The Third Punic War was fought between Rome and Carthage from 149 BC to 146 BC. It was the final war between Rome and Carthage. It saw the destruction of the Carthaginian Empire. Following this War, the Romans had control over the Mediterranean.
After the Second Punic War, Rome had been busy gaining control over the eastern Mediterranean with their Greek allies.
In 151 BC, the Carthaginians had finally paid back their large debt of 200 silver talents to Rome. The Roman Senate believed that they still controlled Carthage even though this fee was now paid.
Rome was growing and the Romans had to find new ways to feed their population. They became interested in expanding their lands, especially around Carthage, which was in North Africa.
They also had territories in Spain and around the Mediterranean Sea. Carthage had already lost many territories to Rome in the First Punic War and the Second Punic War.
How did the war start?
Rome’s Numidian allies invaded Carthage’s borders in North Africa and began a war. This war was lost by the Carthaginians. After this, the Carthaginians were really beginning to suffer. They now had to pay a debt to the Numidians for fifty years!
In any case, there was another problem for Carthage. The Romans were not pleased that the Carthaginians had gone to war without their permission.
In 149 BC, Rome declared war on Carthage. The Carthaginians were not in much of a position to fight. They made promises to Rome. They tried to calm the situation by offering 200 children from good families as hostages to Rome. They must have been very desperate not to go to war again.
This was not enough for Rome. The consuls demanded that Carthage should hand over weapons. The consuls said that they had to move further inland and that their city would be burned. This was a step too far for the Carthaginians. They decided to go to war with Rome and the Third Punic War started.
The attack on Utica
Rome launched an attack on the Carthaginian city of Utica (located in what is now Tunisia). The Carthaginians were now greatly outnumbered. The Romans had 80,000 soldiers and a cavalry of 4,000. Meanwhile, the Carthaginians only had 30,000 soldiers.
The Carthaginians had to try taking the Roman Army by surprise. For example, one night when the Romans were collecting firewood around the Lake of Tunis, the Carthaginians launched an attack on the Romans. The Carthaginians also set fire to Roman ships.
Carthage remained strong and held off the Roman siege from 149 BC to 146 BC. Finally, in 146 BC, led by Scipio Aemilianus, the Romans completely destroyed Carthage.
This time, it was a clear Roman victory and Carthage suffered many losses. Up to 250,000 men were killed and only 50,000 survivors were enslaved. These survivors were sold off into slavery. Many people had died of starvation during the siege and the rest were killed by the Romans.
The city was completely burnt and destroyed by the Romans. The Romans now controlled all the territories that had been owned by Carthage. Utica, where the Third Punic War had started, became the capital of the Roman territories in Africa.
Rome had overtaken Carthage once and for all as the greatest power of the Mediterranean.