For 15 years, Hannibal and his army moved across Italy, winning battle after battle.

However, the Carthaginians failed to capture Rome itself. In the end, the Romans outflanked Hannibal by sending an army to attack Carthage. Hannibal returned to defend his homeland, where the Romans defeated him at last. Under the peace terms ending the war, Carthage had to give up all its lands outside of Africa and pay a huge tribute, or tax, to Rome. Victory gave Rome mastery of the Mediterranean.

Carthage Is Destroyed

Despite Hannibal's defeat, many Romans still feared their old rival. They wanted revenge for the terrible destruction that Hannibal's army had brought to Italy. For years, the Roman senator Cato ended his every speech declaring, “Carthage must be destroyed.”

Finally, in the Third Punic War, Rome completely destroyed the 700-year-old city of Carthage. Survivors were killed or sold into slavery. The Romans poured salt over the earth so that nothing would grow there again. Carthage and the region surrounding it became the new Roman province of Africa.

Ruler of the Mediterranean World

“The Carthaginians fought for their own preservation and the sovereignty of Africa,” observed a Greek witness to the fall of Carthage; “the Romans, for supremacy and world domination.” Like other ancient powers, the Romans followed a policy of imperialism, or establishing control over foreign lands and peoples. While Rome fought Carthage in the west, it was also expanding into the eastern Mediterranean. There, Romans confronted the Hellenistic rulers who had divided up the empire of Alexander the Great.

Illustration of a battle with soldiers on foot charging before a line of elephants, ridden by soldiers with bows and arrows.

In the second Punic War, Hannibal's army used elephants to battle the Romans.

Sometimes to defend Roman interests, sometimes simply for plunder, Rome launched a series of wars in the area. One by one, Macedonia, Greece, and parts of Asia Minor surrendered and became Roman provinces. Other regions, such as Egypt, allied with Rome. By 133 B.C., Roman power extended from Spain to Egypt. Truly, the Romans were justified in calling the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum, or “Our Sea.”

Conquests Impact Rome

Conquests and greatly expanded trade brought incredible riches into Rome. Generals, officials, and traders amassed fortunes from loot, taxes, and commerce. A new class of wealthy Romans emerged. They built lavish mansions and filled them with luxuries imported from the east. Wealthy families bought up huge farming estates, called latifundia(LA tuh FUHN dee uh).

With every new conquest, Rome acquired more slaves. Some were well-educated Greeks or other highly skilled people. Romans brought enslaved Greeks into their homes as teachers for their children. Unskilled slaves, however, faced brutally harsh lives.

The growth of slavery greatly changed Rome. The widespread use of slave labor hurt small farmers, who were unable to produce food as cheaply as the latifundia could. The farmers' problems grew when huge quantities of grain pouring in from the conquered lands drove down grain prices. Many farmers fell into debt and had to sell their land.

In despair, landless farmers flocked to Rome and other cities looking for jobs. There, they joined an already restless class of unemployed people. As the gap between rich and poor widened, angry mobs began to riot. In addition, the new wealth led to increased corruption. Greed and self-interest replaced the virtues of the early republic, such as simplicity, hard work, and devotion to duty.

Attempts at Reform Bring Violence

Two young plebeians, brothers named Tiberius (ty BIHR ee uhs) and Gaius Gracchus (GAY us GRAK us), were among the first to attempt reform. Tiberius, elected a tribune in 133 B.C., called on the state to distribute land to poor farmers. Gaius, elected a tribune ten years later, sought a wider range of reforms, including the use of public funds to buy grain to feed the poor.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments