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The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean Hardcover – Jul 2005

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Hardcover, Jul 2005
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A serious and well-informed book on the wars between Rome and is, however, not simply a piece of disinterested research but a tale with a moral for current politics...On the interplay of strategic and operational decisions, on the risks of politics in time of war, on the importance of morale: this book gives much food for reflection Spectator His book is to be commended...It is a fine piece of military and political history...a clear and convincing account of what happened, devoid of any high-flown romanticism...He constructs his analysis in such a way as to demonstrate that what happened...might just happen again Economist A modern Field-Marshal applies his strategic expertise to the greatest confrontation of classical times... Bagnall's analysis is leavened with character sketches and dry humour Independent

About the Author

Sir Nigel Bagnall was born in India in 1927. He joined the British Army in 1945 and served in Palestine, Malaya, Borneo, the Canal Zone, Cyprys, Singapore and Germany. He ended his distinguished military career as Chief of the General Staff in London and was also an Honorary fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He died in April 2002.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Excellent one volume account of the Punic Wars 27 Jun. 1998
By Aussie Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book by Nigel Bagnall, a Field Marshal in the British Army, is one of the best books I have ever read covering Ancient military history. This book introduced me to the lifes and times of such great leaders as Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal and Scipio Africanus to name a few. The author presents a well researched account of the military struggle between Rome and Carthage and does it so well that the book is a joy to read. The book covers the First Punic War, 264-242 BC, the period between the wars (241 - 218 BC), the Second Punic War, 218 - 201 BC and the third and final Punic War between 149 - 148 BC which saw the destruction of Carthage as a power and as a city! A great book!!!!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A British Historian Recaptures a Pivotal Chapter in Roman History 18 Sept. 2005
By R. Setliff - Published on
Format: Hardcover
~The Punic Wars : Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean~ is some really bold historical prose capturing one of the most resounding conflicts in antiquity between the Carthaginians and the Romans, which were a series of three wars between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C. For the first time in United States, Thomas Duanne books has brought British historian Nigel Bagnall's epic history to print in 2005. The Punic Wars forever changed the destiny of Rome and marked their unfettered ascent to becoming an imperial power to be reckoned with. These two Mediterranean peoples stood in enmity one against the other, and their climatic struggle would set the balance of power in favor of Rome for the ages. In the third century before Christ, the great naval power in the world was not Rome but Carthage. The Carthaginians were descendants of the seafaring Semitic race the Phoenicians and their campaign of colonization inevitably brought them into a clash of arms with the Romans who had imperial ambitions of their own. As the Romans solidified their control over the Italian peninsula, Carthage extended their control over North Africa's entire arable coastline. Likewise, when Carthage expanded its colonies to Spain, Sardinia, and Sicily-they sparked a clash with the Romans. Treaties were broken and honor was at stake. The Romans took over Sicily seeking a buffer zone to minimize hit-and-run naval raids on the Italic peninsula. Hamilcar Barca and Hasdrubal sought to create a Carthaginian bastion on the Iberian (i.e. Spain) and its ancillary islands. What is more, the bold gambit of Hannibal is brought to life, as his ambition in Iberia is recaptured with amazing detail. The author meticulously documents Hannibal's painstaking and arduous transalpine march as his men struggled to brave the elements of Gaul, as well as the climatic battle with the Romans. The late British historian and former soldier Nigel Bagnall captures the epic clash of personalities with amazing detail. With the decimation of Carthage's Navy, an account of Rome's brutul subjugation of Carthage and her colonies is captured with astonishing detail. Cato's merciless quip "delenda est Carthago" ("Carthage must be destroyed") surmised the belligerent Roman policy toward their Mediterranean neighbors towards the south. Carthage itself would be utterly vanquished and plowed over with pillars of salt. Bagnall gives life to the ancient historical accounts in a keen narrative history. This book is powerful and yet easy to read. All things considered, it is a really good laymen's history of a pivotal war in the annals of history. Bagnall is possessed of a profound historical acumen that makes this particular book come to life. Though, a cursory understanding of Roman history is probably prerequisite for readers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good overall 13 July 2012
By N. Perz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book. I suppose that if you are already well-versed in the subject, then this is not something you need to run out and buy but, if not, I think it is a good general history of the Punic Wars. I especially liked the material on Pyrrus and the First Punic War--I was less familiar with these event than I am with the exploits of Hannibal.

I liked it well enough that I just ordered his book on the Peloponnesian War (although I doubt he will match Donald Kagan's fine book on the subject...)

Note: the author is not a professional historian. I'm not saying that to attack the book; it's just something you may want to keep in mind when reading.

A fine narrative history of the Punic Wars enhanced by insightful military analysis 30 Jan. 2015
By Bill Bruno - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As far as second careers go, there are worse things for a career military man to do than write histories of two of the most famous conflicts in ancient history. Retired UK Field Marshal Nigel Bagnall first of these, in order of writing if not in order of historic occurrence, is his fine history of the Punic Wars, the long (the first two anyway) and bloody conflicts that saw Carthage's extermination and Rome's ascendancy as the paramount central and western Mediterranean power.

