After conquering the Italian peninsula, Rome began to build an empire around the Mediterranean Sea. This expansion brought great riches but created conflicts that divided Roman society and weakened and finally crushed the republic. Out of the rubble, however, rose the Roman empire and a new chapter in Rome's long history.
Praetorian Guards were skilled and loyal bodyguards who protected generals during the time of the late republic. Later, they became an elite guard for Roman emperors.
Rome's conquest of the Italian peninsula brought it into contact with Carthage, a city-state on the coast of North Africa. Settled by Phoenician traders and people from North Africa, Carthage ruled over a vast trading empire that stretched across North Africa and the western Mediterranean, including parts of Spain. As Rome spread into the Mediterranean, conflict between these two powers became inevitable.
Between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C., Rome fought three wars against Carthage. They are called the Punic Wars, from Punicus, the Latin word for Phoenician. In the First Punic War, Rome defeated Carthage and won the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia.
The Carthaginians sought revenge in the Second Punic War. In 218 B.C., the Carthaginian general Hannibal (HA nuh buhl) led his army, including dozens of war elephants, on an epic march across the Pyrenees, through France, and over the Alps into Italy. The trek cost Hannibal one-third of his army. But Hannibal still managed to surprise the Romans, who had expected an invasion from the south.