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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Rome: The Punic Wars - The First Punic War - Extra History - #1

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Hey everybody! Welcome to Extra History.

Im Dan, thats James, and this is Allison.

We usually make videos talking about games,

but today were here to talk about Rome.

A few months ago, we got a call from the folks at Creative Assembly,

probably one of the coolest we've ever received.

And they told usHey so, were finishing up our next Total War game,

and weve got some money left over in the marketing budget from our publisher.

The way we see it we could buy a few more banner ads,

OR we could underwrite you guys making some videos to teach people about Roman history.

You dont have to mention us or the game, just teach some history.”

And we said: “Thats AWESOME.”

And we ARE going to mention them AND their game,

because I would love to see more companies do this.

I want to see companies use their ad budget to not only garner sales

but also do some good.

So to everyone else marketing a game that has something worth discussing,

there are dozens of content creators out there who can do

a lot more for you than few banner ads are going to.

So good on the folks at Creative Assembly for setting an example.

We approve.

But lets get started, huh?

We are going to be talking about the Punic wars, because theyre less

well known than the campaigns of Caesar or the civil wars of Augustus.

Were going to probably spend most of our time focusing on the

second Punic war because it is just freakinawesome.

Its got everything you want out of a great fantasy novel:

blood oaths of revenge, bloody battles, brilliant generals,

political intrigue, unbelievable feats of heroism.

a clash of two mighty dynastic clans

heck its even got fighting monsters (which I will get to in the next episode).

So, what were the Punic Wars?

Well, they were the wars between Rome and Carthage for

control of what was, to them, the whole world.

I cant even begin to tell you how much rested on these conflicts.

This was 3rd Century BCs World War II.

Rome and Carthage were the two big powers in the Mediterranean

and only one of them was going to walk out of this one alive.

Were still seeing the impact of this war even today, thousands of years later.

Without the Punic Wars turning out the way they did,

I bet you the United States Senate wouldnt be called a Senate,

and our money wouldnt saye pluribus unumon the back.

Without the Punic wars, I bet you Latin wouldnt be the foundation

for most of the western European languages and Roman laws

wouldnt be serving as the basis for law systems around the world.

These wars would make Rome the dominant power in the west

for the next seven hundred year and shape the course of history as a result.

Now some of you may still be scratching your heads at the name Punic War.

Where did that come from?

After all, Punic doesnt really sound anything like Rome or Carthage

Well see, the people who originally settled Carthage were Phoenician,

which is how the Romans usually referred to them.

Only, their pronunciation of the word sounded more likePonecian’,

which when used as an adjective became Ponic or Punic, it

you know doesnt matter, the point is all the ancient Roman writers called

these the Punic Wars which basically meant to themWar with Carthage

and we have just stuck with the word they used.

Cool fact though, the wordPunicstill meanstreacherousin English.

I bet you that wouldnt be true if Carthage had won these wars.

But okay, the Punic Wars were wars between the two most important powers in Europe

for dominance of the whole kitten-kaboodle, so lets introduce our protagonists.

In one corner we have Rome, recent conquerors of Italy.

Well, ok, most of Italy.

(the Gauls still held the northern bit where Milan stands today).

Rome was a republican oligarchy, meaning they were a democracy

but most of the decision making still fell to the rich.

Romans held military glory in the highest regard

and made military service an essential part of political advancement.

In the other corner we have Carthage,

based in the city of Carthage on what is now the northern coast of Tunisia.

They were also a republican oligarchy, but more focused on trade.

Wealth was the prime determiner in political mobility there,

and they would use mercenaries to fight their wars instead of citizen soldiers.

At the time our story begins, Carthage controlled most of northern Africa,

a little bit of Spain, and several of the major islands in the Mediterranean.

And its that handful of islands that got everybody into trouble.

You see, the first Punic war broke out over the island of Sicily.

The actual causes are almost comical:

it started when a group of Italian mercenaries calling themselves

the Mamertines were invited into a city and

basically got bored and decided to capture it.

They then became pirates and raiders, and then,

when someone finally tried to stop them, they appealed to the Carthaginians

(whose city they had technically just stolen) to come and help them out.

And Carthage did sobut the story doesnt end there:

after the Carthaginians bailed them out, the Mamertines

decided they werent so happy having to obey the Carthaginian rules now

and so they appealed to Rome, on the pretext that

hey, come on, were Italians”, asking the Romans to help them free

their city from the Carthaginians who had just helped them.

This, of course, turned into the first Punic War, a grinding conflict

that took twenty years, cost almost a fifth of the male population of Rome,

and had over a million soldiers involved in the fighting.

Just take that in for a second, a million soldiers.

Do you know how long after the fall of Rome

it would be for a European War to include a million men?

The 16th century, and here they were doing it in the 3rd century BCE.

And all because of some idiots getting bored in Sicily.

