How Was Rome Affected by the Punic Wars?

The Punic Wars brought about Rome’s vast increase in power and at same time a significant moral decline. From the introduction in my book The Death of Carthage:

“As warlike as they were, the Romans of the third century B.C. maintained certain principles that were gradually lost in the second century B.C.. The first of these was the notion that wars must be fought for just cause. In Livy’s account of the conference between Scipio and Hannibal, he has Scipio saying “Neither did our fathers make war respecting Sicily, nor we respecting Spain. In the former case the danger which threatened our allies, the Mamertines, and in the present the destruction of Saguntum, girded us with just and pious arms.

“The Second of these principles was fides, the notion of good faith. When a Roman gave his word he kept it. Romans believed that the Carthaginians were prone to trickery and that their word could not be trusted. They called Carthaginian deceit ‘Punic faith’

“In the following century, both of these principles fell into disuse. In 150 B.C., for example, the praetor of Ulterior Spain, Publius Sulpicius Galba offered to make a treaty with the Lusitanians, promising to settle them on good farmland. He then divided them into three groups, disarmed them and then ordered his legionaries to slaughter the defenseless warriors. In another example, Aemilius Paullus, after defeating King Perseus of Macedonia, destroyed seventy cities in Epirus, enslaving 150,000 inhabitants. Rome had not even been at war with Epirus.

“This moral decline is readily apparent in Rome’s conduct of the Third Punic War. According to Adrian Goldsworthy in his book The Fall of Carthage, ‘There is no doubt that the Third Punic war was deliberately provoked by the Romans, who had made a conscious decision to destroy their old enemy. Roman negotiators shamelessly exploited the Carthaginians’ willingness to grant concessions in their desire to avoid war with Rome, stealthily increasing their demands to force a conflict on a weakened enemy. It was a far worse display than any of the recorded examples of ‘Punic treachery.’

“Rome in the second century B.C. was far more prone than before to annihilate their enemies rather than subjugate them, Not only was Carthage destroyed, but Corinth and Numantia met similar fates.

“Moral decline is a slippery slope. The latter part of the second century B.C. saw the first massacres of Roman citizens by the minions of the aristocracy. In 131 B.C. the reformer Tiberius Gracchus was slain along with 300 followers, and in 121 B. C. his brother Gaius perished along with 3,000 followers. Things only got worse for Rome in the following century during which a long series of civil wars took place, ultimately culminating in one man rule, the Principate of Augustus.”

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