THE INFLUENCE

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The Influence of Sea Power on the Punic Wars

INTRODUCTION European Civilization, history, is and likewise, that of Western

inextricably bound in Greco-Roman tradition. First is the for the

This is primarily due to two series of events. Greco-Persian War, appropriately titled "The

Battle

West" by historian Ernle Bradford, in which the Greek victory over King Xerxes of the Persians firmly established the place of Greece in the history of the Occident.1 The second was the Punic

Wars, a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage which saw the emergence and permanence of Roman tradition in Western Civilization. This discussion will focus on the least-appreciated aspect of the conflict between Rome and Carthage, the influence of sea power on an essentially land-based war, the Second Punic War. Despite this, we will discuss the First Punic War, as its result is a key factor in influencing the outcome of the Second Punic War. To briefly introduce the historical context, the First

Punic War was a series of naval battles fought for the control of Sicily from 264-241 B.C. The Second Punic War, on the other

hand, was essentially a series of campaigns on land, from 218201 B.C., with little overt significance of naval matters.
Ernle Bradford, Thermopylae: The Battle for the West (NY: Da Capo Press, 1993).
1

The

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Third Punic War was a uneven match fought between 149-146 B.C. that saw the ultimate destruction of Carthage. Scholarly debate about the influence of sea power on the Second Punic War is hardly an issue that has been seriously academically attempted. Likewise, it seems particularly ripe as Dutch

a subject of further discussion, given the circumstances.

historian J.H. Thiel provides the most succinct understanding of the reason the influence of sea power provokes an intellectual call-to-arms:
The problem, what was the function and importance of sea-power in the second Punic war, how far the Romans during this war really ruled the waves, and if, so, whether or not this fact decisively influenced the course and result of the war as a whole, remains as yet a question brûlante, which is judged in the most diverging ways and consequently cries for a thorough discussion.2

Thiel briefly discusses these “diverging” views not only as an introduction to his own work, but as a means of suggesting

further scholarly work on an issue that suffers from “remarkable neglect.”3 Given the fact that the Second Punic War was a land-based war fought
2

primarily

in Spain and the Italian peninsula,

it

J.H. Thiel, Studies on the History of Roman Sea Power in Republican Times (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co., 1946), p. 32. 3 Ibid., p. 33.

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might seem peculiar to suggest that sea power was a primary, if not the decisive factor in determining the outcome of the war. As Boris Rankov notes,"[t]he war at sea has to a certain extent been seen as a sideshow," and thus it is not surprising to see little historical attention paid to the influence of sea power in this second engagement between Rome and Carthage from 218-201 B.C.4 Likewise, the military geniuses Hannibal and Scipio

Africanus and the historic land battles in which their armies fought overshadow the significance of the decisive role of sea power. This paper will seek to explain how the outcome of the

First Punic War, which resulted in decisive Roman sea power, played an important role in the Second Punic War. of the seas thus gave it an important tool in The Roman command terms of a of

"competitive

advantage"

against

Carthage.

concept

competitive advantage, as an analytic tool used as a means of understanding Furthermore, the this war's paper outcome, will will be briefly discussed. that

then

seek

to

demonstrate

Rome's survival was due to the exploitation of this competitive advantage. Finally, it will conclude that Roman sea power was

in fact the decisive factor in rendering the outcome of the Second Punic War.

Boris Rankov, "The Second Punic War at Sea," in The Second Punic War: A Reappraisal. eds. Tim Cornell, Boris Rankov, and Philip Sabin (London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1996), pp. 49-57.

