Punic Wars, three distinct conflicts between Carthage and Rome. When they began, Rome had nearly completed the conquest of Italy, while Carthage controlled NW Africa and the islands and the commerce of the W Mediterranean. When they ended, Carthage was ruined, and Rome was the greatest power W of China. The first war saw Rome fighting to break Carthage's growing hold on the chain of islands that enable it to control the W Mediterranean. The second war directly pitted the ambitions of the two commercial powers; the initial area of conflict was Sicily. The last war was the final, desperate attempt of Carthage to preserve Punic (Carthaginian) liberty.
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