Rome: The Punic Wars – The First Punic War – Extra History – #1


Hey everybody!
Welcome to Extra History. I’m Dan, that’s James,
and this is Allison. We usually make videos
talking about games, but today we’re here to
talk about Rome. A few months ago, we got a call from
the folks at Creative Assembly, probably one of the coolest
we’ve ever received. And they told us “Hey so, we’re
finishing up our next Total War game, and we’ve got some money left over in the
marketing budget from our publisher. The way we see it we could buy a
few more banner ads, OR we could underwrite you guys making some
videos to teach people about Roman history. You don’t have to mention us or the
game, just teach some history.” And we said:
“That’s AWESOME.” And we ARE going to mention
them AND their game, because I would love to see
more companies do this. I want to see companies use their
ad budget to not only garner sales but also do some good. So to everyone else marketing a game
that has something worth discussing, there are dozens of content
creators out there who can do a lot more for you than few
banner ads are going to. So good on the folks at Creative
Assembly for setting an example. We approve. But let’s get started, huh? We are going to be talking about the
Punic wars, because they’re less well known than the campaigns of
Caesar or the civil wars of Augustus. We’re going to probably spend
most of our time focusing on the second Punic war because
it is just freakin’ awesome. It’s got everything you want
out of a great fantasy novel: blood oaths of revenge, bloody
battles, brilliant generals, political intrigue, unbelievable
feats of heroism. a clash of two mighty dynastic clans… heck it’s even got fighting monsters
(which I will get to in the next episode). So, what were the Punic Wars? Well, they were the wars between
Rome and Carthage for control of what was,
to them, the whole world. I can’t even begin to tell you how
much rested on these conflicts. This was 3rd Century BC’s
World War II. Rome and Carthage were the two
big powers in the Mediterranean and only one of them was going
to walk out of this one alive. We’re still seeing the impact of this war
even today, thousands of years later. Without the Punic Wars turning
out the way they did, I bet you the United States Senate
wouldn’t be called a Senate, and our money wouldn’t say
“e pluribus unum” on the back. Without the Punic wars, I bet you
Latin wouldn’t be the foundation for most of the western European
languages and Roman laws wouldn’t be serving as the basis
for law systems around the world. These wars would make Rome
the dominant power in the west for the next seven hundred year and
shape the course of history as a result. Now some of you may still be scratching
your heads at the name Punic War. Where did that come from? After all, Punic doesn’t really sound
anything like Rome or Carthage… Well see, the people who originally
settled Carthage were Phoenician, which is how the Romans
usually referred to them. Only, their pronunciation of the word
sounded more like ‘Ponecian’, which when used as an adjective
became Ponic or Punic, it… you know doesn’t matter, the point is
all the ancient Roman writers called these the Punic Wars which basically
meant to them “War with Carthage” and we have just stuck with
the word they used. Cool fact though, the word ‘Punic’
still means “treacherous” in English. I bet you that wouldn’t be true
if Carthage had won these wars. But okay, the Punic Wars were wars between
the two most important powers in Europe for dominance of the whole kitten-kaboodle,
so let’s introduce our protagonists. In one corner we have Rome,
recent conquerors of Italy. Well, ok, most of Italy. (the Gauls still held the northern
bit where Milan stands today). Rome was a republican oligarchy,
meaning they were a democracy but most of the decision
making still fell to the rich. Romans held military glory
in the highest regard and made military service an essential
part of political advancement. In the other corner we have Carthage, based in the city of Carthage on what
is now the northern coast of Tunisia. They were also a republican oligarchy,
but more focused on trade. Wealth was the prime determiner
in political mobility there, and they would use mercenaries to fight
their wars instead of citizen soldiers. At the time our story begins, Carthage
controlled most of northern Africa, a little bit of Spain, and several of
the major islands in the Mediterranean. And it’s that handful of islands
that got everybody into trouble. You see, the first Punic war broke
out over the island of Sicily. The actual causes are almost comical: it started when a group of Italian
mercenaries calling themselves the Mamertines were
invited into a city and basically got bored and
decided to capture it. They then became pirates
and raiders, and then, when someone finally tried to stop them,
they appealed to the Carthaginians (whose city they had technically just
stolen) to come and help them out. And Carthage did so…but the
story doesn’t end there: after the Carthaginians bailed
them out, the Mamertines decided they weren’t so happy having
to obey the Carthaginian rules now and so they appealed to Rome,
on the pretext that “hey, come on, we’re Italians”,
asking the Romans to help them free their city from the Carthaginians
who had just helped them. This, of course, turned into the
first Punic War, a grinding conflict that took twenty years, cost almost a
fifth of the male population of Rome, and had over a million soldiers
involved in the fighting. Just take that in for a
second, a million soldiers. Do you know how long
after the fall of Rome it would be for a European War
to include a million men? The 16th century, and here they
were doing it in the 3rd century BCE. And all because of some idiots
getting bored in Sicily. I’m just going to skim over the events of
the first Punic War but for our purposes, the First Punic War was a back and
forth with, in the loosest of terms, the Carthaginians slowly losing on land
while the Romans managed to bungle a series of naval engagements and, in
general, just make a mess of things at sea. This was, after all, Rome’s first
