In his account of the Punic Wars, Polybius declares “it is my contention that by far the most important part of historical writing lies in the consideration of the consequences of events, their accompanying circumstances, and above all their causes.” Polybius recognized the intricate relationship between circumstances, causes, and their consequences, and in his account of the Punic Wars he seeks to explain the reasons for Rome’s victory over Carthage. For centuries, Rome and Carthage lived at peace with one another, their spheres of influence separate enough to avoid conflict. Rome’s wealth and interests lay in farming and acquiring more land throughout Italy, while Carthage’s economy was naval based, and so keeping trade routes open in the western Mediterranean was most important to them. As late as 279 B.C., Rome and Carthage were allied against Pyrrhus of Epirus, and had signed two other treaties in earlier years. However, as the two powers increased in power and controlled progressively larger geographies, their interests were bound to conflict at some point, and that conflict came in the contest for control of Sicily. The result was a twenty-three year war, the beginning of a series of wars which would last over a century. The end of the first war, and the actions of Rome towards Carthage in the latter’s defeat, laid the foundation for the second war, and it was only after the third and final Punic War that Rome, after coming close to defeat in the second, annihilated Carthage and burned it to the ground, effectively ending the age of Carthaginian power. However, the question must be asked, what were the causes of these wars, and more specifically, which power was more responsible for the conflict? No Punic accounts exist of the conflict due to Roman victory, and the Roman accounts of Livy, Appian, and Cassius Dio came far after the event. Polybius, although a contemporary of these events, was a Greek held hostage in Rome as security against Achaean uprising, and was close friends with the adopted son of Scipio Africanus. He wrote his account for his Greek countrymen to understand how it was that Rome defeated them, but it was also in his interests to remain on good terms with the Romans. Particularly in the case of the Second Punic war, conflicting reports over Saguntum, its status in relation to Rome, and Rome’s response to the Carthaginian siege raises serious questions of whether Rome truly engaged in as just of a war as Livy and other Roman historians portrayed. Both Polybius and Livy blame Hamilcar for the second war, but Rome’s ambition and hatred of Carthage also played a significant role. The first official relations between Rome and Carthage began in 508 B.C., with the establishment of the Roman Republic. The treaty signed then prevented the Romans from interfering with Carthaginian trade routes, or the Carthaginians from attempting any fortifications in Latium (Polybius III.22). The second treaty was made in 348, and Polybius points out that in the case of these first two treaties, Carthage was mostly concerned with Sardinia and Africa, but in the second treaty they specifically mention “the part which is subject to them.” Finally, the third treaty was established in 279, when the common threat of Pyrrhus brought the two together once more. Being a trading power, the Carthaginians wished to avoid war as much as possible, and thus maintaining naval hegemony was vital to their interests. Rom did not care about the sea. However, the island of Sicily was the one shaky area between them. After the defeat of Pyrrhus, Rome was in possession of Rhegium on the coast of Italy, directly opposite Messina. In 288, Mamertine pirates had seized control of the city, and in 264 Hiero of Syracuse decided to drive them out. The Mamertines requested assistance from both the Romans and Carthaginians, but the Romans were reluctant to help for three reasons, namely that they were just coming out of a taxing war with Pyrrhus, they had never been involved in Sicily before, and they were on good terms with Carthage, who had always dominated Sicily. Rome was not obligated to help Messina in any way, since there was no agreement of either foedus, dedito in fidem, or even fides between the two. Messina was asking for Rome’s fides, but Rome was not obligated to give it. Carthage sent troops to Messina, and this is where Rome was more responsible than the Carthaginians for starting the war, in that they also sent a garrison to Messina, stepping into Carthaginian territory. It could be argued that they feared a Carthaginian threat across from Rhegium, but the Carthaginians undoubtedly had more to fear from the Romans entering into Sicily, in that Rome was expanding into their realm. Helping Messina was not outside of Carthage’s jurisdiction; they already had a presence in Sicily. The war ran its course, Rome developed their navy, and Carthage lost its naval superiority. A peace was made, but it was not a stable peace; the war had upset the balance between Carthage as a naval power and Rome as predominately land based. Now as Carthage turned to the land