Carthago Delenda Est: Who Caused the Punic Wars? Essay

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In his account of the Punic Wars, Polybius declares “it is my contention that by far the most important part of historical writing lies in the consideration of the consequences of events, their accompanying circumstances, and above all their causes.” Polybius recognized the intricate relationship between circumstances, causes, and their consequences, and in his account of the Punic Wars he seeks to explain the reasons for Rome’s victory over Carthage. For centuries, Rome and Carthage lived at peace with one another, their spheres of influence separate enough to avoid conflict. Rome’s wealth and interests lay in farming and acquiring more land throughout Italy, while Carthage’s economy was naval based, and so keeping trade routes open in …show more content…
Polybius, although a contemporary of these events, was a Greek held hostage in Rome as security against Achaean uprising, and was close friends with the adopted son of Scipio Africanus. He wrote his account for his Greek countrymen to understand how it was that Rome defeated them, but it was also in his interests to remain on good terms with the Romans. Particularly in the case of the Second Punic war, conflicting reports over Saguntum, its status in relation to Rome, and Rome’s response to the Carthaginian siege raises serious questions of whether Rome truly engaged in as just of a war as Livy and other Roman historians portrayed. Both Polybius and Livy blame Hamilcar for the second war, but Rome’s ambition and hatred of Carthage also played a significant role. The first official relations between Rome and Carthage began in 508 B.C., with the establishment of the Roman Republic. The treaty signed then prevented the Romans from interfering with Carthaginian trade routes, or the Carthaginians from attempting any fortifications in Latium (Polybius III.22). The second treaty was made in 348, and Polybius points out that in the case of these first two treaties, Carthage was mostly concerned with Sardinia and Africa, but in the second treaty they specifically mention “the part which is subject to them.” Finally, the third treaty was established in 279, when the common threat of Pyrrhus brought the two together once more. Being a trading power, the

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