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Greco-Punic Wars (Hannibal's World)

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Greek elephant battle

A Carthaginian Drachionarie fights a Greek hoplite, displaying the clash of two military styles.

The Greco-Punic Wars was a series of conflicts fought between the Hellenistic Kingdoms which ruled the eastern Mediterranean and the powerful Carthaginian Republic, which dominated the Western Mediterranean. As a direct result of these wars the Balkans peninsula, parts of Anatolia, and all of old Syria fell into Carthaginian hands. The Greco-Punic Wars also ended Greek independence in classical Greece and established Carthage as the dominant power in the entire Mediterranean.


During the Punic Wars Greece and Carthage had been relatively good allies; indeed it was only Philip V's siege
Greco-Punic 2

Carthage, the Apollonian League and the Seleucid Empire on the eve of war

weapons which allowed Hannibal to breach Rome's walls and sack the city. However, as was the case with many of Carthage's old allies, relations between the two sides had soured considerably. Skirmishes in the Adriatic between both sides' naval forces had become common as well as in the Sinai Peninsula, which had become a buffer state between the Carthaginian Republic and the Seleucid Empire. Following the Italian War waged by Carthage most of Italy had fallen into Carthage's sphere of influence. This gave Carthage a position with which to strike the Greek homeland as well as Greek holdings in Italy and Sicily. This, combined with the increasing numbers of Carthaginian military personnel in Italy convinced the Greeks to form their own preemptive action against Carthage. Macedon, Athens, Sparta and many other major Greek powers united in the Apollonian Coalition with one goal in mind: stopping Carthage.

First Greco-Punic War

The First Apollonian War began after a Carthaginian ship "rescued" a Seleucid ship which had run aground on some rocks in the Aegean Sea. On the ship was a secret non-aggression pact signed by Antiochus III that defined

The Greek victory at Segestica

spheres of influence. Carthage declared war shortly after and sent one force down Illyria and one across the Aegean. This was is notable only for that every Greek state united against the Carthaginians, not a single city defected to Carthage or allied with it. The war remained inconclusive until the Apollonian victory at Segestica. The victory was overshadowed, however, with the Carthaginian victory at Salona and the subsequent March on Apollonia, the headquarters of the Apollonian Coalition. The Apollonian Coalition rallied and fought to a stalemate at the Battle of Dodona. With a mercenary uprising in Iberia, however, Carthage could not send more forces and so they signed a hasty peace treaty with the Coalition, which did nothing but return the two sides to the status quo.

Second Greco-Punic War

The Second Apollonian War was a much larger affair than the first. Carthage had reorganized its army following the conclusion of the Third Mercenary War and had formed the famous Drachion. Carthage now dispatched six Drachion to invade the Coalition's homeland, three to march down through Illyria and engage the Macedonians and

Carthaginian skirmishers engage a Spartan phalanx

three to invade the Greek islands themselves. The Macedonians under King Perseus left to engage the Drachions threatening Macedon while dispatching the rest of the coalition's forces under Spartan general Agis to defeat the Carthaginians in Greece. The Drachions in Illyria succeeded in avoiding direct conflict with the Macedonians, luring them away from the main Greek islands. The other three Drachions, meanwhile, landed near Thermos and besieged the city. Agis attempted to lift the siege, however, was defeated at the Battle of Thermos. The Carthaginians then took the city and utterly destroyed it, reducing it to rubble. Meanwhile, nearly simultaneously the Carthaginians defeated the Macedonians at the Battle of Pella. These two defeats convinced many of the Greek cities to leave the Coalition, leaving Macedon by itself. Following the defeats at Pella and Thermos, however, the fight was taken out of the Greeks and they signed the Treaty of Thessalonica, which forcibly dissolved what was left of the Coalition and forced "any parties who had been involved in the dissolved coalition" to pay a total indemnity of 12,000 talents of silver as well as dismantling their combined navies. Afterward, however, Carthage completely withdrew from the region and it seemed they had no further interest in Greece.