it had been uninterested before, Rome put an indemnity on Carthage, demanding that they repay the costs of the war. Polybius recounts the terms of the indemnity, that the Carthaginians hand over Sicily, neither country will attack the allies of the other, Carthage must pay 2,200 talents to the Romans over ten years and 1,000 talents immediately. Carthage, paying the first 1,000 talents and weakened financially by the first war, was then unable to pay its mercenaries, who revolted for about three years. After the mercenary war was put down by Hamilcar Barca, the Romans then added a clause that forced Carthage to give them Sardinia and a further 1,200 talents. All these demands did nothing to endear Rome to the Carthaginians, for not only were they deeply in debt to Rome, but were unable to restore their former trading abilities. The loss of Sardinia meant the loss of gold mines, and even more firmly entrenched Hamilcar Barca’s hatred of Rome. Kagan says that the peace “reflected the relationship of power between Rome and Carthage at a moment when Carthage was unnaturally weak. Unless the Romans took steps to destroy its enemy or cripple it permanently, Carthage had the capacity to recover its strength and to become formidable…” The peace left the Carthaginians with bitterness and a burning desire for revenge, much like the French after the Germans took Alsace-Lorraine before World War I. Like the French, the Carthaginians possessed the ability to rebuild their power and seek to reclaim that which they lost. Hamilcar Barca decided the best way to prepare for a future offensive against Rome would be to conquer Spain, and proceeded to establish himself on the continent and expand northwards to the Ebro River. Rome was concerned with this expansion, and finally, in 226 “the last agreement was the one made with Hasdrubal in Spain, which provided that: ‘The Carthaginians shall not pass the Ebro in arms.'” This brings us to the issue of Saguntum, a city south of the Ebro but not loyal to the Carthaginians. It was the siege and eventual capture of this city by the Carthaginians that would touch off the Second Punic War, but here it bears mentioning that both peoples were eager for war. However, there was a problem. Rome, at least officially, could only declare war for just reasons. A just reason in this case would have been if Saguntum was in some sort of alliance relationship with Rome. Cassius Dio says that the Saguntines “were dependents of the Romans, who held them in honour, and in the treaty with the Carthaginians had made a special exception of them” but there are reasons that will be mentioned shortly to doubt this claim. If it was in foedus¸ a bilateral agreement for each to come to the others defense, there would have been no question about the necessity for war, for if Rome did not go to the defense of its friends, then that would only strengthen the spirit of their enemies and show their friends that they couldn’t be trusted. If Saguntum had placed itself in deditio in fidem to Rome, then Rome would have come to their defense because of a past promise, asking a beneficium in return for giving Rome the officium. However, there are several events that seem to contradict that there was any sort of relationship between Rome and Saguntum. First, the fact that war was not declared immediately and that instead a long debate took place, but even the existence of this debate is contested by various sources, Livy saying that it never took place and that there was a foedus, but Cassius Dio affirming that there was a debate. Polybius is noticeably silent on the matter. Polybius, being a Greek held hostage in Rome, could not write a partisan account of the war, at least not overtly. He wrote his history to show his fellow Greeks why Rome conquered the world, but this did not mean he loved Rome. If he mentioned that a debate took place, this would imply that there was no official relationship or treaty between Rome and Saguntum, which in turn would imply that Rome had not waged a just war, something he would have been ill-advised to declare openly. The second issue is the location of the river Ebro. Livy says that it is south of Saguntum, while Polybius first says it was north and at a later time says it was south of that city. One might ask why the attempt at shifting geography. If Saguntum was north of the Ebro, then Rome had ample reason to attack Carthage because they would have broken the treaty by crossing the Ebro. Polybius’ seeming contradiction was probably intended for his Greek audience, to let them know that the Romans can’t be trusted. By saying one and then the other, he made it seem to any Roman readers that it was a mere mistake. The final issue is the fact that Rome did not send any aid to Saguntum. The siege lasted for over five months, and the Romans knew about it. If there was an alliance, they would have sent aid. Another explanation is requisite, that Rome was eager for war with Carthage and was using the Saguntum incident as pretext for going to war, making it seem like they were fighting a just war for the sake of appearances.