This video is part of a series of 6 animated maps.

View series: Rome and its Empire

An example of an animated map

Carthage and the Punic Wars

This map is part of a series of 6 animated maps showing the history of Rome and its Empire.

The city of Carthage was founded by the Phoenicians probably around the mid-8th century BC.

In the early 3rd century BC, the city controlled:

- Most of the African coast from today’s Gulf of Sidra to Gibraltar;

- The southeast region of the Iberian Peninsula;

- The western Mediterranean islands, except for the eastern regions of Sicily where the Greek colonies of Syracuse and Messina offered strong resistance.

For two centuries, Rome and Carthage were linked by treaties that recognized Carthage’s dominance in maritime trade in the western Mediterranean, but limited its activities on the Italian peninsula.

In 264 BC, Rome launched a war against Carthage for control of Sicily. The Roman army was victorious on land and sea in the early phases, but was beaten during a landing in Africa.

For many years, the war continued without a clear victory for either side. The conflict ended with Rome’s naval victory in the Aegadian Islands. The Romans took control of Sicily, and later of Sardinia and Corsica.

War broke out again in 218 BC. Setting out from the Iberian Peninsula, the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, led his army into Gaul, crossed the Alps and marched into northern Italy.

During a campaign that lasted 13 years, Hannibal won a number of major military victories, among them, the battles at Lake Trasimene and Cannae. Nevertheless, he was unable to take the city of Rome and found himself increasingly isolated.

- In 209 BC, the Romans took Carthago Nova, today’s Cartagena, and established their rule in the Iberian Peninsula.

- In 207 BC, Carthaginian reinforcements from the Iberian Peninsula were trounced at the river Metauro.

- In 204 BC, the Roman general, Scipio, led an expedition against Carthage from Sicily. Hannibal, forced to return to the African coast, was beaten at the Battle of Zama.

Carthage lost its status as a Mediterranean power, but later the city experienced a strong commercial renaissance.  

This new wealth was a source of concern for Rome, and its generals set up a three-year siege around the city. After the final assault, Carthage was systematically destroyed and the territory was pronounced “accursed”. The Romans then created the Province of Africa, with Utica as its capital.


Just over a century later, the Emperor Augustus allowed Carthage to be rebuilt, with the name Colonia Julia Carthago. The city quickly became prosperous again and emerged as an important centre for Christians.