How Many People Died in the First Punic War?

March 18, 2024

How many people died in the first punic war?

The First Punic War lasted 23 years and saw the demise of Carthage, the leading maritime empire of the western Mediterranean. It was a time of triumph and tragedy, heroism and sacrifice. But it also revealed the utter futility of warfare.

When the conflict began in 264 BCE, Carthage controlled the most extensive naval empire of the ancient world, while Rome was an emerging continental power. It was sparked by a dispute over control of the island of Sicily. The war would see intense fighting on the island and at sea, in North Africa and in Corsica and Sardinia, with both sides enjoying successes and suffering near-catastrophic defeats.

Eventually the Romans gained complete control of the island of Sicily. The ensuing peace treaty of Lutatius (241 BCE) saw Carthage pay vast reparations and lose Sicily, Lipari and Drepanum to Rome as a foreign province.

The total number of Roman casualties from the first punic war is estimated to be between tens and hundreds of thousands, depending on the source. The same applies to the numbers of Carthaginians killed or enslaved. This figure is considerably higher than that of any other battle in the history of ancient warfare. During the battle of Cannae alone it is estimated that a fifth of the Roman army was killed or captured. Nevertheless, the victory in the First Punic War was an important step towards establishing Rome as the dominant military, political and economic force in the western Mediterranean.

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