) and the completion of the conquest of the Sicily by the Carthaginians would put at their range all the south of the Italy and the Carthaginians could arrive at the doors of Rome in ten days. The Romans must thus make a decision to protect their territory and hardly have other option but the war.
Control strait of Messine
See also: Large Greece
At the beginning of the 3rd century, two Greek colonies independent face on the Détroit of Messine: Messana (current Metz-native) in Sicily and Rhegium with the point of the Italian boot. Their most powerful neighbors are Tarente and Syracuse.
In 289, with the death of their employer Agathoclès of Syracuse, Tyrant then king of Syracuse, part of its mercenaries are found with unemployment. These mercenaries, the “Mamertin S”, came from Mammertum in Bruttium (current Calabria). They seize Messine then, massacre part of the inhabitants and take the government of the city.
A little later the Romans attack the Greek cities of the southern part of Italy, Rhegium and Thurii, but run up against Tarente which requests in 280 the military aid of Pyrrhus. The intervention of this last in Italy then in Sicily the met with the catches with the Romans then Carthaginians. The latter agree by treaty in 279 against their common adversary. This treaty excludes any peace separated with Pyrrhus and envisages an assistance of the Carthaginian fleet. However, none of these clauses will be respected.
After the departure of Pyrrhus, the powers take again their positions: the Carthaginians recover the west of Sicily and the Romans seize Tarente in 272 then of Rhegium in 270. This catch of Rhegium deprives Mamertins of Messine of their ally. In 269, Hiéron II, the new tyrant syracusain, manages to overcome them and take part of their territory. Mamertins call upon Carthage and Rome. The Carthaginians which were with Lipari, quoted near, intervene immediately and install a garrison in Messine, kind Hiéron to give up subjecting this city.
Release of the conflictRome hesitates to intervene, because Mamertins are of Italian origin, which could encourage with solidarity, but they are rebellious soldiers installed by the force. This time is made profitable by the Carthaginian general Hannon Large the which unloads with an army in Sicily, there reinforces the Carthaginian positions and gets along with Hiéron of Syracuse against Messine which succeeded in getting rid of its Carthaginian garrison. Rome ends up sending in 264 the Consul Appius Claudius Caudex to Rhegium from where he manages to unload in Messine.
The military climbing reaches its fatal point: Hannon and Hiéron besiege Messine and Appius Claudius enjoint of raising the seat to them. Hiéron refuses, retorting that he exerts right reprisals against the aggressions of Mamertins. In spite of this reverse, Carthage starts to gather troops with Agrigente but the Romans, carried out by Claudius and Marcus Valerius Messalla, take the towns of Ségeste and Agrigente in 261 after a seven month old seat. The city is ransacked and the population reduced to the slavery.
After these victories in Sicily, the Romans plan to expel the Carthaginians of the island. But Carthage has the control of the seas and such a project would require the construction of a marine of combat. In 260, Rome launches on the seas 100 men-of-war provided with corbels being used to them at sea to recreate the situation of a combat on ground. The same year, at the time of the first naval action between the two powers, the Romans gain their first victory over sea with the Bataille of Mylae. It is the beginning of a series of success on sea for Rome, in particular with Ecnome, in 256, where Carthage undergoes a heavy defeat. In same time, the Carthaginians include the advantage in Sicily while inflicting with the Roman armies and their allies several defeats in 259, in particular with Enna, Camarina and Therma. However, successes on sea of the Romans insulate the Carthaginian troops in Sicily and, as of 258, the Romans take again the advantage in Sicily. In 257, a new victory of the Roman fleet with Tyndaris ensures the Romans the resumption of the control of Sicily.
Reversals of situation (256-244)Encouraged by these victories, the Romans decide to carry the war to North Africa in 256. Led by Marcus Atilius Regulus, the unloaded troops are crushed in 255 by the Carthaginians led by the general Spartan Xanthippe to the Bataille of Utique whereas the Roman fleet is destroyed the same year by a storm. Mow of this war, the Carthaginian government sends the Regulus prisoner to make peace overtures to the Roman Sénat. With surprised senators, Regulus pleads for the continuation of the conflict and turns over to Carthage to be put at death there.
However, the Romans take again between 253 and 251 the control of Sicily. This success is called into question in 249 by the Bataille of Drepanum where the near total of the Roman fleet is destroyed. The remainder of the Roman fleet is destroyed in a storm the same year. These Roman reverses make it possible the Carthaginians under the command of Hamilcar Barca to gradually take again the control of the North-West of Sicily between 248 and 244.
Completion of the conflict (243-241)In 243, the Romans having reconstituted their fleet are ready to take again the combat on sea. After several minor engagements in 242, their new fleet gains in 241 a decisive victory with broad of the islands Aegates over the Carthaginians, which puts an end to the conflict. The Carthaginians accept the terms of the treaty presented by the Romans at the end which they evacuate Sicily, return all the prisoners of war and commit themselves paying in ten years a war indemnity of 3200 talents of gold.
Thus ends a long and fatal war: the human losses are considerable. Sicily is completely devastated and becomes the Roman Province of Sicily, except for Syracuse which remains independent and allied of Rome. Paradoxically, Rome is consequently the dominant maritime power in the Western Mediterranean for more than one thousand of years. Moreover, starts in Carthage even a revolt called Guerre of the Mercenaries.
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