The Punics known as Carthaginians, were a people from Ancient Carthage who traced their origins to the Phoenicians. Punic is the English adjective, derived from the Latin adjective punicus to describe anything Carthaginian, their language, was a dialect of Phoenician. Unlike their Phoenician ancestors, the Carthaginians had a landowning aristocracy, which established a rule of the hinterland in Northwestern Africa and trans-Saharan trade routes. In times, one of the clans established a Hellenistic-inspired empire in Mediterranean Iberia and had a foothold in western Gaul. Like other Phoenician people, their urbanized culture and economy were linked to the sea. Overseas, they established control over some coastal regions of Berber Northwest Africa in what is now Tunisia and Libya as well as Sardinia, Sicily, the Balearic Islands and other small islands of the western Mediterranean. In the Balearic Islands, Sardinia and Sicily, they had strong economic and political ties to the independent natives in the hinterland.
Their naval presence and trade extended throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, to Atlantic Iberia, the British Isles, the Canaries, West Africa. Technical achievements of the Punic people of Carthage include the development of uncolored glass and the use of lacustrine limestone to improve the purity of molten iron. Most of the Punic culture was destroyed as a result of the Punic Wars fought between Rome and Carthage, from 264 to 146 BC, but traces of language and technology could still be found in Africa during the early Christianisation, from AD 325 to 650. After the Punic Wars, Romans used the term Punic as an adjective meaning treacherous. Punic, in archaeological and linguistic usage, refers to a culture and dialect in Carthage from Hellenistic and times that had developed into a distinct form from the Phoenician of the mother city of Tyre. Phoenicians settled in Northwest Africa and other areas under Carthaginian rule, but their culture and government were distinct. Punic remains can be found in settlements from Iberia to Cyprus.
The Punic religion was based on that of their Phoenician forefathers, who worshiped Baal Hammon and Melqart, but merged Phoenician ideas with Numidian and some Greek and Egyptian deities, such as Apollo and Dionysus, with Baal Hammon being the most important Punic god. Punic culture became a melting pot, since Carthage was a big trading port, but the Carthaginians retained some of their old cultural identities and practices; the Carthaginians carried out significant sea explorations around Africa and elsewhere from their base in Carthage. In the 5th century BCE, Hanno the Navigator played a significant role in exploring coastal areas of present-day Morocco and other parts of the African coast noting details of indigenous peoples such as at Essaouira. Carthaginians pushed westerly into the Atlantic and established important settlements in Lixus, Volubilis and Mogador, among other locations. Being trade rivals with Magna Graecia, the Carthaginians had several clashes with the Greeks over the island of Sicily in the Sicilian Wars from 600–265 BCE.
They also fought Rome in the Sicilian Wars of 265–146 BCE, but lost due to being outnumbered, lack of full governmental involvement, over-reliance on their navy. This enabled eventual domination of the Mediterranean Sea. Cato the Elder famously ended all his speeches, regardless of subject, with the imperative that Carthage be utterly crushed, a view summarised in Latin by the phrase Praeterea censeo Carthaginem esse delendam meaning, "Moreover, I declare, Carthage must be destroyed!". Although the Carthaginians were conquered in 146 BCE and their city destroyed, Cato never got to see his victory, having died 3 years earlier; the destruction of Carthage was not the end of the Carthaginians. After the wars, the city of Carthage was razed and the land around it was turned into farmland for Roman citizens. There were, other Punic cities in Northwest Africa, Carthage itself was rebuilt and regained some importance, if a shadow of its ancient influence. Although the area was Romanized and some of the population adopted the Roman religion, the language and the ethnicity persisted for some time.
