The Second Punic War

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The Second Punic War


     Carthage had suffered immensely from the First Punic War, not only had she lost Sicily, but she also lost her naval superiority over Rome. Furthermore the war indemnity Rome forced upon Carthage bankrupted her. A few years after the First Punic War, whilst Carthage was occupied quelling a revolt ignited by unpaid mercenaries, Rome seized the Carthaginian islands of Sardinia and Corsica. Nevertheless Carthage managed to recover and began to expand her influence over the Iberian Peninsula.

        The Second Punic War began when Carthage captured the Iberian City of Saguntum, a nominal ally of Rome. The famous general Hannibal was determined to annihilate Rome. Lacking naval power, Hannibal took a large army including elephants through France and over the Alps into Italy. The arrival of Hannibal’s army in Italy sparked off numerous rebellions against Roman rule and Hannibal decisively defeated Rome in a number of battles, eventually Rome relied on employing the Fabian strategy: avoiding direct conflict with Hannibal in Italy but keeping him occupied whilst the Romans were able to successfully conquer Iberia. Hannibal did not have adequate siege equipment to take Rome and could not call on reinforcements from Carthage for lack of naval power. Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal followed Hannibal over the Alps with a second army but was defeated before reaching Hannibal. Eventually Hannibal made a hasty retreat back to Carthage to meet Scipio Africanus in North Africa at the battle of Zama. Here the Romans defeated Carthage, bringing an end to the Second Punic War. Carthage would never again challenge Rome for hegemony over the Mediterranean, half a century later, she was finally conquered by Rome in the Third Punic War which was merely a siege of the city.

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        Perhaps the Carthaginian's main weakness was their inability to incorporate the local peoples of Tunisia into their culture which meant that they remained as foreigners on the coasts. This meant that they had to rely on mercenaries instead of drawing from a large local populace. The Numidians, and even other Phoenician city states such as Utica turned against Carthage when they were under pressure.

      Rome on the other hand were a local people with a strong sense of identity in an agricultural hinterland. They were able to draw from a large rural populace. Just prior to the start of the Punic Wars, Pyhrrus of Epirus invaded Italy but became frustrated that every time he defeated the Romans they were able to recruit another huge army, even though he kept defeating the Romans in battle, his men became exhausted and ended up leaving Italy. To a certain extend Hannibal faced this same problem, although he defeated the Romans in battle on numerous occasions, the Romans were able to raise yet another army against Carthage.

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