4

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CARTHAGE At the dawn of the third century B.C., Carthage possessed "undisputed command at sea" in the western Mediterranean Sea.5 It should be little surprise that Carthage, as a colony of the sea-faring Phoenicians, should take to the sea in the western Mediterranean. inherited and As Arthur Shepard in writes, "the Carthaginians Phoenician

transmitted

full

measure

the

propensity for a seafaring life and commercial adventure..."6 This seafaring life, combined with threats on all sides ("by the hostile native tribes of Africa, by the Etruscans to the north, and by the everpressing westward tide of Greek migration...") forced Carthage "by sheer self-preservation to adopt a strong military policy."7 The consolidation of Carthaginian naval

power took place between 550 B.C., when the Carthaginian king Malchus invaded Sicily, and 500 B.C.8,9 Despite occasional

battles with the Greeks, Carthaginian command of the sea was not seriously challenged for nearly two centuries.10 In 264 B.C.,

the inevitable clash between two growing empires, Carthage and Rome, flared when both islands sought to control the island of
J.F. Lazenby, The First Punic War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 29. 6 Arthur MacCartney Shepard, Sea Power in Ancient History (Boston, MA: Little, Brown. and Co., 1924), 131. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid., p. 133. 9 Lionel Casson, The Ancient Mariners (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 143. 10 Chester G. Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History (NY: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 54.
5

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Sicily.

The result was the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.).

ROME The Roman civilization is not one that any historian, past, present, or future, will ever likely succeed in suggesting that it was regarded as one of the world’s leading thalossocratic powers. always empire. Despite centuries of Mediterranean dominance, Rome has been regarded, first and foremost, as a land-based

The Dutch historian J.H. Thiel asserts:
…that the Romans were born land-lubbers has much of a truism and of course it is not my intention to

overthrow it. need of it

But even a truism may stand in some the rather, taken the because for by most the so

elucidation, is

people

thoughtlessly of

granted: is not

supposed

“land-lubberism”

Romans

simple a matter as it looks and it fully deserves the interest of the historian.11

What Thiel is suggesting is that, without questioning the truism of Roman and “land-lubberism,” it is still necessary to

understand nation

appreciate that “as a matter of course every borders upon the sea is always of a mixed

which

character: it contains large groups of land-lubbers as well as seafaring and waterside folk.”12
11 12

Thus, the concept of Roman

Thiel, Studies, p. 1. Ibid., pp. 1-2.

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“land-lubberism” can be properly appreciated as a true; however, it must be rationalized as a simplistic notion upon which

further understanding can be achieved. Roman sea power as the beginning of the third century B.C. was negligible. maintain a At this period in its history, Rome did not navy, preferring instead “ex tempore

standing

methods” in times of war.13

Besides, Roman extension southward

had barely reached the southern shores of the Italian peninsula and had not yet crossed over the short stretch of water to the largely Greek and Carthaginian-controlled island of Sicily.

Rome only gained control of Tarentum in 272 B.C. and suppressed the Sallentini and Messapii on Italy's "heel" as recently as 266 B.C.14 Therefore, it is not difficult to understand Rome’s

reason for such an “ex tempore” policy: Rome did not yet have any significant overseas territories to defend. The beginning

of Rome’s entry onto the world stage began in 264 B.C., when the Mamertimes (of Messana) looked to Rome and Carthage after being defeated by Hiero and the Syracusans.15

THE CONCEPT OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Before we can fully understand the influence of sea power in the conflicts between Rome and Carthage, it is necessary to
Ibid., p. 16. Lazenby, The First Punic War, p. 38. 15 T.A. Dorey and D.R. Dudley, Rome Against Carthage (London: Secker & Warburg, 1971), p. 1.
14 13

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depart

momentarily

from

the

historical

context

and

move

to

establish a firm grounding in a measure of effectiveness which will help us to grasp the importance of sea power. of competitive advantage The concept

is one that is taken from business

applications, yet it does not exclude itself from elucidation as a potential military concept. The most succinct understanding

of competitive advantage is Michael E. Porter’s “The Competitive Advantage geared tool, of Nations.”16 explaining net While Porter’s article as is a largely business embraced military

toward the

competitive assessment as

advantage community tool

military

has for

competitive

advantage

potential

applications and as a measure of effectiveness.

What is Competitive Advantage? Competitive advantage is a concept which seeks to

demonstrate why some businesses (or nations or militaries) are more prosperous than others. Based on a variety of situations,

environments, and responses, some businesses move forward while others fall back. A competitive advantage is a national or For example,

business superiority specific market, or industry.

the Japanese ability to mass produce televisions and VCRs, or the Swedish ability to anticipate concerns for product safety

Michael E. Porter, “The Competitive Advantage of Nations,” Harvard Business Review, March-April 1990, pp. 73-93.

