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The First Punic War - Research Paper


ahartq 1 / -  
Nov 3, 2020   #1
I have just submitted the first research paper I've written in over 10 years, as a first year college student. Any feedback would be wonderful.

Paper on The Punic Wars



The topic I chose was The Punic Wars, but I got so much information, I overdid it and ended up only writing about the first one. I'd love to trim it, as the paper maximum is 5 pages, and this turned out as 6 once formatted.

In 264 BCE, on the island of Sicily just south of the Italian peninsula, a plea from Messana, or Messina, would ignite the most brutal, devastating, impressive, an unbelievable series of wars between the Roman Republic and the Phoenician founded the coastal city of Carthage. Three wars took place over nearly a century. Generations upon generations of families fought for Rome and Carthage, taking fathers' and brothers' place as they perished in battle. Rome, known then and now for its legions of extensively trained soldiers, and Carthage, the known Western Mediterranean Naval power, would not stop until one of the two powers was wiped entirely off the map. These "Punic Wars" still inspire armies and generals; the tactics used 2000 years ago are not only awed at but put into use even now.

Carthage, founded in 814 BCE, was located on the North African coast; strategically and purposefully placed in respect to two main trading routes; the north-South trading routes and East-West routes. Carthage ruled the seas, a naval superpower in the Mediterranean and known to be fair in its trading, doing business with tribes and cities along the coast of Africa who they could hardly communicate with. Eventually, Carthage held the islands of Sardinia and Corsica as its own and established colonies in Spain. They were in almost constant battle, however, with Greece over the rule of Sicily. Carthage assumed control of the western and central parts of the island. They continued to battle Agathocles, a cavalry commander with an Alexander complex, for two decades, until he retreated (Miles 145); they proved their ability to withstand much attrition; though they were admittedly not a military people, a precedent set during the wars for Sicily by hiring many mercenaries.

Carthage had a highly regarded political system in place, and was named by Aristotle, alongside Sparta and Greece, as having "excellent government." (O'Connell 65) A wealthy and influential people, they learned to mass produce fleets, ships being built by the hundreds; archaeological evidence even shows their efficiency, finding pieces of wood cut and numbered, to be sure the naval fleets were built with precision. (Goldsworthy 61) There is minimal history of Carthage that was not burned or rewritten in the favor of Rome or Greece, however the findings of its ships and cities, a very few comments like that of Aristotle, make it known they were an intelligent and diverse people.

Rome, founded in 753 BCE, became a power that placed the most importance on military victories and so on their soldiers' strength and stamina, even more notably so after its establishment as a Republic. "Since only a conquest or victory could obtain the honor of a triumph for the consuls, they waged war with great impetuosity." (Montesquieu 27) Rome's most remarkable military tactic, and the reason for its expansion, came from its "genius for administration" (West 110). Instead of disposing of rebellious people, or the cities that happened to be their target that day, Rome absorbed them, colonized, and treated with them. The conquered were allowed to keep their local laws, and while Rome rarely even charged a tax, the territories were required only, in most cases, to supply bodies if the time for war came. Rome went so far as to build the first roads, colonists could travel quickly to, live in, and watch over, these newly acquired territories. Because of these actions, Rome had loyal states all around it. It had gained the entire Italian peninsula just before the first Punic War.

Rome and Carthage were not unknown to each other, two great powers in the same region. They made at least three treaties between them, the first in the first year of Rome's Republic. (Polybius 3.22) To keep its advantage in the Mediterranean, specifically after attacks from Phocaens in 535, Carthage signed a treaty with Rome around 509 BCE, protecting their own most important ports and promising to leave Rome's coastal controls in Italy alone. Once it became clear to Carthage that Rome was gaining power, they extended diplomacy quickly through an 11kg golden crown, a prize for the roman victors against the Samnites. (Mills 94)

The final treaty between Rome and Carthage was made after Pyrrhus had attacked Rome. (Polyibus3.25) Carthage attempted to ally with and help Rome when Pyrrhus engaged, but Rome declined their help and caused Pyrrhus to retreat. The new treaty agreed that, if he should attack either again, Carthage and Rome would be behind the other. Pyrrhus was invited to Syracuse, where he was given command to defeat Carthage. Before leaving to defend the Greeks in Italy, he had taken essential strongholds from Carthage, with Libya next in his sights. In what Rome saw as a betrayal, Carthage had offered Pyrrhus ships and money, to be sure he would not take their last control on Sicily, though he declined. (Miles 164) Pyrrhus left to defend the Greeks in Italy, and returned to be defeated by Rome once more.