People of Punic origin prospered again as traders and politicians of the Roman Empire. Septimius Severus, emperor of Rome and a proud Punic, was said to speak Latin with a Punic accent. Under his reign Carthaginians rose to the elites and their deities entered their imperial cult. Carthage was rebuilt about 46 BCE by Julius Caesar and settlements in the surrounding area were granted to soldiers who had retired from the Roman army. Carthage once again prospered and became the number-two trading city in the Roman Empire, until Constantinople took over that position; as Christianity spread in the Roman Empire, it was successful in Northwest Africa, Carthage become a Christian city before Christianity was legal. Saint Augustine, born in Thagaste, considered himself Punic, left some important reflections on Punic cultural history in his writing. One of his more well known passages reads: “It is an excellent thing that the Punic Christians call baptism itself nothing else but ‘salvation’, the sacrament of Christ's body nothing else but ‘life’.”The last remains of a distinct Punic culture disappeared somewhere in the chaos during the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The demographic and cultural characteristics of the region were transformed by turbulent events such as
First Punic War
The First Punic War 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 on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, 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 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 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. The series of wars between Rome and Carthage took the name "Punic" from the Latin adjective for Carthaginian, Punicus; this refers to the Carthaginian heritage as Phoenician colonists. A Carthaginian name for the conflicts does not survive in any records.
Rome had emerged as the leading city-state in the Italian Peninsula, a wealthy, expansionist republic with a successful citizen army. Over the past one hundred years, Rome had come into conflict, defeated rivals on the Italian peninsula incorporated them into the Roman political world. First, the Latin League was forcibly dissolved during the Latin War the power of the Samnites was broken during the three prolonged Samnite wars, the Greek cities of Magna Graecia submitted to Roman power at the conclusion of the Pyrrhic War. By the beginning of the First Punic War, the Romans had secured the whole of the Italian peninsula, except Gallia Cisalpina in the Po Valley. Carthage was a republic that dominated the political and economic affairs of the western Mediterranean Sea on the North African coasts and islands, above all, due to its navy, it originated as a Phoenician colony near modern Tunis. Carthage had become a wealthy centre for trade networks extending from Gadir along the coasts of southern Iberia and North Africa, across the Balearic Islands, Corsica and the western half of Sicily, to the ports of the eastern Mediterranean, including Tyre, its mother city, on the shores of the Levant.
At the height of power, just before the First Punic War, Carthage was hostile to foreign ships in the western Mediterranean. North African peoples, such as the Berbers, in the area around Carthage were loosely associated with Carthage. In the midst of the First Punic War, some tribes rebelled against Carthage, opening a second front while the Carthaginians battled the Romans in Sicily. Greek colonists were a major presence in the western Mediterranean, following centuries of colonial settlement and conflicts with Rome over Magna Graecia and with Carthage over places such as Sicily; the rich, strategically influential, well-fortified Greek colony of Syracuse was politically independent of Rome and Carthage. Hostilities of the First Punic War began with developments involving the Romans and Greek colonists in Sicily and southern Italy. In 288 BC, the Mamertines, a group of Italian mercenaries hired by Agathocles of Syracuse, occupied the city of Messana in the north-eastern tip of Sicily, killing all the men and taking the women as their wives.
At the same time, a group of Roman troops made up of Campanian "citizens without the vote" revolted and seized control of Rhegium, lying across the Straits of Messina on the mainland of Italy. In 270 BC, the Romans regained control of Rhegium and punished the survivors of the revolt. In Sicily, the Mamertines ravaged the countryside and collided with the expanding regional empire of the independent city of Syracuse. Hiero II, tyrant of Syracuse, defeated the Mamertines near Mylae on the Longanus River. Following their defeat, the Mamertines appealed to both Carthage for assistance; the Carthaginians acted first, approached Hiero to take no further action and convinced the Mamertines to accept a Carthaginian garrison in Messana. Either unhappy with the prospect of a Carthaginian garrison or convinced that the recent alliance between Rome and Carthage against Pyrrhus reflected cordial relations between the two, the Mamertines, hoping for more reliable protection, petitioned Rome for an alliance.
