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3 - The Second Punic War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

John Briscoe
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
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Summary

THE CAUSES OF THE CONFLICT

In 241 Carthage had no alternative to accepting the Roman peace terms and surrendering possession of the whole of Sicily to Rome. Three years later the Senate took advantage of Carthage's difficulties in the Mercenary War to seize Sardinia. Polybius rightly regarded the latter action as unjustified and the subsequent Carthaginian resentment as a major cause of the Second Punic War. But even without that additional provocation many Carthaginians, and particularly Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, would not have been prepared to accept the outcome of the First Punic War as definitive. It was Hamilcar who laid the foundations for a new Carthaginian offensive by re-establishing Carthaginian power in Spain. In 229 Hamilcar died and was succeeded in Spain by his son-in-law Hasdrubal, with whom Rome concluded the Ebro treaty in 226, which made the river Ebro the northern limit of Carthaginian power in Spain and, implicitly at least, renounced Roman claims south of that limit. The treaty, however, contained the seeds of a new conflict, for its terms were flatly inconsistent with the Roman alliance with Saguntum, concluded several years before the Ebro treaty. Saguntum lay south of the Ebro, and while Rome was to claim that the alliance overrode the Ebro treaty, the Carthaginians saw the Ebro treaty as giving them the freedom to proceed against Saguntum.

Hannibal succeeded his brother-in-law in 221. In 220 the Saguntines, fearing an attack, asked Rome for help and the Senate, which had ignored several previous appeals from Saguntum, sent an embassy to Hannibal urging him to refrain both from attacking Saguntum and from crossing the Ebro in defiance of the treaty. Hannibal countered by accusing Rome of interfering in internal Saguntine affairs. We need not doubt that Hannibal was looking for a reason to reopen the conflict with Rome and as soon as he was sure that the rest of the Carthaginian empire in Spain was secure, he was happy to take the opportunity of attacking Saguntum.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1989

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