2. Beginnings of Rome
3. Institutions of Early Rome
4. Etruscan Kings of Rome
5. Reorganization of Kingdom

6. Struggle against Kingship
7. Struggle for Economic Rights
8. Struggle for Equal Laws
9. Struggle for Political Equality
10. Conquest of Latium
11. Conquest of Central Italy
12. Conquest of Southern Italy
13. Supremacy of Rome in Italy
14. First Punic War
15. Second Punic War
16. Conquests in East
17. Reduction of Roman Conquests
18. Rome as a World Power
19. Times of Gracchi
20. Times of Marius and Sulla
21. Times of Pompey and Caesar
22. Times of Antony and Octavius

23. Reign of Augustus
24. Julian Emperors
25. Flavian Emperors
26. Five Good Emperors
27. Decline of Empire
28. Reorganization of Empire
29. Extinction of Western Empire
Outlines of Roman History
by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901).



Table of contents




Carthage and Rome, I.Operations of the First Punic War, II.Events Following the War (B.C. 241-218), III.


   Beginning of Foreign Conquests.—The ambition and the resources of Rome were not exhausted with the conquest of Italy. It was but a step from the Greek cities of Italy to the Greek cities of Sicily. But when Rome ventured to cross the Sicilian Strait, she was drawn into a struggle which was not ended until she was mistress of the Mediterranean. In passing beyond the limits of her own peninsula, she became one of the great world powers. The strength which she had acquired in her wars with the Latins and Etruscans and Samnites, she was now to use in the greater conflicts with Carthage and Macedonia and Syria.

   The Origin of Carthage.—The first foreign power with which Rome came in contact, outside of Italy, was Carthage. This city was originally a colony of Tyre, and had come to be the capital of a great commercial empire on the northern coast of Africa. The origin of Carthage, like that of Rome, is almost lost in the clouds of tradition. An old story tells us how Queen Dido was driven from Tyre and landed in Africa, as Aeneas did in Italy, with a band of fugitives. It is said that Dido purchased from the African princes as much land as an oxhide would cover; and cunningly cut the hide into thin strips and encircled enough land, upon which to found a city. Vergil has told us the romantic story of Dido and Aeneas, and the death of the queen. But all we really know of the origin of this city is that it was settled by Phoenicians from Tyre, and early acquired dominion over the native races of Africa, the Lydians and the Numidians.

   Government of Carthage.—When Carthage came into conflict with Rome, it had in some respects the same kind of government as the Roman republic. It had two chief magistrates (called suffetes), corresponding to the Roman consuls. It had a council of elders, called the “hundred,” which we might compare to the Roman senate. It had also an assembly something like the Roman comitia. But while the Carthaginian government had some outward similarity to the Roman, it was in its spirit very different. The real power was exercised by a few wealthy and prominent families. The Carthaginians, moreover, did not understand the Roman method of incorporating their subjects into the state; and hence did not possess a great body of loyal citizens, as did Rome. But one great advantage of the Carthaginian government was the fact that it placed the command of the army in the hands of a permanent able leader, and not in the hands of its civil magistrates, who were constantly changing as were the consuls at Rome.

   The Civilization of Carthage.—Carthage brought into the western Mediterranean the ideas and civilization which the Phoenicians had developed in the East. Her power was based upon trade and commercial supremacy. She had brought under her control the trading colonies of northern Africa and many of the Greek cities of Sicily. She was, in fact, the great merchant of the Mediterranean. She had grown wealthy and strong by buying and selling the products of the East and the West—the purple of Tyre, the frankincense of Arabia, the linen of Egypt, the gold of Spain, the silver of the Balearic Isles, the tin of Britain, and the iron of Elba. She had formed commercial treaties with the chief countries of the world. She coveted not only the Greek cities of Sicily, but the Greek cities of Italy as well. We can thus see how Rome and Carthage became rivals for the possession of the countries bordering upon the western Mediterranean Sea.