However, the rivalry between Rome and Carthage had grown since the war with Pyrrhus and that alliance was no longer feasible. According to the historian Polybius, considerable debate took place in Rome on the questio
Battle of Thermae
The Battle of Thermae was a field engagement during the First Punic War that took place in 259 BC near Thermae on the northern coast of Sicily. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar defeated 6,000 allied troops of Rome. Separated from the main Roman force of 20,000 men due to disagreements, the allies were attacked and crushed near Thermae, losing 4,000–6,000 killed. Hamilcar went on to capture Camarina in the aftermath. Hamilcar, the commander of the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily, had stationed his army near Panormus, he received word that the Romans and their allies, with a total force of 20,000 men, quarreled over their accomplishments in battle, that the 6,000 allies were isolated in their encampment between Paropus and Thermae. Hamilcar attacked the Roman allies with his entire army of 50,000, taking by surprise the allies, who were preparing to move out; some 4,000–6,000 allies were killed. Hamilcar exploited his victory to capture Enna and Camarina that same year with the aid of traitors in the two cities.
Lazenby, John Francis. The First Punic War: A Military History. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2673-6. OCLC 34371250. Rankov, Boris. "A War of Phases: Strategies and Stalemates 264–241". In Hoyos, Dexter. A Companion to the Punic Wars. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-405-17600-2
Battle of Carthage (c. 149 BC)
The Battle of Carthage was the main engagement of the Third Punic War between the Punic city of Carthage in Africa and the Roman Republic. It was a siege operation, starting sometime in 149 or 148 BC, ending in spring 146 BC with the sack and complete destruction of the city of Carthage. After the Second Punic War, Carthage had grown wealthy because of its trade, because it no longer had to maintain a mercenary army, one of the stipulations of the peace signed with the Romans after the last war. Growing Carthaginian anger with the Romans, who refused to lend help when the Numidians began annexing Carthaginian land, led them to declare war. Hasdrubal the Boetharch was appointed general of the army. After a Roman army under Manius Manilius landed in Africa in 149 BC, Carthage surrendered, handed over its hostages and arms, arrested Hasdrubal; the Romans demanded the complete surrender of the city. When asked what they planned on doing to the city, the Roman general told the diplomats that the city would be destroyed and its inhabitants would be relocated 50 miles inland.
To the Romans, the city refused to surrender, the faction which advocated surrender was overruled by one vote in favor of defense. The Carthaginians defied the Romans, a situation which lasted two years. During this period, the 500,000 Carthaginians behind the wall transformed the city into a huge arsenal, they produced a daily supply of about 300 swords, 500 spears, 140 shields, over 1,000 projectiles for catapults. The Romans elected the young and popular Scipio Aemilianus as consul, after a special law was passed in order to lift the age restriction. Scipio restored discipline, defeated the Carthaginians at Nepheris and besieged the city constructing a mole to block the harbour. In the spring of 146 BC, Scipio and the Roman troops seized the Cothon wall of Carthage, they battled their way through the double city harbors, made possible by the fact that Hasdrubal had assumed that the Roman attack would come from another direction. When day broke, 4,000 fresh Roman troops led by Scipio attacked the Byrsa, the strongest part of the city.
Three streets lined with six story houses led to the Byrsa fortress and the Carthaginians and Romans fought each other from the rooftops of the buildings as well as in the streets. The Romans used captured buildings to capture other buildings. Scipio ordered the houses to be burned. Scipio captured the Byrsa and set fire to the buildings, which caused more destruction and deaths; the fighting continued for nights, until the Carthaginians surrendered. An estimated 50,000 surviving inhabitants were sold into slavery and the city was levelled; the land surrounding Carthage was declared ager publicus and shared between local farmers and Roman and Italian colonists. During the battle, 900 survivors, most of them Roman deserters, had found refuge in the temple of Eshmun, in the citadel of Byrsa, although it was burning, they tried to negotiate a surrender but Scipio Aemilianus declared that forgiveness was impossible either for Hasdrubal, the general who defended the city or the defectors. Hasdrubal left the Citadel to pray for mercy.