The catalyst of the first Punic War is agreed to be the call for help from the Mamertines in Messana. The Mamertines, former mercenaries who took the city in violence just years before, pleaded to Rome and Carthage to come to their aid. Carthage came first, set up a base; this was nothing new for the Carthaginians, another battle for Sicily; taking the city from Syracuse would be great. Rome was unsure, however; the Senate did not want to aid mercenaries after punishing those who had done the same in the city of Rhegium. They decided in favor, only after the popular assembly decided they wanted the war's plunders. Rome was most likely nervous of a strong Carthage foothold close to Italy. Consul Appius Claudius Caudex was then named commander of the force sent to Messana, but first had Gaius Claudius sail ahead to persuade Mamertines to kick Carthage out of the city. (Miles 172)

Carthage prevailed first, prepared for Rome to come to them, placing their Navy to block them. Commander Hanno offered to send Rome back the ships captured, and set free the prisoners if Rome would not attack again. Rome rejected the peaceful offer, and Hanno was offended, promising the Romans would not be allowed "even to wash their hands in the sea." (Miles 173) Gaius Claudius crossed once more, and captured Hanno. Rome sent him back with his men, where Carthage crucified him.

As Carthage retreated from Messana, they forged an alliance with Syracuse, under another commander Hanno. Meanwhile, Rome sent new consuls, who brought with the entire forces of Rome. Seeing the growth of Rome's army, Hiero abandons its Carthaginian allies, pleading for peace with Rome. Rome agrees, but only to their benefit; Hiero now supplies Rome's armies. Polybius, on Hiero, says "We may, indeed, regard him at the most illustrious of princes and the one who reaped the longest fruits...." as Hiero may have come out of the first war the most unscathed.

As Rome decided to send two of their four legions back to Rome, Carthage hired more foreign mercenaries, knowing they would not be a match as they were. Choosing Argumentum for a base, they lay siege to the city by for 5 months with Hannibal commanding. Hannibal grows desperate, the people within the walls starving. Carthage sends Hanno to support the effort, with more troops and elephants. (poly 1.18) Hanno bides his time, and waits almost two months while Hannibal grows more desperate and defensive. When he finally attacks the Roman troops outside the city, he mistakenly leaves the elephants at the back of his army, and most are trampled in the chaos of the battle.

Polybius (1.20) accounts this next part as the turning point, even as the reason he began to write the histories. Rome decides they need to get Carthage off Sicily completely, the mercenaries they came to defend no longer a concern. They know Carthage is a Naval power, so they have no choice; Rome starts building a fleet of warships.

While employing some of the most excellent builders, the Romans had no ideas on the construction boats. Carthage, meanwhile, has their ships strengthened, outfitted with more defenses. However, though they were made more massive, more suitable for the ramming techniques that dominated naval warfare, they were not at all maneuverable. The first sea battle was a Carthage victory, and massive mistake. They allow Rome to acquire one of their ships that had washed ashore. Rome immediately gets to work, rebuilding over and over, until they have improved the Carthage ship. They add "ravens" which allow them to board and seize another ship after running it down. (Polybius)

The war was, to both sides, even, as the commander of Carthage land forces Hamilcar has added Numidian cavalry, and Rome had trained it already good legions as a navy. Rome goes on to win many battles on the sea, with Carthage in despair. It is not until another commander, Xanthippus who was Spartan trained, came, that Carthage has any positive outlook. (Miles 188) He sees at once the mistakes Carthage's commanders have made, and leads a victorious battle against Rome. As quickly as he came, Xanthippus left, fearing jealousy of Carthaginian nobility.

After 18 years of war, Hamilcar Barca arrives to command in Carthage. While he leads many victories on land, they are of little importance to the overall war. He succeeds in gaining a reputation as a great leader, but not much else.

After another Roman victory at sea, 241, Carthage sues for peace, 24 years after the start of the war. Rome requires them to pay a massive war indemnity, which puts the economy of Carthage in great despair. Without the trading of now Roman occupied territories, Carthage has nothing to pay the thousands of mercenaries being sent back to them from Sicily.

The mercenary revolt lasts three years, led by a runaway Roman slave, Spendius, and Mathos from Libya. Polybius writes about the war, saying it is as brutal and violent as any in history thus far. Libya, with other African states, join forces with the rebellious mercenaries. Carthage, led by Hamilcar, has to draft a civilian army. They succeed in cutting down the army, but are too occupied with them to stop Rome from seizing Saguntum. (Miles 212)

Hannibal is chosen to lead the army, now occupying southern Spain, after his father dies. He is ready, willing, to fight, spending his first two years expanding more into Spain. Hannibal takes Saguntum, sieges for 8 months. When no Roman army comes, he splits the spoils with his army, send some back to Carthage, and saves the rest for the plan he has set. (Starr 26) Rome, sending ambassadors to Carthage, comes up with a treaty so unfair, they knew Carthage would not submit; Rome declares war on Carthage a second time in 218.

Holt  Educational Consultant - / 10,317 3353  
Nov 3, 2020   #2
What exactly was the purpose of your research paper? Isn't there a way by which you could connect the research between the 5 different wars? It would be interesting to read how the wars intersect throughout time. Look at the commonalities and differences between the various wars. What started it, how it ended, why the wars had to happen, these are topics that could easily help you relate the 5 wars within one interesting paper. As of now, the paper tends to get boring because of the focus on a single war, composed mostly of quotes from other sources. A really interesting take would be to have a research paper on a specific topic common to all 5 wars, then proving the importance of that commonality throughout the history of the country. Narrow down your focus so you can use all the information from the 5 wars in a comprehensive research paper.


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