Rome's Punic Wars: Three Victories and Their Lessons
Jun 28, 2008
From 262 through 146 BC, Rome fought three major wars with Carthage. These Punic Wars ended in different kinds of victories: the first, a short and unstable armistice; the second, a long-term peace; and finally, the unjust obliteration of Carthage. These victories illustrate the need for rational military goals and a sound strategy for achieving them. More deeply, this course considers the cultural background to the political decisions made in these wars. At their moment of greatest victory—the destruction of both Carthage and Corinth in 146 BC—the Romans had begun to turn from the rule of law to unconstitutional military rule, which would end in the next century with civil war and dictatorship. Studying the Punic Wars can help us to understand the ideas that led the Romans to such triumph and disaster—and show us the dependence of political action on ideas.