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The war elephant's main use was to charge the enemy, breaking their ranks and instilling terror. Elephantry are military units with elephant-mounted troops. They were first employed in India, the practice spreading out across south-east Asia and westwards into the Mediterranean. Their most famous use in the West was by the Greek King Pyrrhic of Epicurus and in significant numbers by the armies of Carthage, including briefly by Hannibal.
The Punic Wars were a series of conflicts fought between the forces of ancient Carthage and Rome between 264 BCE and 146 BCE. The name Punic comes from the word Phoenician (Phoinix in the Greek, Poenus from Punicus in Latin) as applied to the citizens of Carthage, who were of Phoenician ethnicity. As the history of the conflict was written by Roman authors, they labeled it 'The Punic Wars'.
During the mid-3rd century BC, Carthage was a large city located on the coast of modern Tunisia. Founded by the Phoenicians in the mid-9th century BC, it was a powerful thalassocratic city-state with a vast commercial network. Of the great city-states in the western Mediterranean, only Rome rivaled it in power, wealth, and population. While Carthage's navy was the largest in the ancient world at the time, it did not maintain a large, permanent, standing army.
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC. At the time, they were probably the largest wars that had ever taken place. The term Punic comes from the Latin word Punicus (or Poenicus), meaning "Carthaginian", with reference to the Carthaginians' Phoenician ancestry.
As long as Rome remained the little city of trade by the Tiber River, Carthage reigned supreme; but the island of Sicily would be the flashpoint for growing Roman resentment of the Carthaginians. Sicily lay partly under Carthaginian and partly under Roman control. When Heiro II of neighboring Syracuse fought against the Mamertines of Messina, the Mamertines asked first Carthage and then Rome for help.
The apocryphal queen Dido is regarded as the founder of the city, though her historicity has been questioned. According to accounts by Timaeus of Tauromenium, she purchased from a local tribe the amount of land that could be covered by an oxhide. Cutting the skin into strips, she laid out her claim and founded an empire that would become, through the Punic Wars, the only existential threat to the Roman Empire until the evolution of the Vandals several centuries later.
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