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Formation of the Second Punic War

The Romans had won the First Punic war and forced the Carthaginians to give up their bases on Sicily, evacuating their army to Africa. Carthage also had to pay 1000 talents immediately and 220 talents annually for the next ten years. This heavy financial demand meant Carthage could not pay its veteran army, which revolted, and fought against Carthage for the next three years (known as the Truceless War, 241-237 BCE). The revolt spread to the Carthaginian garrison on the island of Sardinia, which appealed to Rome for aid. When Carthage prepared to launch an expedition to reconquer Sardinia in 237 BCE, the Romans threatened war and demanded a further 1200 talents. The war-weary Carthaginians had to pay and were further humiliated and angered when the Romans seized Sardinia (which had been under Carthaginian control for nearly 300 years). To rebuild their strength and wealth, and to be strong enough to resist future Roman aggression, the Carthaginians sent their general Hamilcar Barca to conquer southern Spain.

Hamilcar Barca had been the general forced to negotiate the surrender to the Romans in Sicily. One story tells that because he resented the Romans so much, he made his nine-year old son, Hannibal, swear a religious oath never to be a friend to the Romans. Hannibal accompanied his father on campaign in Spain and learned to be a brilliant commander. The Carthaginian conquest brought great wealth to Carthage and alarmed the Romans so much that in 226 BCE they made an agreement with Hamilcar Barca’s successor (another member of the Barcid family), Hasdrubal. They decided that the boundary between their areas of interest would be the Spanish river Ebro. However, Rome seems to have made a provocative alliance with the city of Saguntum, south of the Ebro, and within the Carthaginian sphere of influence. Hannibal Barca became commander in Spain in 222 BCE and soon attacked Saguntum (219 BCE). When the Saguntines appealed to Rome for help and the Carthaginian senate refused to call off the attack, the Second Punic War broke out (218-203 BCE).


Battles of the second punic wars.  © Creative commons