He starts with an overall survey of the two combatants with a précis of their respective histories, constitutions, military forces and religions. It's a good backgrounder although the relevance of the religions isn't made manifest in the book. His survey of Sicily is particularly good with an emphasis on Syracuse as a counterbalance to Carthage's power in Sicily and the chapter also presages his take on the causes of the First Punic War by arguing there were no overwhelming strategic reasons for the land-bound Rome to go to war with the maritime Carthage. The reasons sprang from unstable politics in what could be called a neutral zone in eastern Sicily between Rome and Carthage. The Roman move in Messana (which included evicting the Carthaginian garrison) which started the First Punic War is argued by Bagnall to be an act of short-term opportunism against a Carthage that posed no threat to Rome. Here I think Bagnall overlooks what Rome would've perceived as the importance of the Syracusan counterweight as a Carthaginian foothold there could've blocked off any future Roman intervention against a future move against Syracuse.

His narrative of the First Punic War sets the tone for the whole book. The narrative style is lucid and engaging and interspersed with his expert military analysis. One good example on a tactical level is Xanthippus correcting the earlier Carthaginian error of defending on broken ground which nullified their advantage in cavalry with an open-ground battle at Tunis where he crushed the Roman army.
His analyses are the strongest draw. His extended commentary (a whole chapter after the close of the First Punic War) breaks down, for the uninitiated, the difference between the strategic, operational and tactical levels of warfare. His analysis of the Roman and Carthaginian efforts will follow that breakdown. Strategically, he asserts that the opportunistic nature of Rome’s move into Messana also meant that they started with no coherent strategy. Carthage arguably missed a strategic opportunity in not using its naval assets to go on the offensive in Italy, something which Hannibal would rectify. Bagnall’s speculation that Carthage chose a more defensive strategy because of early reverses that led them to a permanent sense of tactical inferiority against the Romans is a good one. Again, this is something that Hannibal would rectify in the rematch. Rome also made the mistake of diffusive initiatives and failed to develop an effective cavalry arm. They would pay a far higher price for that in the next conflict.

He even subjects the conflicts of the entr’acte to this analysis, for example faulting the Illyrians in the losing war against Rome with objectives that their force structure couldn’t support. In fact, a strong point of this book is a close look at those conflicts with the Carthaginian conquest of Spain being particularly important for future events while Rome’s essentially shaking down a weakened Carthage for Sardinia and Corsica does much to explain Carthage’s desire for revenge.
Bagnall also does a fine job with the Second Punic War. He highlights Hannibal’s successful use of maneuver and mobile forces in his three epic victories at the Trebbia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae and overall illumines how much of Carthage’s effort in Italy owed to Hannibal’s genius. He explains Hannibal’s strategy as being fundamentally political. Hannibal didn’t expect to be able to take and burn down Rome, but he could break its political hold on its allies but repeatedly smashing Rome’s armies. This required that he exploit his superior operational and tactical mobility. However, as Bagnall observes, once Hannibal acquired allies which defected from Rome, his need to protect them smothered that flexibility.

His take on the Spanish and African campaigns of Scipio Africanus illustrates another argument of the book which is that victory would go to the party that could best move away from its preexisting doctinres. For example, Scipio’s willingness to bypass the Carthaginian armies to effect a coup de main against the Carthaginian base at Nova Carthago. Likewise, his brilliant victory at Ilipa was a function of his ability to wrong-foot the Carthaginian’s through a change in the disposition of his army.

The Third Punic War isn’t given as much coverage but it’s still done well. Bagnall’s epilogue is a good summing up of the strategic/operational/tactical lessons learned but I thought his attempt to analogize those to contemporary (for 1990) politics was awkward and misplaced. There are surely better ways to address the idea of NATO military preparedness, for example, then drawing attention to Carthage’s lack thereof at the onset of the First Punic War.

Although Bagnall became a fellow at Oxford's Balliol College after retirement, he was not a professional historian and this work is more of a narrative book than a scholarly one. You won't find indications of original research, there are no foot/endnotes and only a limited bibliography. On the other hand, where the classical sources conflict, his comparative analyses are plausible. It is a fine work nonetheless and I'd certainly recommend it as an introduction to the subject especially as it covers all three of the Punic Wars at once.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
History with a modern mind 1 Sept. 2000
By Flavio Castellani - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One of the few enjoiable books that approach historical events under a technical perspective, in this case, analyzing the military strategies and tactics. Contrary of what one's could expect from this kind of approach, this book shows all the aspect of the society of Rome and Cartage at that time. The author in fact, takes in consideration and describes all the social factors that influences the military thinking of the great generals and the moral of the soldiers in the battlefields, which go from political to religious and superstitions. We have a feeling of what everyday life could have been at that time, which I think is one of the highest achievements an historical book could reach. The political events, the negotiations between the two opponents, and the various strategies are described and analyzed with a modern mind, which also helps to take off from those pages all the scholastic and academic feeling that we are used to deal with, when we explore our history. A wonderful book, enjoyable in the reading, yet detailed and sharp.
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