16

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(i.e.

Volvo),

could

be

considered

competitive

advantages.17

However, understanding this concept is only the first step in taking advantage of its usefulness as a potential measure of effectiveness. The most important questions about competitive advantage How is it sustained? is achieved through innovation. technological

are: How is it achieved? Competitive Perceiving new

advantage market

opportunities,

embracing

breakthroughs, or just finding new ways of doing old things are good examples of acts of innovation.18 As Porter explains:
The

...innovation is the result of unusual effort.

company that successfully implements a new or better way of competing pursues its approach with dogged

determination, often in the face of harsh criticism and tough obstacles. usually requires the In fact, to succeed, innovation necessity, often and even more

pressure, of

adversity:

fear

loss

proves

powerful than the hope of gain.19 [Emphasis added]

As we will see, this adversity is precisely the key to Roman innovation in the First Punic War. How is it sustained? “The

only way to sustain a competitive advantage is to upgrade it – to move to more sophisticated types.”20 In other words,

17 18 19 20

Ibid., pp. 74-75. Ibid. Ibid., p. 75. Ibid.

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competitive advantage can often be imitated – therefore, the competitive advantage of one time period may disappear quickly. Only continuous effort and improvement, and ultimately upgrading is the only way to maintain a competitive advantage.

“The Diamond of National Advantage” The concept which we will use to understand how competitive advantage Advantage. is achieved is called the Diamond of National

It seeks to demonstrate why innovation is possible.

As shown in the diagram, there are four components of the diamond. First, factor conditions, the necessary infrastructure

to compete; demand conditions, demand for the product; related and supporting industries, the presence or absence of related industries; and finally firm strategy, structure, and rivalry. “Each point on the diamond - and the diamond as a system affects essential ingredients for achieving…competitive

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success.”21

As we will see shortly, this concept is well-suited

to describe the situation in which Rome was faced when the First Punic War erupted.

THE FIRST PUNIC WAR A discussion about the influence of sea power on the Second Punic War would be incomplete without a brief understanding of the First Punic War. For, as T.A. Dorey and D.R. Dudley write,

"[t]he seeds of The Second Punic War were sown at the end of the First."22 Furthermore, it is during the First Punic War that we

see Rome faced with adversity, a key ingredient to feed Roman innovation.

Origins Despite the growing power of both Carthage and Rome, J.F. Lazenby notes that "relations between the two powers...seem to have been reasonably cordial...as long as their interests did not seriously clash."23 treaties influence. protecting The two powers maintained a series of others' interests and spheres of

each

However, the two expanding empires, clamoring for

Mediterranean supremacy, were bound to meet, literally, as Rome expanded
21 22 23

southward

and

Carthage

solidified

its

hold

on

its

Ibid., p. 77. Dorey and Dudley, Rome Against Carthage, p. 29. Lazenby, The First Punic War, p. 35.

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Sicilian possessions. These empires collided in the northeast Sicilian town of Messana (Messina), who occupied since the the 280's by Campanian The

mercenaries Syracusan sought

called Hiero from to

themselves attacked both aid

Mamertines.24 and the

tyrant

Messana, and

Mamertines Carthage placing a

assistance came

Carthage of the

Rome.25

immediately

the

Mamertines,

garrison in Messana and sending ships to defend it. 26,27

However,

Rome responded as well, crossing the strait and expelling the Carthaginians.28 Carthage regarded this as a casus belli for Polybius the

violating a treaty protecting its influence in Sicily. disputes this, yet some modern scholars have

supported

Carthaginian claim.29

Innovation Discovered: The Corvus For the first three years of the First Punic War, Rome had little success against Carthage as a result of Carthaginian

strongholds on Sicily's western coast. Carthage was able in to reinforce and

With command of the sea, resupply its troops and

fortifications Rome faced:
24 25 26 27 28 29

Sicily.

Casson

demonstrates

the

situation

Ibid. Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History, pp. 54-55. Ibid., p. 55. Lazenby, The First Punic War, pp. 36-37. Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History, p. 55. Dorey and Dudley, Rome Against Carthage, pp. 3-4.

