Online Encyclopedia

PUNIC WARS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 649 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PUNIC WARS, a name specially appropriated to the wars between Rome and Carthage in the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. The origin of these conflicts is to be sought in the position which Rome acquired about 275 B.C. as suzerain and protector of all Italy. Her new obligation to safeguard the peninsula against foreign interference made it necessary that she should not allow the neighbouring island of Sicily to fall into the hands of a strong and expansive power. Carthage, on the other hand, had long been anxious to conquer Sicily and so to complete the chain of island posts by which she ' controlled the western Mediterranean. First Punic War (264–241 B.c.').—The proximate cause of the first outbreak was a crisis in the city of Messana, commanding the straits between Italy and Sicily. A band of Campanian mercenaries, which had forcibly esablished itself within the town and was being hard pressed in 264 by Hiero II. of Syracuse, applied for help both to Rome and Carthage and thus brought a force from either power upon the scene. The Carthaginians, arriving first, occupied Messana and effected a reconciliation with Hiero. The Roman commander nevertheless persisted in throwing troops into the city, and by seizing the person of the Carthaginian admiral during a parley induced him to withdraw his garrison. The Romans thus won an important strategic post, but their aggression was met by a declaration of war from Carthage and Syracuse. Operations began with a joint attack upon Messana, which the Romans easily repelled. In 263 they advanced with a considerable force into Hiero's territory and induced him to seek peace and alliance with them. Having thus secured their foothold on the island they set themselves to wrest it completely from Carthage. In 262 they besieged and captured the enemy's base at Agrigentum, and proved that Punic mercenary troops could not stand before the infantry of the legions. But they made little impression upon the Carthaginian fortresses in the west of the island and upon the towns of the interior which mostly sided against them. Thus in the following campaigns their army was practically brought to a standstill. In 26o the war entered upon a new phase. Convinced that they could gain no serious advantage so long as the Carthaginians controlled the sea and communicated freely with their island possessions, the Romans built their first large fleet of standard battleships. At Mylae, off the north Sicilian coast, their admiral C. Duilius defeated a Carthaginian squadron of superior manoeuvring capacity by a novel application of grappling and 1 The chronology here given is the traditional one, but recent researches tend to show that many events have been antedated by one year. Saturday (1714) and Swift's Dialogue between Mad Mullinix and Timothy (1728). The older Punchinello was far less restricted in his actions and circumstances than his modern successor. He fought with allegorical figures representing want and weariness as well as with his wife and with the police, was on intimate terms with the patriarchs and the seven champions of Christendom, sat on the lap of the queen of Sheba, had kings and dukes for his companions, and cheated the Inquisition as well as the common hangman. Powell seems to have introduced a trained pig which danced a minuet with Punch, and the French (among whom Punch is now usually styled Guignol, originally a puppet hailing from Lyons) having occasionally employed a cat in the place of the dog Toby, whose origin is somewhat uncertain. A typical version of the modern play, with illustrations, was published by Payne Collier and Cruikshank in 1828 (3rd ed., 1844). (R. M. W.)
End of Article: PUNIC WARS
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PUNDIT (Hindi pandit; Skr. pandita)
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