At that moment Hasdrubal's wife went out with her two children, insulted her husband, sacrificed her sons and jumped with them into a fire that the deserters had started. The deserters hurled themselves into the flames, upon, he recited a sentence from Homer's Iliad, a prophecy about the destruction of Troy, that could be applied to Carthage. Scipio declared. In the words of Polybius: Scipio, when he looked upon the city as it was utterly perishing and in the last throes of its complete destruction, is said to have shed tears and wept for his enemies. After being wrapped in thought for long, realizing that all cities and authorities must, like men, meet their doom. Polybius heard him and recalls it in his history. Since the 19th Century, various historians have claimed that the Romans ploughed over the city and sowed salt into the soil after destroying it but this is not supported by ancient sources. Certain scholars, including Professor of History Ben Kiernan, allege that the total destruction of Carthage by the Romans may have been history's first genocide.
Duncan B. Campbell, "Besieged: siege warfare in the ancient world", Osprey Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-84603-019-6, pages 113–114 Goldworthy, The Fall of Carthage London: Phoenix. ISBN 9780304366422
Hasdrubal the Boetharch
Hasdrubal the Boetharch was a Carthaginian general during the Third Punic War. Little is known about him. "Boetharch" was a Carthaginian office, the exact function of, unclear but, not to be confused with the Greek boeotarch. Hasdrubal led the Carthaginian forces at the Siege of Carthage in 146 BC, their defeat by Scipio Aemilianus, proconsul of the Roman Republic, brought the war to a close. Hasdrubal's military skill was not to be doubted, as his army had been equipped, his work at defending Carthage cost the Romans a difficult campaign to suppress the defenders. His tactical skills, were dwarfed by his contemporaries Massinissa and Scipio. Hasdrubal had a wife and two sons, according to Polybius, threw themselves into a burning temple when they witnessed their army's defeat. Hasdrubal had surrendered himself to the Romans prior to his family's deaths, an act provoking their suicide, he was taken to Rome and displayed during Scipio's triumph, but allowed to live in peace in Italy. This may be the same general Hasdrubal, defeated near the town of Tunes by the Numidian king, just after war was declared.
Other Hasdrubals in Carthaginian history Havell, H. L. Republican Rome... BiblioBazaar, p. 321, ISBN 1-115-39574-2. Huss, Geschichte der Karthager, Munich: C. H. Beck. Mommsen, William Purdie Dickson, ed; the History of Rome, Vol. 3, New York: C. Scribner & Co, pp. 42–54. Book XXXVIII of Polybius's Histories, English trans. 7-8,20 Smith, William, ed. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. II, C. C. Little & J. Brown, pp. 359–360. Media related to Hasdrubal at Wikimedia Commons Polybius, Fragments of Book XXXVIII, 7 Livius.org: Hasdrubal William Smith, "Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, Volume 2", C. C. Little and J. Brown, 1849
Battle of the Aegates
The Battle of the Aegates was fought off the Aegadian Islands, off the western coast of the island of Sicily on 10 March 241 BC. It was the final naval battle fought between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic during the First Punic War; the better-trained Roman fleet defeated a hastily raised and ill-trained Punic fleet, a decisive Roman victory as Carthage sued for peace, resulting in the Peace of Lutatius leading to Carthage surrendering Sicily and some adjoining islands to Rome. The Carthaginians had gained command of the sea after their victory in the Battle of Drepanum and the Battle of Phintias in 249 BC, but they held only two cities in Sicily: Lilybaeum and Drepanum; the Carthaginian state was led by the landed aristocracy at the time, they preferred to expand across northern Africa instead of pursuing an aggressive policy in Sicily. Hanno "The Great" has been in charge of operations in Africa since 248 BC and had conquered considerable territory by 241 BC; the Carthaginian leadership thought Rome had been defeated and invested little manpower in Sicily.