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In 264 B.C. Rome's statesmen and generals faced a dismaying reality: sooner or later they had to take the plunge and create a navy; David had to fight Goliath but not with a slingshot, with the giant's own weapons.30 [Emphasis added]

The

emphasized

sentence

illustrates

the

strategy Rome would have to follow: first, they would have to neutralized Carthaginian control of the sea, which was clearly a

Carthaginian Secondly, to

competitive prevail Rome

advantage. would have to

seize command of the seas and use it as an offensive Carthage.31 The adversity which Rome faced was exactly what it needed to spur an important innovation - the corvus. The corvus was a competitive advantage against

boarding ramp which allowed Roman legionnaires to cross over to an enemy ship and "turn a sea fight into a land fight..."32 In

260 B.C. off the north shore of Sicily, the Roman commander Caius Duilius routed the Carthaginians. In the next eight

years, a number of small engagements took place. faced with adversity, achieved an important

But Rome, when which

innovation

30 31 32

Casson, The Ancient Mariners, p. 144. Dorey and Dudley, Rome Against Carthage, p. 8. Casson, The Ancient Mariners, p. 146.

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effectively sea power.33

neutralized

Carthaginian

competitive

advantage

in

Now Rome had to seize that advantage.

Seizing the Competitive Advantage We return again to the Diamond of National Advantage to understand Carthage. necessary mastery. how The Rome first captured the competitive advantage from the

attribute is to

factor conditions, or against Senate Carthage authorized

infrastructure In 260 B.C.,

compete Roman

naval the

the

construction of 120 vessels. Rome found the is necessary

With Greek and Syracusan allies, to compete. David The second the for

resources the

attribute

demand naval

conditions; giant

Roman

facing demand

Carthaginian

provided

the

necessary

achieving naval mastery. supporting (with a industries, sizable navy) of

The third attribute is related and which and Rome's naval allies are Syracuse roughly

Greek

shipbuilders

comparable.

Rome relied heavily on the loyalty of these allies The fourth attribute is firm strategy, Given Rome's dedicated shipbuilding

for their success.34 structure, and

rivalry.

program and the military rivalry they faced against Carthage, it is not difficult to see how this attribute is easily met. Rome's innovation in the corvus neutralized Carthaginian

sea power as a competitive advantage; a dedicated shipbuilding
33 34

Lazenby, The First Punic War, p. 28. Ibid., p. 163.

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program

supported

by

the for

necessary themselves. as a

conditions "Each -

seized on

the the

competitive diamond -

advantage and for the

point

diamond

system

affects

essential of

ingredients

achieving...success."35

Thus, the

Diamond

National Advantage provides an excellent tool to analyze how Rome was able to effectively respond to Carthaginian command of the seas. By 241 B.C. near the Aegates Islands:
the tables were now turned: the Romans had the better ships and crews and, as usual, superior numbers (200 to 170)...Carthage, the ertswhile naval power, went into the last round with old vessels and raw crews; Rome, the nation of lubbers, ended with a navy of two hundred of the finest war galleys afloat, manned by veterans.36

Rome

had

seized Yet it

command

of

the until

seas the

for next

itself.37

remained

conflict between Rome and Carthage for the Romans to employ their newly-gained command of the seas as an offensive competitive

advantage.

THE SECOND PUNIC WAR Origins
35 36 37

Porter, “The Competitive Advantage of Nations,” p. 77. Casson, The Ancient Mariners, p. 151. Lazenby, The First Punic War, p. 29.