Im just going to skim over the events of the first Punic War but for our purposes,

the First Punic War was a back and forth with, in the loosest of terms,

the Carthaginians slowly losing on land while the Romans managed to bungle

a series of naval engagements and, in general, just make a mess of things at sea.

This was, after all, Romes first experiment with doing anything

outside of Italy and first time they ever built a navy.

In fact, one story goes: they didnt even know how to build warships

and so they had to copy a Carthaginian ship that washed ashore.

Anyway, once the Romans finally managed to get the navy thing down

and started winning at sea, Carthage capitulated.

I highly recommend you dig further into that war sometime,

'cause I am reeeeally glossing over it,

but that should serve to catch you up on the back-story to our main event:

the Second Punic war.

And the key to our tale, the piece that ties the first and

second Punic War together is a man named Hamilcar Barca, a general

for the Carthaginians on the island of Sicily during the First Punic War.

See, the thing here is: he didnt really lose that war.

After the naval defeat that caused Carthage to throw in the towel,

his army was still intact. So, he returned to Carthage with his troops

Troops expecting to get paid; because theyre mercenaries,

because thats how Carthage fights wars.

Unfortunately, Carthage, what with the cost of the war, the reparations

imposed on them by the Romans and interruption in trade and such,

were in no position to be paying anybody.

They basically came out and said: “Sorry guys, we have not got any money,

could you all just kindly return to where you came from…?”

You can probably guess how well that went over.

Short version, those troops were soon besieging Carthage.

In a panic, Carthage called on (who else but) Hamilcar

and made him ride out and defeat his own army.

So he hired some more mercenaries, promising to pay them upfront this time,

and over the next two years he did just that.

But Hamilcar held in his heart a secret resentment and a burning hatred.

A hatred for the Romans who'd humiliated him and the city he once idealized,

and a resentment against the old men of Carthage

who he'd felt stabbed him in the back, never giving him the troops or resources

he needed to win a war that by all rights he should have won.

He began to distance himself from what he considered the weak city fathers in Carthage,

more concerned with their coin and their trade routes than fame and everlasting glory.

So when they later turned to him to ask how to repay the crushing war debt they owed

to Rome, he put forth an idea he'd been toying with in the back of his mind.

He proposed raising a new army to secure their African holdings.

To this, the old men readily agreed, BUT once Hamilcar had his army trained and ready,

he immediately crossed to Europe to

re-establishthe Carthaginian Empire in Spain.

Stopping only to make one last offering to the gods before he crossed

an offering upon which he made his young son Hannibal swear an oath

of vengeance: “never be a friend to Rome”.

And with that, he made straight for the silver mines in the south of Spain.

By the time the Carthaginians found out about it,

silver had already started flowing back to Carthage, so no one questioned his

usurpation of the army or the complete lack of oversight of his activities in Spain.

So, Hamilcar then began to push east, carving out an unofficial

kingdom in Spain for himself and his family.

But, opposition to his advance was fierce and it took him four years

of constant war to push all the way to the eastern coast of Spain.

Over these four years, his raw army from north Africa became

one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world.

Over time, these men went from being mercenaries

to being an army loyal to the Barcid family.

Many of these same men would follow Hannibal over the alps years later

another story we're gonna be talking about later.

When Hamilcars forces reached the eastern coast of Spain,

Rome started to get a little bit worried. After all, here was not only a Carthaginian

but the very general who had fought them in Sicily,

with a very large army only a short hop across the water from Rome itself.

So they sent a delegation to ask Hamilcar what he thought

he was doing with an army that close to Rome. Hamilcar simply replied:

I am gathering the booty we need to pay

you the reparations we owe from the last war”.

They couldnt really argue with that so they packed up and went home.

Youve got to love a guy with the wit and the stones to say something like that.

Im just invading this territory so we can pay you.”

How awesome is that.

From there, Hamilcar continued his conquest, heading north

and eventually founding a city we know well today.

Some of you may have already guessed it from his last name,

but he named the city Barcino after his family,

a place that we now know as Barcelona.

Yet again, we see the echoes of the Punic wars in our current world today.

Shortly thereafter, Hamilcar died.

The details of his death are extremely unclear and there are many stories

about how he died, but the one I prefer to believe

is that he died leading his enemies away from his young sons

Hannibal and Hasdrubal so they could make their escape.

For the next seven years, the Spanish territory was expanded by Hamilcars

son in law who was also named Hasdrubal (just to make things confusing).

Hasdrubal the son in law ruled well and fairly by all accounts until his

assassination in 221 BC, but for the purposes of our story, the most important

thing he did was make a treaty with the Romans at one point agreeing

upon the borders of the Carthaginian territories in Spain

a treaty that will serve as the cause for the Second Punic War.

Join us next time when the Second Punic war really fires up

and we dive into the drama of the crossing of the Alps and watch the clash

of famous champions like Hannibal, Scipio and Fabian.

See ya then!

Subtitled by: Louis Lenders (

The Description of Rome: The Punic Wars - The First Punic War - Extra History - #1