   Rome and Carthage Compared.—In comparing these two great rivals of the West, we might say that they were nearly equal in strength and resources. Carthage had greater wealth, but Rome had a better organization. Carthage had a more powerful navy, but Rome had a more efficient army. Carthage had more brilliant leaders, while Rome had a more steadfast body of citizens. The main strength of Carthage rested in her wealth and commercial resources, while that of Rome depended upon the character of her people and her well-organized political system. The greatness of the Carthaginians was shown in their successes, while the greatness of the Romans was most fully revealed in the dark hours of disaster and trial.


   Outbreak of the War in Sicily (B.C. 264).—The first conflict between Rome and Carthage, which is known as the first Punic1 war, began in Sicily; and really came to be a contest for the possession of that island. Sicily was at this time divided between three powers. (1) Carthage held all the western part of the island, with the important cities of Agrigentum on the south, Panormus on the north, and Lilybaeum at the extreme point. (2) The southeastern part of the island was under the control of the king of Syracuse, who ruled not only this city, but also some of the neighboring towns. (3) The northeastern corner of the island was in the possession of a body of Campanian soldiers, who had been in the service of the king of Syracuse, and who, on returning home, had treacherously seized the city of Messana.

   These Campanian mercenaries, who called themselves Mamertines, or Sons of Mars, murdered the inhabitants and ravaged the surrounding country. The king of Syracuse attacked them, laid siege to their city, and reduced them to such an extremity that they felt obliged to look for help. The choice lay between Rome and Carthage. They finally decided to call upon Rome for help. The Roman senate hesitated to help these robbers against Syracuse, which was a friendly power. But when the question was left to the assembly, the people fearing that Carthage would be called upon if they refused, it was decided to help the Mamertines, and thus prevent the Carthaginians from getting possession of this part of Sicily. In this way began the first Punic war.

   Capture of Messana and Agrigentum.—A Roman army, under Appius Claudius, was dispatched to Sicily, and gained a foothold upon the island. But the Mamertines, during the delay of the Romans, had already admitted a Carthaginian garrison into the city. This seemed to the Roman general to be a breach of faith. He accordingly invited the Carthaginian commander, Hanno, to a friendly conference, and then treacherously ordered him to be seized. Whereupon the latter, in order to regain his liberty, agreed to give up the city. Thus the Romans got possession of Messana. The king of Syracuse then formed an alliance with the Carthaginians to drive the Romans out of the island; but both their armies were defeated. When the Romans had thus shown their superiority, the king of Syracuse changed his policy and formed an alliance with the Romans to drive the Carthaginians out of the island. Town after town fell before the Roman army; and in the second year of the war, the important city of Agrigentum was captured, after a siege of seven months (B.C. 262).

   Rome becomes a Naval Power.—The Romans now learned that Carthage, to be overcome, must be met upon the sea, as well as upon the land. When the Carthaginian fleet first appeared, it recovered most of the coast cities which had been lost to the Romans. It ravaged the coasts of Italy, and by its command of the sea made it difficult for Rome to send fresh troops to Sicily. The Romans had, it is true, a few ships; but these were triremes, or ships with only three banks of oars, and were unable to cope with the great Carthaginian vessels, which were quinquiremes, or ships with five banks of oars. The Romans saw that they must either give up the war, or else build a fleet equal to that of the Carthaginians. Taking as a model a Carthaginian vessel which had been wrecked on the Italian shore, they constructed, it is said, a hundred vessels like it in sixty days. In the meantime their soldiers were trained into sailors by practicing the art of rowing upon rude benches built upon the land and arranged like the banks of a real vessel. The Romans knew that their soldiers were better than the Carthaginians in a hand-to-hand encounter. To maintain this advantage, they provided their ships with drawbridges which could be used in boarding the enemy’s vessels. Thus equipped with a fleet, Rome ventured upon the sea as a rival of the first naval power of the world.

