The First Punic War was a contest for Sicily. The
Carthaginians aimed to establish their rule over that island, which from its
situation seems to belong almost as much to Africa as to Italy. But Rome,
having become supreme in Italy, also cast envious eyes on Sicily. She believed,
too, that the Carthaginians, if they should conquer Sicily, would sooner or
later invade southern Italy. The fear for her possessions, as well as the
desire to gain new ones, led Rome to fling down the gage of battle.
COURSE AND RESULTS OF THE WAR, 264-241 B.C.
The contest between the two rival states began in 264 B.C.
and lasted nearly twenty-four years. The Romans overran Sicily and even made an
unsuccessful invasion of Africa, but the main struggle was on the sea. Here at
first the Romans were at a disadvantage, for they had no ships as large and
powerful as those of the Carthaginians. With characteristic energy, however,
they built several great war fleets and finally won a complete victory over the
enemy. The treaty of peace provided that Carthage should abandon Sicily, return
all prisoners without ransom, and pay a heavy indemnity.
THE INTERVAL OF PREPARATION, 241-218 B.C.
Carthage, though beaten, had not been humbled. She had
lost Sicily and the commercial monopoly of the Mediterranean. But she was not
ready to abandon all hope of recovering her former supremacy. The peace
amounted to no more than an armed truce. Both parties were well aware that the
real conflict was yet to come. The war, however, was delayed for nearly a
quarter of a century. During this interval Rome strengthened her military
position by seizing the islands of Sardinia and Corsica from Carthage and by
conquering the Gauls in the Po valley. The Carthaginians, meanwhile, began to
create a new empire in Spain, whose silver mines would supply fresh means for
another contest and whose hardy tribes would furnish soldiers as good as the