The three wars waged by the Romans and Carthaginians against each other constitute a prime example of conflict between two powers in antiquity. The overall conflict - spanning several generations, and interrupted only by occasional periods of peace - escalated in its intensity as well as in terms of the war aims. The dogged struggle for victory in the first two wars, both ending in favour of the Romans, lent the Roman-Carthaginian confrontation particular momentum. The Romans, encouraged by military success, were striving for ever greater gains after each victory. Exploiting the successful repulse of the Carthaginians in the First Roman- Carthaginian War, Rome merely sought to weaken the enemy. Yet after the Second Roman-Carthaginian War, Rome aimed for Carthage's complete annihilation. Thus these three wars against Carthage, with their clear pattern of escalation, spectacularly reflect the phases in which Rome built its empire at the expense of its neighbours.
The first Carthaginians were Phoenicians who migrated to North Africa, and came to be known as Punic. 2 The Roman and Carthaginian cultures were strongly influenced by Greek/Hellenic culture and tradition. Examples of Greek influence on Rome abound, but there is also archaeological evidence of such influence on Carthaginian culture, crafts, jewellery and technology; the Carthaginian upper class spoke Greek fluently, and its men frequently married Greek women (e.g. from Syracuse). We will discuss a case of Greek influence on Carthaginian religion and mythology below.
At first, Rome and Carthage were comparable powers. Rome was a city-state that lived originally from the agriculture of the surrounding area, and was run by a land-owning aristocracy whose power was founded on the monopolization of public offices. Accordingly, Rome's social and political power was concentrated in the Senate - an assembly of the most influential and distinguished heads of Roman families. The structure of the constitution corresponded to the military requirements of an expansionist society (with a people's assembly, the comitia, and representation of