experiment with doing anything outside of Italy and first time
they ever built a navy. In fact, one story goes: they didn’t
even know how to build warships and so they had to copy a
Carthaginian ship that washed ashore. Anyway, once the Romans finally
managed to get the navy thing down and started winning at sea,
Carthage capitulated. I highly recommend you dig
further into that war sometime, ’cause I am reeeeally glossing over it, but that should serve to catch you up
on the back-story to our main event: the Second Punic war. And the key to our tale, the
piece that ties the first and second Punic War together is a man
named Hamilcar Barca, a general for the Carthaginians on the island
of Sicily during the First Punic War. See, the thing here is: he
didn’t really lose that war. After the naval defeat that caused
Carthage to throw in the towel, his army was still intact. So, he
returned to Carthage with his troops… Troops expecting to get paid;
because they’re mercenaries, because that’s how Carthage fights wars. Unfortunately, Carthage, what with
the cost of the war, the reparations imposed on them by the Romans
and interruption in trade and such, were in no position to be paying anybody. They basically came out and said:
“Sorry guys, we have not got any money, could you all just kindly return
to where you came from…?” You can probably guess
how well that went over. Short version, those troops
were soon besieging Carthage. In a panic, Carthage called
on (who else but) Hamilcar and made him ride out
and defeat his own army. So he hired some more mercenaries,
promising to pay them upfront this time, and over the next two
years he did just that. But Hamilcar held in his heart a secret
resentment and a burning hatred. A hatred for the Romans who’d humiliated
him and the city he once idealized, and a resentment against
the old men of Carthage who he’d felt stabbed him in the back,
never giving him the troops or resources he needed to win a war that
by all rights he should have won. He began to distance himself from what he
considered the weak city fathers in Carthage, more concerned with their coin and their
trade routes than fame and everlasting glory. So when they later turned to him to ask how
to repay the crushing war debt they owed to Rome, he put forth an idea he’d been
toying with in the back of his mind. He proposed raising a new army
to secure their African holdings. To this, the old men readily agreed, BUT once
Hamilcar had his army trained and ready, he immediately crossed to Europe to “re-establish” the
Carthaginian Empire in Spain. Stopping only to make one last offering
to the gods before he crossed… an offering upon which he made his
young son Hannibal swear an oath of vengeance: “never
be a friend to Rome”. And with that, he made straight for
the silver mines in the south of Spain. By the time the Carthaginians
found out about it, silver had already started flowing back
to Carthage, so no one questioned his usurpation of the army or the complete
lack of oversight of his activities in Spain. So, Hamilcar then began to push east,
carving out an unofficial kingdom in Spain for himself and his family. But, opposition to his advance was
fierce and it took him four years of constant war to push all the way
to the eastern coast of Spain. Over these four years, his raw
army from north Africa became one of the most formidable
fighting forces in the world. Over time, these men went
from being mercenaries to being an army loyal to the Barcid family. Many of these same men would follow
Hannibal over the alps years later… another story we’re gonna
be talking about later. When Hamilcar’s forces reached
the eastern coast of Spain, Rome started to get a little bit worried.
After all, here was not only a Carthaginian but the very general who
had fought them in Sicily, with a very large army only a short
hop across the water from Rome itself. So they sent a delegation to
ask Hamilcar what he thought he was doing with an army that close
to Rome. Hamilcar simply replied: “I am gathering the booty we need to pay you the reparations we
owe from the last war”. They couldn’t really argue with that
so they packed up and went home. You’ve got to love a guy with the wit
and the stones to say something like that. “I’m just invading this territory
so we can pay you.” How awesome is that. From there, Hamilcar continued
his conquest, heading north and eventually founding a
city we know well today. Some of you may have already
guessed it from his last name, but he named the city
Barcino after his family, a place that we now know as Barcelona. Yet again, we see the echoes of the
Punic wars in our current world today. Shortly thereafter, Hamilcar died. The details of his death are extremely
unclear and there are many stories about how he died, but the
one I prefer to believe is that he died leading his
enemies away from his young sons Hannibal and Hasdrubal so
they could make their escape. For the next seven years, the Spanish
territory was expanded by Hamilcar’s son in law who was also named Hasdrubal
(just to make things confusing). Hasdrubal the son in law ruled well and
fairly by all accounts until his assassination in 221 BC, but for the
purposes of our story, the most important thing he did was make a treaty with
the Romans at one point agreeing upon the borders of the
Carthaginian territories in Spain… a treaty that will serve as the
cause for the Second Punic War. Join us next time when the Second
Punic war really fires up and we dive into the drama of the
crossing of the Alps and watch the clash of famous champions like
Hannibal, Scipio and Fabian. See ya then! Subtitled by: Louis Lenders

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**This video may be used freely in its original unaltered state for educational purposes!**

Big thanks to Creative Assembly for making this happen! If you want to check out Total War: Rome II, you can do so here:

You can also buy the game here:

Most of the research for these videos comes from:

Polybius’ The Histories

Livy’s History of Rome

…but if you just want an overview, here’s a wikipedia link:

Author: dhobson