   Victory of Duilius at Mylae (B.C. 260).—The new Roman fleet was put under the command of the consul Duilius. The Carthaginians were now plundering the northern coast of Sicily near Mylae. Without delay Duilius sailed to meet them. As the fleets came together, the Romans dropped their drawbridges upon the enemy’s ships and quickly boarded them. In the hand-to-hand encounter, the Romans proved their superiority. The Carthaginians were routed; and fifty of their vessels were either sunk or captured. This was a most decisive victory. The Romans had fought and gained their first great battle upon the sea. Duilius was given a magnificent triumph, and to commemorate the victory, a column was erected in the Forum, adorned with the beaks of the captured vessels (Columna Rostrata).

   Invasion, of Africa by Regulus, (B.C. 256).—Elated by this success, the Romans felt prepared to carry the war into Africa. With a still larger fleet, they defeated the Carthaginian squadron which attempted to bar their way on the southern coast of Sicily, off the promontory of Ecnomus. Two legions, under L. Manlius Vulso and Regulus, landed on the coast of Africa east of Carthage, and laid waste the country. So easily was this accomplished that the Romans decided that one consul, with his army, would be enough to finish the work in Africa. Vulso was therefore recalled, and Regulus remained. The Carthaginians attempted in vain to make peace; and in despair, it is said, even threw some of their children into the flames to propitiate their god Moloch. They then placed their army in the hands of a Spartan soldier named Xanthippus. This general defeated the Roman legions with great slaughter, and made Regulus a prisoner. A fleet was then sent from Italy to rescue the survivors, but this fleet on its return was wrecked in a storm. Thus ingloriously closed the war in Africa.

   The War Confined to Sicily (B.C. 255-241).—For several years after this, the war languished in Sicily. The long series of Roman disasters was relieved by the capture of Panormus on the northern coast, which was soon followed by a second victory over the Carthaginians at the same place. It is said that the Carthaginians, after this second defeat, desired an exchange of prisoners, and sent Regulus to the Roman senate to advocate their cause, under the promise that he would return if unsuccessful. But Regulus, it is said, persuaded the senate not to accept the offer of the Carthaginians; and then, in spite of the tears and entreaties of his friends, went back to Carthage. Whether this story is true or not, it illustrates the honor and patriotism of the true Roman.

   After the Roman victories at Panormus, the Carthaginians were pushed into the extreme western part of the island. The Romans then laid siege to Lilybaeum, the stronghold of the Carthaginian power. Failing to capture this place, the Roman consul, P. Claudius, determined to destroy the enemy’s fleet lying near Drepanum; but he was defeated with the loss of over ninety ships. The superstitious Romans believed that this defeat was due to the fact that Claudius had impiously disregarded the auguries; when the sacred chickens had refused to eat, he had in a fit of passion thrown them into the sea. The consul was recalled by the senate, and a dictator was appointed in his place. After the loss of other fleets by storms, and after fruitless campaigns against the great Carthaginian soldier, Hamilcar Barca, the Roman cause seemed a failure.

   Victory at the Aegates Islands (B.C. 241).—It is in the midst of such discouraging times as these that we are able to see the strong elements of the Roman character—patriotism, fortitude, and steadfast perseverance. With a loss of one sixth of their population and a vast amount of treasure, they still persisted in the attempt to conquer Sicily. Wealthy citizens advanced their money to build a new fleet. In this way two hundred ships were built and placed under the consul C. Lutatius Catulus. A decisive victory was gained at the Aegates Islands, off the western extremity of Sicily. The Carthaginians were unprepared for the terrible defeat which they suffered, and were obliged to sue for peace. They were obliged to give up Sicily; release all the Roman prisoners without ransom; and pay to the Romans 3,200 talents (about $4,000,000), within ten years. Thus ended the first Punic war, which had lasted for twenty-three years. During this time Rome had shown her ability to fight upon the sea and had fairly entered the lists as one of the great powers of the world. But this first contest with Carthage, severe as it was, was merely a preparation for the more terrible struggle which was yet to-come.


