First Punic War - Ancient Rome
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First Punic War


Sicily seen from space (the tip of Italy is on the right)

(Most of what we know about this war comes from either Polybius or Livy):

By 274 BC, the Romans had taken over all of Italy. Then a Greek city that was NOT in Italy asked the Romans to help it out in a war. This city was in Sicily, a big island near Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman Senate did not know what to do. Some men thought they should go help, and conquer Sicily too. Other men thought it was too far away. But in the end the Romans did send their army to Sicily.


A beach in Sicily

Sicily at this time was divided in two parts. One half had Greek cities in it. The other half had Carthaginian cities. When the Carthaginians heard that the Romans were coming, they were afraid the Romans would try to conquer them, too. So they attacked the Romans.

At first the Romans lost, because to go to Sicily you had to go in boats, and the Romans weren't very good sailors. But the Romans learned how to sail by capturing a Carthaginian (Punic) ship and copying it. And in the end they beat the Carthaginians and won the first Punic war. Now the Romans took over the whole island of Sicily, and made all the cities pay taxes to Rome and have a Roman governor.

The Romans had not conquered the city of Carthage itself, which was in Africa. But the Romans made the people of Carthage pay the Romans a huge amount of money, to pay for the war.

Bibliography and further reading about the First Punic War:

The Ancient Roman World, by Ronald Mellor (2004). Straight political history, For teens.

Classical Rome, by John Clare (1993). For kids, the whole political history from beginning to end.

The Romans: From Village to Empire, by Mary Boatwright, Daniel Gargola, and Richard Talbert (2004). Okay, it's a little dry, but it is up to date and has all the facts you could want.

The First Punic War: A Military History, by J. F. Lazenby (1996). The only academic narrative account of the war in English.

The Second Punic War
Roman History
Ancient Rome
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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