General Summary of Roman History, 264BC-14AD

Page 1 of 4 — When Rome and Carthage first went to war in 264 BC, few would have predicted that this arrogant newcomer – this Italian upstart with its strange semi-democratic form of government ‘would one day rule an empire stretching from Britain to Persia.’ Yet even in those early days the actions of the Republic gave signs of what was to come: entering the First Punic War, against an enemy with hundreds of years of naval experience, Rome did not have a single creditable warship to its name. Within a few years, however, it not only raised a fleet of over two hundred ships, defeating the Carthaginians in more than one battle, but lost this entire force to storms – and immediately replaced it with another. This was the determination that was to make Rome the master of the known world. The Romans did not stop fighting the Carthaginians when they drove them out of Sicily, or even, fifty years later, when they defeated a Carthaginian army at the doorstep of Carthage itself, during the Second Punic War. The Republic ceased to regard Carthage as an enemy only when it had been razed to the ground and, as the (symbolically appropriate but untrue) story goes, its foundations plowed with salt to make sure nothing could ever grow there again.

This was the nature of the Romans ‘anything that they perceived as a threat was violently assaulted until it was not just defeated but rendered incapable of ever wielding any political or military power again.’ So incomprehensible to the Romans was the concept of defeat that in 216 BC, a few days after the largest military defeat in Roman history, with the Carthaginian general Hannibal’s huge army just outside walls of Rome, the Roman Senate refused to even see the envoy sent to negotiate a peace treaty. The Romans simply did not understand the concept of defeat; for them, there was victory and death; nothing existed in between. Their policy towards other states reflected this; cities that opened their gates to the legions were often granted citizenship or allied status, but those that resisted had their populations massacred and sold into slavery; even the dogs in the city were not spared by the legionnaires. These were the people who the Carthaginians were unfortunate enough to be up against in 264 BC.

By the death of Augustus less than three hundred years later ‘the end of the period in which Rome: Total War is set ‘ Rome had spread from its heartland in Italy to encompass most of Spain, Gaul (modern-day France), Sicily, Illyricum (modern-day Yugoslavia), Greece, Cyprus, eastern Turkey, Armenia, parts of Persia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa. With a great deal of oversimplification, this window can be divided into three major sections: first, the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, that lasted from 264 to 146 BC; secondly, the period between the Punic Wars and the dictatorship of Sulla; and finally the dying days of the Republic, from the authoritarian rule of Sulla to Augustus, the first Emperor.