Carthage at this time was feeling the logistical strain of the prolonged conflict. In addition to maintaining a fleet and soldiers in Sicily, they were fighting the Libyans and Numidians in northern Africa; as a result, Hamilcar Barca was given a small army when he took command in Sicily in 248 BC, the Carthaginian fleet was withdrawn so that, by 242 BC, Carthage had no ships to speak of in Sicily. Carthage was feeling the financial strain of the war, which had led Carthage to request a 2000 talent loan from Egypt, refused. Rome had rebuilt her fleets after losing up to 600 ships in a storm in 255 BC and another 150 ships in 253 BC; the Drepana defeat and loss of the fleet so demoralized the Romans that they waited seven years before building another fleet. The absence of Roman ships caused Carthage, thinking the Romans would not venture into the sea again, to decommission her navy, sparing the financially strained state the expense of building and repairing ships, plus training and provisioning the crews.
The years preceding the battle were quiet. Hostilities between Roman and Carthaginian forces stalled, becoming concentrated in small-scale land operations in Sicily. Hamilcar's strategic goal was to maintain a stalemate, as he had neither the resources to win the war nor the authority to peacefully settle it. Hamilcar was in command of a mercenary army composed of multiple nationalities and his ability to lead this force demonstrated his skill as a field commander, he employed combined arms tactics, as Alexander and Pyrrhus had done, his strategy was similar to the one employed by Quintus Fabius Maximus in the Second Punic War against Hannibal, the eldest son of Hamilcar Barca, in Italy during 217 BC. Hamilcar’s landing at Heirkte drew the Romans away to defend that port city and resupply point and gave Drepana some breathing room. Subsequent naval raids along the Sicilian and Italian coasts did not lead to a permanent result. Guerrilla warfare kept the Roman legions pinned down and preserved Carthage's toehold in Sicily, although Roman forces which had bypassed Hamilcar forced him to recapture Mount Eryx from Rome, so he could better defend Drepana.
While Hamilcar’s activities kept the Carthaginian flag flying in Sicily and after 20 years of war both states were financially and demographically exhausted.. Realizing they could not defeat Hamilcar on land, without a fleet, blockade Drepana and Lilybaeum, Rome decided to build a new fleet. With the state coffers exhausted, the Senate approached Rome's wealthy citizens; these Roman citizens showed their patriotism by financing the construction of one ship apiece. The result was a fleet of 200 quinqueremes, built and crewed without government expense; the Romans had copied the design of a Carthaginian ship when first they decided to build a fleet in 260 BC. The Romans modelled the new fleet on the ship commanded by Hannibal the Rhodian, who had evaded the Roman blockading ships at Lilybaeum until his fast and manoeuvrable ship was captured; the new Roman fleet was completed in 242 BC and entrusted to the consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus, assisted by the praetor Quintus Valerius Falto. Romans had learned from past misfortunes at sea and their light, manoeuvrable ships were now more resistant to adverse weather conditions, with the corvus having been abandoned.
Catulus and Falto to drilled the crews in manoeuvrers and exercises before leaving Italy, creating a fleet with crews at the peak of their fighting ability. After arriving in Sicily with 200 Quinqueremes and 700 transports, Lutatius seized the harbour of Drepana and the anchorages off Lilybaeum uncontested, as there were no Carthaginian ships to counter the Roman fleet. Lutatius built siege works around Drepana, he blockaded Lilybaeum and Drepana, to cut their access to Carthage. The intent was to cut Hamilcar Barca's communication lines with Carthage. For the rest of the year Catulus waited for the Carthaginian response; the fleet and its crew trained and drilled while the siege was conducted to remain in peak condition. The senate granted him a proconsulship for 241 BC; the Carthaginians were unprepared for Rome's actions. The garrisons of Lilybaeum and Hamilcar’s army at Eryx held fast, but without supplies from Carthage they could not hold out indefinitely. Now that Rome had seized the initiative with a battle ready fleet blockading Carthaginian holdings in Sicily, without warships the unescorted Carthaginian supply ships would fall prey to the Romans.