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Early Treaties Between Rome And Carthage Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History 241 BC to 146 BC Notes

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The Early Treaties between Rome and Carthage In his third book Polybius describes no less than five treaties that he confirms were signed between Rome and Carthage, dating from the beginnings of the Roman republic to the period immediately following the first Punic war, and a sixth treaty, that of Philenus, which he denies the existence of on the grounds that he was unable to find record of it preserved in the temple of the Aediles. These treaties give a good impression of how relations developed between these two powers in Mediterranean over a long expanse of their mutual history and also of what was at stake during the Punic wars. The first treaty is dated by Polybius to 509/508 BC, the very first year of the Roman Republic during the consulship of Lucius Junius Brutus and Marcus Horatius. There is every reason to trust this dating, although Brutus is perhaps not a historical figure, because of the author's statement regarding the difficulty of the archaic Latin he found on the inscription, which in many ways reflects the type of language found on the fifth century fibula found in Praeneste. The treaty was almost certainly written in a Punic style with typical Carthaginian terms, as can be seen from its resemblance to a treaty between Hannibal and Philip the fifth preserved from the year 215 BC, which indicates that at this point in time Carthage was the dominant power in the Western Mediterranean since it was for her to dictate terms to the Romans. This certainly makes sense because Rome was, after all, a fledgling city state and Carthage had been established for many years and had already traded extensively with Etruscan towns in Western Italy, for example in the town of Pyrgi. It would have benefited the Romans because it gave the newly independent Republic some international validity and recognition but also essential for the Carthaginians because it, as can be seen from the terms, regulated the behaviour of this much smaller power within her larger trading empire; many treaties of this kind with many cities would require far less military force to control such an empire which was based more on economic factors than political dominance. It has also been noted by Livy (2.9.6) that there was famine in Rome in 508 therefore they would have needed a treaty of this kind to be allowed by the Carthaginians to import grain from Sicily, an area which was then still dominated by them. These then are the terms of that first treaty:1. The Romans and her allies shall not sail beyond the Fair Promontory unless driven there by a storm or force and in this eventuality they can only stay for five days and take away as much resources as required to make repairs to their ship and to perform sacrifices.

2. Any sales that take place in Africa or Sardinia shall be done in the presence of herald or town clerk and will be secured by the state.

3. Romans shall enjoy equal rights in Carthaginian Sicily.

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