Carthage-Seleucid War

The Carthage-Seleucid War began after the Greek cities in Sicily and Italy "invited" Antiochus to station garrisons in their city for protection. Antiochus obliged them and began sending thousands of troops across the Mediterranean. Carthage, understandably, did not like the idea of thousands of Seleucid troops in Italy and Sicily so they issued an ultimatum to Antiochus: Evacuate your troops from Italy and Sicily or face war with Carthage. Antiochus chose the latter, and prepared a massive army. Carthage took the initiative and sent a massive army across the Sinai, where they defeated the Seleucids at the Battle of the Sinai River. Antiochus, meanwhile, led his own massive army down Syria to meet the invaders.

Meanwhile in Sicily, the Kingdom of Syracuse had, along with Seleucid aid, pushed the Carthaginians back and were on the verge of besieging Messina. However, the Carthaginian fleet defeated the Seleucid one at the Battle of Taranto and effectively cut off Sicily and Italy from Seleucid aid. The Syracusans were defeated at the Battle of Alcantara and forced back into Syracuse. The Carthaginians then besieged and blockaded the city and soon, with no Seleucid aid in sight, the Syracusans surrendered.

In Italy the Carthaginians had invaded Magna Graecia, capturing city after city until only Croton remained. At the vicious Siege of Croton the Carthaginians besieged the city for nearly two weeks before finally collapsing a section of the wall. When they took the city they were especially cruel and slaughtered the entire populace while selling the few survivors to slavery.


Carthaginian elephants and Drachionaries outflank a Seleucid Phalanx at Sidon

The final showdown came at the Battle of Sidon. The two armies met, the Seleucids led by Antiochis himself and the Carthaginians led by Hamilcar. The two supposedly met before the battle and were cordial and friendly before returning to their respective sides. In this battle the Drachion proved its worth and routed Antiochis' phalanxes, forcing him to sue for peace. The terms of the treaty were particularly harsh, forcing him to cede all of Syria to Carthage as well as dismantling his navy and paying a heavy indemnity of 15,000 silver talents. It also forced the Seleucids to recognize Carthage's dominance over Sicily and Italy, effectively absorbing Magna Graecia into the Republic.

Macedonian War

Following their defeat in the Second Greco-Punic War the Macedonians had mainly focused on issues within their own borders. However, by 164 BC they had militarized once more and King Perseus sought to re-establish Macedon as an international power. He marched an army into Epirus and captured Phoenice, claiming the Epirote crown for himself. The native Epirote royal family was held hostage and used to control the native Epirote population. Carthage declared the Third Greco-Punic War in order to "liberate" Epirus and launched an invasion across the Adriatic. The Carthaginians did not fare well initially. However, they defeated Perseus at the decisive Battle of Methoni. Perseus himself was captured after the Companion Cavalry was surrounded. He was deposed and Carthage annexed Macedonia into the Carthaginian Province of Macedonia.

In response, the remaining cities in the Greece reformed the Apollonian League and declared war on the Carthaginian Republic. The war is noted for its timing and its incredibly short duration. Resentment of Carthaginian rule and high-handedness caused the cities to declare war on Carthage. Carthage's military supremacy was already established, having defeated the Greek cities and the famous Macedonian Phalanx on three occasions and defeating the Seleucids in nearly all fronts despite numerical inferiority. The Apollonian Leaders must have known the war was hopeless as Carthage had triumphed over much larger and stronger opponents; the Carthaginian Drachions triumphing over the phalanxes in multiple battles. Historians blame the religious leaders of the cities for stirring the population into a suicidal war. Ideas of triumphing against superior odds (such as Greece had against the Persian Empire some 300 years ago) and nationalist stirrings motivated the league into rashly declaring war. The Carthaginians swiftly defeated the League and to teach the Greeks a lesson utterly destroyed the city of Olympia, a sacred ground for the Greeks. The Carthaginians then annexed the regions, forming the provinces of Corinth and Achaea. Greek independence had, after 500 years, come to an end. The early years of occupation were marked by looting and enslavement. However, over time the Greek provinces became peaceful and prosperous.

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