   Sicily becomes the First Roman Province.—In the interval between the first and second Punic wars, both Rome and Carthage sought to strengthen and consolidate their power. They knew that the question of supremacy was not yet decided, and sooner or later another contest must come. Rome found herself in possession of a new territory outside of Italy, which must be organized. She had already three kinds of territory: (1) the Roman domain (ager Romanus), where all were, generally speaking, full citizens; (2) the Latin colonies, in which the people had a part of the rights of citizens; and (3) the Italian land, in which the people were not citizens, but were half independent, having their own governments, but bound to Rome as allies in war. In Sicily a new system was introduced. The people were made neither citizens nor allies, but subjects. The land was generally confiscated, and the inhabitants were obliged to pay a heavy tribute. The whole island—except Syracuse, which remained independent—was governed by a praetor sent from Rome. By this arrangement Sicily became a “province”—which is another name for a conquered territory outside of Italy.

   Annexation of Sardinia and Corsica.—Besides Sicily, there were in the Mediterranean two other islands which seemed by nature to belong to Italy. These were Sardinia and Corsica. While Carthage was engaged in suppressing a revolt of her own soldiers, which is known as the “mercenary war” in Africa, Rome saw a favorable opportunity to get possession of Sardinia. Carthage protested against such an act; and Rome replied by demanding the cession of the island, and also the payment of a fine of 1200 talents (about $1,500,000). Carthage was obliged to submit to this unjust demand; but she determined to avenge herself in the future. As Sardinia came to her so easily, Rome proceeded to take Corsica also, and the two islands were erected into a second Roman province. Rome thus obtained possession of the three great islands of the western Mediterranean.

   Suppression of the Illyrian Pirates.—The attention of Rome was soon directed to the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. An appeal came from the Greek cities for protection against the pirates of the Adriatic. These pirates were the people of Illyricum, who made their living by plundering the ships and ravaging the coasts of their Greek neighbors. With a fleet of two hundred ships, Rome cleared the Adriatic Sea of these pirates. She then took the Greek cities under her protection; Rome thus obtained a foothold upon the eastern coast of the Adriatic, which brought her into friendly relations with Greece, and afterward into hostile relations with Macedonia.

   Conquest of Cisalpine Gaul.—As Rome began to be drawn into foreign wars, she became aware that her position at home could not be secure so long as the northern part of Italy remained unconquered. The Alps formed the natural boundary of Italy; and to this boundary she felt obliged to extend her power. She planted colonies upon the Gallic frontier, and in these towns made a large assignment of lands to her own citizens. The Gauls resented this as an encroachment upon their territory; they appealed to arms, invaded Etruria, and threatened Rome. The invaders were defeated and driven back, and the war was continued in the valley of the Po until the whole of Cisalpine Gaul was finally subdued. The conquered territory was secured by new colonies, and Rome was practically supreme to the Alps. Her people were made more devoted to her by the share which they received in the new land. Her dominions were now so well organized, and her authority so secure, that she felt prepared for another contest with Carthage.


Pelham, Bk. III., Ch. 1, “Rome and Carthage” (
Liddell, Ch. 28, “Events leading to the First Punic War” (1).
Arnold, Hist., Ch. 39, “Constitution and Power of Carthage” (2).
Mommsen, Vol. II., Bk. III., Ch. 1, “Carthage”; Ch. 2, “War concerning Sicily” (2).
Mommsen, abridged, Ch. 12, “Carthage”; Ch. 13, “First Punic War” (2).
Shuckburgh, Ch. 17, “Rome and Carthage” (1).
How and Leigh, Ch. 18, “First Punic War” (1).


   THE ROMAN NAVY.—Arnold, Hist., p. 428 (2); How and Leigh, pp. 141-143, 152 (1); Shuckburgh, pp. 237, 241 (1); Eschenburgh, p. 282 (8) ; Ramsay and Lanciani, pp. 453-458 (8); Guhl and Koner, pp. 253-264 (16); Harper’s Dict. Antiqq., “Navis” (8).

1 So called because the Latin word for Carthaginian is Punicus.

2 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the
Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.


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