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The end of the First Punic War was not so much a permanent piece as is was an armistice agreed to when Hamilcar asked the Roman consul Catulus for terms of peace. number fight of then "obnoxious accept Hamilcar resisted a

conditions...declar[ing] he would rather The result was that Hamilcar

[them]."38

withdrew, having never been defeated. Polybius identifies three main causes of the Second Punic War. The first, as Dorey and Dudley explain, was "the attitude

of Hamilcar himself...he felt that if he could face the Romans again on equal terms he would have little difficulty in

reversing the decision, and he was eager for an opportunity to renew the struggle."39 The second cause was Rome's seizure in

238 B.C. of the island of Sardinia and the unjust demand of a twelve hundred talent indemnity.40,41 The third was Carthaginian

conquests in Spain, which culminated in Hannibal's attack on the Spanish town of Saguntum. Rome claimed Saguntum was under its

protection and later called Hannibal's siege a casus belli for violating the peace treaty between Rome and Carthage, despite the fact that the treaty contained no such clause and was not even ratified by the Roman Senate or approved by the Roman

people.42
38 39

De Beer describes the famous scene which decided the

Dorey and Dudley, Rome Against Carthage, p. 26. Ibid., p. 29. 40 Ibid., p. 30. 41 Lazenby, The First Punic War, p. 174. 42 Sir Gavin de Beer, Hannibal: Challenging Rome's Supremacy (NY: The Viking Press, 1969), p. 113.

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result of the dispute:
The Carthaginians then invited the Romans to state what was really in their minds, and Quintus Fabius Maximus gathered his toga into a fold over his chest, saying, 'Here we bring you peace or war. Choose which you prefer.' The Carthaginians replied that the Romans could choose. Fabius said 'War', and the Carthaginians added 'So be it.' The Second Punic War had been declared.43

Hannibal’s Route Most written material about the Second Punic War focuses primarily on the remarkable Alpine journey undertaken by

Hannibal and the subsequent land battles fought against Rome on the Italian peninsula. Hannibal's routing of the Romans during

the battles at Lake Trasimene and Cannae, in particular, are often the center of attention for most scholars. However,

little mention is made of the circumstances that precipitated Hannibal's treacherous journey and the reasons why he chose this route. As we have seen, by the end of the First Punic War, Rome had seized command of the sea away from the Carthaginians first through tactics the (by neutralization means of the of superior Carthaginian naval

corvus) and secondly by developing When Carthage sued for

mastery of naval tactics themselves.

peace at the end of the First Punic War, its naval advantage was gone: severe restrictions were put on future naval activity, and they now had only about 50 ships as compared to Rome's 220
43

Ibid.

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quinqueremes.

44,45

Thus, Carthage began the Second Punic War at a

considerable naval disadvantage. When attention has been paid to Hannibal's choice of a

treacherous overland route as compared to a amphibious invasion, scholars have divided themselves about the reasons why. Thiel

and Mayan both place a great deal of emphasis on the importance of naval superiority not only in Hannibal's choice of the

overland route but also in the war's outcome.46,47 the same conclusion, although less

Casson reaches Starr

convincingly.48

contends that "the real explanation was of a different order, not directly connected to sea power," and suggests along with de Sanctis that it was due to the difficulty in transporting large numbers of cavalry and elephants.49,50 Finally, Mommsen's History

of Rome proffers the dull explanation that Hannibal's reasons were "not entirely obvious."51 The most plausible explanation, however, given the

evidence, is made by Rankov:
The naval strategy of the Second Punic War was, in essence, determined by the control of a number of key bases and coastlines.
44 45

Possibly the most spectacular

Ibid., p. 88. Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History, p. 46 Thiel, Studies, p. 186. 47 Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History, p. 48 Casson, The Ancient Mariners, p. 151. 49 Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History, p. 50 G. de Sanctis, Storia dei Romani (Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 12, in Rankov, "The Second Punic War at Sea," p. 52. 51 Starr, The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History, p.

58. 3. 58. 1917) III.2, 3.

THE INFLUENCE example of this is the fact that

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Hannibal

chose

to...invade Italy through the Alps, rather than...a passage by sea. this choice to was De Sanctis [and Starr] argued that dictated by horses the Carthaginians' presumably

inability

transport

(and

elephants) by sea, but this was rightly rejected by Thiel on the grounds that they were able to do

precisely this on other occasions.52

The

logical

conclusion

to

Rankov's

elucidation of Hannibal's choice is that a combination of factors were at play: not

only did sea power play an important role in the choice of routes, but the lack of

control of key bases in Sicily and Sardinia (which, of course, were lost in the naval battles of the choice First a Punic War) made The

Hannibal's

fait

accompli.

results of successful naval warfare during the First Punic War and the command of the sea possessed by the Romans at the beginning of the Second Punic War were the decisive factors land. in forcing Hannibal to march by

52

Rankov, "The Second Punic War at Sea," p. 52.

