||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 8 to 10
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||indemnity, alarming, following, onslaught, duty-bound, sacked, showdown, untimely, fateful, free-agent, hailed, disposal, turf, onset, envoy, statesman
||Roman Republic, Carthaginian Empire, Mediterranean Sea, First Punic War, Punic War, Hamilcar Barca, North Africa, Sicily Island, Hannibal Barca, Ebro River
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By Vickie Chao
1 Back in the 3rd century B.C., the Roman Republic was expanding at an alarming rate. So was the Carthaginian Empire (or Carthage for short) on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. As the two regional powerhouses rushed to build up their presence, a conflict was bound to happen. The first showdown between the Romans and the Carthaginians, called the First Punic War, broke out in 264 B.C. and lasted for 23 years. In the end, the Carthaginians lost. They ceded control over the island of Sicily to the Roman Republic and paid it a substantial amount of indemnity.
2 Five years after the conclusion of the First Punic War, a forceful Carthaginian general by the name of Hamilcar Barca decided to push his country's territory beyond the confines of North Africa. To make up for the loss of Sicily Island, he wanted to develop a military base in Hispania. Originally, he planned to take only his armies with him. But at the last moment, he took his eldest son, Hannibal Barca, too. Why did he change his mind? According to legend, when Hannibal saw Hamilcar making a sacrifice to the gods right before leaving for Hispania, he asked to join the mission. Hamilcar agreed, but under one condition. He wanted the little boy to swear that he would make the Roman Republic his enemy for life. Hannibal, who was only about nine years old at the time, took the oath and never broke it.
3 Hamilcar, by all accounts, was a great general. Under his leadership, the Carthaginians quickly gained footholds in Hispania. During his nine-year stay there, he fought numerous battles and kept pushing his troops northward. After he got killed in combat, his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, became the new military chief. He wanted peace and even signed a treaty with the Romans. Both sides agreed to draw a line along the Ebro River, with the Carthaginians holding most of the regions south of it and the Romans north. For the next seven years or so, the two archenemies tolerated each other, more or less. This delicate balance finally tilted after a Celt assassinated Hasdrubal in 221 B.C. Upon Hasdrubal's untimely death, the Carthaginian armies in Hispania hailed Hannibal as their commander. This young military chief decided to provoke the Romans. He knew that Saguntum, an independent city-state on his side of the Ebro River, had a very good relationship with the Roman Republic. He wanted to use that to his advantage. In 219 B.C., he launched a series of attacks against Saguntum and barricaded it for nearly eight months. During the siege and the looting afterwards, the Roman Republic protested fiercely. It sent an envoy to see Hannibal. It also sent an ambassador to Carthage, demanding the Carthaginian government to hand Hannibal over. When both meetings went nowhere, the Romans declared war in 218 B.C. That war was called the Second Punic War.
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