The Punic Wars was a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage for a period of 118 years. Rome, one of the sides of these wars, was a immense empire whose influence covered much of the known world at the time. Carthage, the other player in the Punic Wars, was a city state on the North Coast of Africa which had partial control over Sicily before wars and whose location was ideal for trading ground in the Mediterranean.
The first war (264-241 BC) started because a conflict between two different city states on the island of Sicily, Messana and Syracuse, had been going on and eventually both Rome and Carthage stepped in. During their intervention, Carthage began to control more and more of the island of Sicily. So because of Carthage's expanding influence of Sicily, many Romans felt that Carthage's authority in Sicily threatened them and their trading. Romans attacked and quickly gained Sicily back in their control. However, because of Rome's lack of a navy they could not push Carthage back any farther. Rome soon built a navy. After C. Duilius won the first Roman sea battle of the Punic Wars, Rome dominated the sea winning all but one sea battle for the rest of the First Punic War. With Rome's authority on land and at sea, Carthage surrendered after the Roman victory at the Aegates Islands in 241 BC.
The peace lasted for twenty-three years before Carthage's resentfulness in losing the first war brought them into a second. The centerstone of the Second Punic War was one man, Hannibal, and his reign on ?one of the great decisive wars of history.?1 Hannibal in 218 BC crosses the Alps into the Po Valley with an elephant baggage train. He got the aid of the Guals, a people who were conquered by the Romans. Hannibal rolled through northern Italy winning every battle along the way. Meanwhile the Romans had control of the Mediterranean Sea and stopped reinforcements from Spain.
Scipio, a Roman general, drove the Carthaginian forces back to Spain and then went to North Africa. Hannibal returned to Africa to face Scipio where he was beaten by Scipio at Zama in 202 BC. After this devastating loss, the Carthaginians surrendered, lost important islands, and had to pay large sums of money to Rome. Rome also reduced the Carthage navy to ten ships. The Second Punic War was over in 201 BC.
In the third and final war Rome showed its despise and hatred for Carthage. Rome came up with a plan to start a third war where they could destroy Carthage. Rome had Misnissa, king of Numidia, entice Carthage into attacking Numidia. Carthage fell into the trap attacking Misnissa in 149 BC. War was declared and Rome quickly defeated Carthage, though they did fight Rome off for three years. Any remaining Carthaginians were made slaves and Rome burned the city. Thus, with that victory three years after the last war began, and one hundred and eighteen years after the first began, Carthage's grasp in the ?known world? was over for good.