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The Roman Invasion "In the spring of 204 B.C., Scipio [Africanus] set sail from Lilybaeum with thirty thousand men and landed near Utica at Promontorium Pulchrum west of Cap Bon."53

In 204 B.C., Rome did to Carthage exactly what Carthage wanted to do to Rome all along. Little doubt remains that,

would Carthage have been able to invade Rome from the sea and provide Hannibal with a constant flow of reinforcements and

supplies, Rome would have fallen. and the seizure to use of important

Yet Roman command of the seas Sicilian ports allowed in sea Scipio power,

Africanus

Rome's

competitive

advantage

gained in the First Punic War, against Carthage.

Despite Rome's

command of the seas, this marked the first time that sea power as a competitive manner. advantage Against was effectively applied in an and

offensive

Carthage's

now-inferior

fleet

battle-weary troops, with supply lines from Sicily and recently conquered Spain, Roman sea power as a competitive advantage

spelled impending doom for the Carthaginians. The battle at Zama marked the first and only time Scipio and Hannibal faced each other. For the first time, Hannibal was After Hannibal's

at a considerable disadvantage in cavalry.
53

de Beer, Hannibal, p. 280.

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cavalry was driven off by Masinissa's Numidian cavalry, Scipio closed the gaps in his line. fighting became desperate, and According to de Beer, "[t]he Laelius and Masinissa, having

driven the Carthaginian cavalry from the field, now came back and charged into the flanks and read of the wreck of Hannibal's army. The battle was irretrievably lost."54 Dorey and D.R. Dudley, in Rome Against Carthage,

T.A.

provide a succinct explanation of how, despite the Carthaginian defeat on land at Zama, other factors prevailed:
It may seem a paradox to assert that it was Roman sea-power that defeated Hannibal. at Zama would scarcely agree. Roman sea-power Italy that from Those who fought

But it was respect for his strategy of

conditioned Spain; it was

invading

Roman

sea-power

that prevented adequate reinforcements from reaching him in southern Italy; it was that same sea-power that made it impossible for him to concert and

offensive against Rome with the power of Macedon.55

Finally, it was that same Roman sea power which allowed Rome to invade northern Africa and defeat Carthage.

THE THIRD PUNIC WAR

54 55

Ibid., p. 289. Dorey and Dudley, Rome Against Carthage, p. 152.

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“Fifty-two years after the peace treaty of 201 B.C., the third This war time broke the out between were Rome and

Carthage. matched.

contestants

unevenly

Rome was by now the dominant power in the Carthage commanded no more than Once war had

Mediterranean world.

the resources of a powerful city state.

begun, a Roman victory was inevitable, and in the end Carthage was totally destroyed.”56

In

149

B.C.,

a

Carthaginian

army

under

the

command

of

Carthalo and Hasdrubal invaded Numidia, which violated the peace treaty of 201 B.C. and gave the opportunity for Rome to

intervene militarily against Carthage and gain decisive control of northern Africa. Rome took an army of 80,000 infantry and

4,000 cavalry, larger than any previous Roman invasion force.57 The result, of course, was a foregone conclusion. By 146 B.C.,

Rome had besieged Carthage and physically destroyed the city. The result that is most important to us, of course, is the sustained ability of Rome to use its dominant sea power across the Mediterranean for invasion forces and resupply missions. It

would be stretching to conclude that sea power was the decisive factor in this third and final conflict. already assured before the war even began.
56 57

Roman victory was However, the key

Ibid., p. 153. Ibid., p. 160.

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point is that certainly the influence of sea power was important and hastened the ultimate collapse of Carthage.

