Greco-Punic Wars
Part of Guardians
Date 600-275 B.C.
Location Sicily
Result Carthaginian Victory
  • Annexation of Sicily to Carthage
Carthage standard Kingdom of Carthage Sicilian Greek City-States
  • Syracuse
  • Zancle
  • Acragras

Vergina Sun - Golden Larnax Macedonian Empire

Aeacid Kingdom

Commanders and leaders
Carthage standard Hamilcar Mago

Carthage standard Bomilcar

Dionysus of Syracuse

Vergina Sun - Golden Larnax Alexander the Great
Pyrrhus of Epirus

The Greco-Punic Wars were a series of conflicts between the Kingdom of Carthage and the Greek city-states of Magna Graecia, primarily over the ownership of the island of Sicily. Carthage desired control over all of Sicily with the goal of greater economic potential in the Western Mediterranean and new ports with which it could expand its naval power. Conversely, the Greek cities desired to maintain their independence.

For the first few centuries neither side was able to gain the advantage completely over the other. This began to change when the Greeks decisively defeated the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera in 480 B.C., killing the Carthaginian king Hamilcar and setting back the Carthaginian military for many years. Carthage would spend the next few decades recovering from Himera, only being able to mount an occasional raid or small expedition into the Greek sections of Sicily.

Over time, the changing political situation in Greece began to change and directly impact the fate of the colonies, namely the rise of Macedon as a hegemonic power. Its new king, Alexander III, desired to unite all the Greeks, including the colonies of southern Italy and Sicily, into a single domain with which he could conquer the powerful eastern empires of Lydia and Persia. Alexander would launch an expedition in 334, quickly sweeping aside any opposition and driving back punitive Carthaginian incursions. This conquest unified Magna Graecia for the first time, yet also weakened the city-states to the point where they relied upon mainland Greece for effective protection.

The sudden death of Alexander the Great and the subsequent collapse of his Empire made such protection uncertain, especially as the Aeacid governors who inherited Epirus and Magna Graecia focused much of their early efforts in uniting Greece in a bit to restore the Empire. Carthage would take advantage of these distractions, pushing further and further against Greek territory while the Aeacids were unable to adequately respond. Because of this, Carthage would successfully defeat the Greeks at the Battle of Himera River in 316, finally conquering Syracuse and the rest of Sicily for themselves.

Frustrated with this disaster and facing problems of their own from Samnites and Romans, the city-states of southern Italy issues an ultimatum to the Aeacid King Pyrrhus, threatening to break ties and cease any financial or martial support to his campaigns if he did not come to Italy, defend them, and liberate Sicily. With little choice, Pyrrhus departed from Greece in 280 B.C. and reached the city of Taras. He was soon able to beat back the Romans for a short time, allowing him to move on to Sicily and almost drive the Carthaginians into the sea. Syracuse was liberated and all of Magna Graecia hoped that Pyrrhus would destroy the two cities that consistently threatened their safety.

While Pyrrhus was successful at driving the Romans and Carthaginians back, he was unable to completely defeat their forces while at heavy loss to his own. Eventually, at the culmination of his campaign at the Battle of Kroton in 275 B.C., he suffered too many casualties to fight another costly battle and still hope to win. As such, he withdrew shortly afterwards, hoping that the Romans and Carthaginians were too weak to take advantage of his departure. With his retreat, Carthage was able to return and soon defeated the Greek cities on Sicily yet again and take control of the island, which it would hold until the outcome of the Sicily War in 260 B.C.

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