Third Punic War

Third Punic War
Part of the Punic Wars
a map showing the defences of the city of Carthage
The defences of the city of Carthage
Date149–146 BC
Carthaginian territory in what is now Tunisia

Roman victory

Rome Carthage
Commanders and leaders
  • 36,000–46,000 infantry
  • 4,000 cavalry
  • 20,000 or more soldiers
  • Armed civilians
Casualties and losses

The Third Punic War (149–146 BC) was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between Carthage and Rome. The war was fought entirely within Carthaginian territory, in what is now northern Tunisia. When the Second Punic War ended in 201 BC one of the terms of the peace treaty prohibited Carthage from waging war without Rome's permission. Rome's ally, King Masinissa of Numidia, exploited this to repeatedly raid and seize Carthaginian territory with impunity. In 149 BC Carthage sent an army, under Hasdrubal, against Masinissa, the treaty notwithstanding. The campaign ended in disaster as the Battle of Oroscopa ended with a Carthaginian defeat and the surrender of the Carthaginian army. Anti-Carthaginian factions in Rome used the illicit military action as a pretext to prepare a punitive expedition.

Later in 149 BC a large Roman army landed at Utica in North Africa. The Carthaginians hoped to appease the Romans, but despite the Carthaginians surrendering all of their weapons, the Romans pressed on to besiege the city of Carthage. The Roman campaign suffered repeated setbacks through 149 BC, only alleviated by Scipio Aemilianus, a middle-ranking officer, distinguishing himself several times. A new Roman commander took over in 148 BC and fared equally badly. At the annual election of Roman magistrates in early 147 BC the public support for Scipio was so great that the usual age restrictions were lifted to allow him to be appointed consul and commander in Africa.

Scipio's term commenced with two Carthaginian successes, but he tightened the siege and started to build a large mole to prevent supplies from getting into Carthage via blockade runners. The Carthaginians had partially rebuilt their fleet, and it sortied, to the Romans' surprise. After an indecisive engagement, the Carthaginians mismanaged their withdrawal and lost many ships. The Romans then built a large brick structure in the harbour area that dominated the city wall. Once this was complete, Scipio led a strong force that stormed the camp of Carthage's field army and forced most of the towns and cities still supporting Carthage to surrender. In the spring of 146 BC the Romans launched their final assault and, over six days, systematically destroyed the city and killed its inhabitants; only on the last day did they take prisoners, 50,000 of them, who were sold into slavery. The conquered Carthaginian territories became the Roman province of Africa, with Utica as its capital. It was a century before the site of Carthage was rebuilt as a Roman city.

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