CONCLUSION The goal of this paper has been to explain, first of all, how the outcome of the First Punic War, which resulted in

decisive Roman sea power, played an important role in the Second Punic War. Command of the seas thus gave Rome an important tool The

in terms of a "competitive advantage" against Carthage.

concept of competitive advantage, as a means of understanding the war's outcome, was explained and applied as tool of

analysis, or measure of effectiveness. sought to demonstrate that Rome's

Furthermore, this paper was due to the

survival

exploitation of this competitive advantage. The final conclusion of this paper is to resolve that Roman sea power was in fact the decisive factor in rendering the war's outcome. Based on Roman innovation in a time of crisis,

Rome gained an important tool (the corvus) which effectively neutralized Carthaginian command of the sea for a time

sufficient to develop successful naval tactics.

The result of

The First Punic War saw Rome seize command of the seas from Carthage through the achievement of competitive advantage. The power by Second Punic War demonstrated Rome’s the influence of sea

understanding

how

newly-gained

competitive

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advantage was successfully applied to war-fighting.

As it has

been shown, the choice of Hannibal’s route (and its subsequent resupply missions) and Roman invasion of northern Africa were directly suggests linked what to the this competitive outcome advantage. would have J.H. been Thiel given

likely

Carthaginian, rather than Roman, command of the seas. liberally (given the circumstances) seems appropriate:
For what would have been the end, if Carthage instead of Rome had commanded the sea? Rome Spain had not been able to In other words, if an offensive made battle in his of

To quote

launch

and

consequently in Italy at

Hasdrubal the time of

had the

appearance

Cannae instead of in 207, when it was too late, if at the same time Philip had landed considerable forces in Italy and Carthage had found ample opportunity of providing Hannibal directly by sea with all he

wanted, and if - again last, but not least - she had profited by her naval supremacy to wrest Sicily and Sardinia from the Romans and starve Italy by doing so? the There is but one answer: Rome wouldn’t have had slightest chance of winning the war, on the

contrary she would have lost it within half the time. This means that in reality naval supremacy decisively contributed to the Roman victory, though in a

somewhat latent way; the maxim that he wins who has the
58

sea

is

certainly

applicable

to

this

war.58

Thiel, Studies, p. 186.

THE INFLUENCE [Emphasis added]

OF

SEA POWER

ON THE

PUNIC WARS SCHEARER 24

The

Third

Punic

War,

as

we

have

seen,

was

of

little

military and/or naval importance given the lopsided nature of the conflict. The result was the ultimate destruction of

Carthage. Thiel was speaking directly about The Second Punic War. But it is appropriate to extend his analysis to the Punic Wars in general. Given the evidence, it can be reasonably concluded

that the influence of sea power as a competitive advantage was the decisive factor in the struggle between Rome and Carthage. The Greek victory over the Persians firmly established the place of Greece in the history of Western civilization. defense at Thermopylae, Bradford’s “Battle for The gallant the West,”

defined this conflict.

Likewise, the Roman triumph over the It was defined advantage,

Carthaginians did the same for Rome’s influence. by influence of sea power as a

competitive

particularly in The Second Punic War, which ultimately made this possible.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Bradford, Ernle. Thermopylae: The Battle for the West. NY: Da Capo Press, 1993. Casson, Lionel. The Ancient Mariners. Princeton, NJ: Princeton

THE INFLUENCE

OF

SEA POWER

ON THE

PUNIC WARS SCHEARER 25

University Press, 1991. de Beer, Sir Gavin. Hannibal: Challenging Rome's Supremacy. NY: The Viking Press, 1969. Dodge, Theodore A. Hannibal: A History of the Art of the Carthaginians and Romans Down to the Battle 168 B.C., With a Detailed Account of The Second NY: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1891, Vols. 1 & War Among of Pydna, Punic War. 2.

Dorey, T.A., and D.R. Dudley. Rome Against Carthage. London: Secker & Warburg, 1971. Lazenby, J.F. The First Punic War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996. Porter, Michael E. “The Competitive Advantage of Nations.” Harvard Business Review, March-April 1990. Rankov, Boris. "The Second Punic War at Sea." in The Second Punic War: A Reappraisal. eds. Tim Cornell, Boris Rankov, and Philip Sabin. London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1996. Starr, Chester G. The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History. NY: Oxford University Press, 1989. Thiel, J.H. Studies on the History of Roman Sea Power in Republican Times. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co., 1946.

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