Through the investigation of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the details behind each of the Punic wars and how the Roman Senate used those conflicts as a stepping-stone towards the creation of a empire that would dominate the Mediterranean in the centuries to come.
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam. (Carthage must be destroyed).
“The Life of Cato the Elder” in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives (approx. 75 CE)
Translated by William Thayer, University of Chicago
In 146 BCE, mighty Carthage, jewel of the Mediterranean coast, former master of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, and once one of the most powerful cities in the ancient world, was systematically and utterly destroyed by the Roman army. According to sources from the time, the Romans then took extraordinary steps to ensure that the Carthaginian civilization would never rise again. First, the entire population of men, women and children were forcibly sold into slavery. All records and cultural icons were destroyed. The city then was burned for 17 days, and if that wasn’t enough, the Romans brought in salt and sowed tons of it into the Carthaginian fields so that nothing would ever grow there. It remains barren today. The Roman Republic was now master of the Mediterranean, a position earned after three wars with their Punic neighbors (so-called by the Romans because Carthage had been founded centuries earlier by Phoenician colonists). The first Punic War was one between equals for control over the key island of Sicily. The Second Punic War was best known for Hannibal Barca’s attack of the Italian peninsula and his later defeat at Zama (outside of Carthage), a defeat that crippled Carthage and elevated Rome to superpower status. Finally, the Third Punic War was an unnecessary attack by Rome on Carthage, brought on by a hawkish Senate hungry for expansion of their territories and seeking to send a message to the rest of the world.
Through the investigation of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the details behind each of the Punic wars and how the Roman Senate used those conflicts as a stepping-stone towards the creation of an empire that would dominate the Mediterranean in the centuries to come.
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While on tour, you will visit the Forum and other ancient Roman sites. Between the Colosseum and the Vittorio Emanuele Monument is a street known as the Via dei Fori Imperiali. Coming from the Colosseum, students should look to their left. Attached to the exterior wall of the Basilica of Maxentius are 4 maps showing the growth of Rome. They are not from the Roman Republic, although the second map shows the extent of the Republic after the Punic Wars ended in 146 BCE. Students with a sharp eye will notice that there seems to be a fifth map missing. The maps date from the Fascist Era and were ordered to be placed there by Mussolini in the 1930s. After the war ended, the new Italian government ordered the last panel taken down, but left the remaining ones.
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