To 150 B.C.

To 150 B.C.149 B.C.148 B.C.147 B.C.146 B.C.

The following timeline summarises some of the more important events that took place in the years immediately preceding Rome’s formal declaration of war against Carthage in 149 B.C. It includes references to relevant passages within our principal ancient sources and gives the consuls for each year.

All dates are B.C.


Before 153

The Treaty of 201 (which signalled the end of the Second Punic War) obliges Carthage to ‘restore to Masinissa [king of Numidia] all the houses, territory, cities and other property which had belonged to him or to his ancestors within the boundaries which would later be assigned to that king’ (Polybius 15.18; Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 30.37; Livy, Periochae 30.8)

Masinissa uses this vague provision to justify frequent encroachments on Carthaginian territory; Carthage appeals to Rome for assistance but the Roman arbitrators, in accordance with orders from the Senate, repeatedly rule in favour of Masinissa and recognise his claim over the disputed lands (Appian 67-68; Polybius 31.21; Livy, Periochae 47.8; Florus 1.31.4)

Minor skirmishes erupt between Numidia and Carthage (Appian 68)

Three major political factions arise in Carthage: a pro-Roman party led by Hanno the Great; a group, headed by Hannibal the Starling, that favours the installation of Masinissa as king; and a Popular Party organised by Hamilcar the Samnite and Carthalo (Appian 68)

153 (Q. Fulvius Nobilior, T. Annius Luscus)

Carthaginian forces led by Carthalo (commander of auxiliaries) conduct raids on settlers sent by Masinissa to occupy disputed territory; rural Africans are also encouraged to rise up against Numidia (Appian 68)

Roman envoys sent to broker an end to the current round of hostilities — with secret instructions to favour Masinissa, as before — report seeing large stocks of timber in Carthage (Appian 68; Livy, Periochae 47.15)

Masinissa lays claim to the region known as Tysca; Carthage once more appeals to Rome and mediators are promised, but their departure is delayed to increase the threat on Carthaginian interests (Appian 68)

152 (L. Valerius Flaccus, M. Claudius Marcellus)

A Roman delegation, including Marcus Porcius Cato (and probably also Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica), is finally sent to mediate in the territorial dispute between Masinissa and Carthage; the latter’s growing wealth and power becomes a source of grave concern for the emissaries (Appian 69; Plutarch, Cato the Elder 26; Livy, Periochae 48.3-8)

Carthaginians, expecting unjust treatment from the mediators, refuse to submit to arbitration under Roman terms (Appian 69)

Cato repeatedly urges his compatriots to destroy Carthage, accusing it of continued hostility against Rome; Scipio Nasica vehemently opposes Cato’s motion (Livy, Periochae 48.4-5; Plutarch, Cato the Elder 26-27; Diodorus Siculus 34/35.33; Florus, 1.31.4-5; Cicero, Cato Maior de Senectute 18)

The ‘Figgish Fib’: Cato displays some fresh ‘African’ figs to the Senate, claiming that the country from which these had been harvested was a mere three days’ sail away from Rome — thus demonstrating her vulnerability to a swift attack from Carthage (Plutarch, Cato the Elder 26-27; Pliny, Historia Naturalis 15.20)

The Roman Senate resolves to make war upon Carthage once a suitable pretext is found (Appian 69; Polybius 36.2)

151 (A. Postumius Albinus, L. Licinius Lucullus)

Carthage makes a final payment of 200 Euboic talents on the indemnity imposed by Rome after the Second Punic War (Polybius 15.18; Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 30.37)

Gulussa, a son of Masinissa, reports that a levy is underway in Carthage and that a navy is being constructed; ten Roman envoys are despatched to investigate (Livy, Periochae 48.14-15)

Roman investigators confirm rumours of Carthaginian rearmament; Cato and allies urge immediate war, but Scipio Nasica urges caution; the Senate finally resolves to refrain from armed conflict if Carthage agrees to burn its ships and dismiss its army, and if this is not done the consuls for the following year will put the question of war on the agenda (Livy, Periochae 48.23-24; Florus 1.31.3)

Forty members of Hannibal the Starling’s pro-Numidian faction are sent into exile by the Popular Party; the expelled politicians take refuge with Masinissa and urge him to declare war against their home city (Appian 70; Livy, Periochae 48.7-8)

Masinissa sends his sons Gulussa and Micipsa to demand that the Carthaginian exiles be allowed to return, but they are turned away at the city gates; Hamilcar the Samnite and a group of supporters attack Gulussa’s convoy as they depart, killing some of the prince’s attendants (Appian 70)

Using the attack on his son Gulussa as an excuse, Masinissa ‘retaliates’ by laying siege to the Carthaginian town of Oroscopa (Appian 70)

winter: Carthage responds to the Numidian invasion — without seeking permission from Rome — by despatching an army of 25,000 footsoldiers and 400 horsemen under the command of Hasdrubal (Appian 70)

150 (T. Quinctius Flamininus, M’. Acilius Balbus)

spring-summer: Carthaginian-Numidian War; the conflict ends in defeat for Carthage and the loss of most of its land forces (Appian 70-73; Livy, Periochae 48.26; Diodorus Siculus 32.1)

Rome begins to raise an army (Appian 74)

Hasdrubal and other military leaders involved in the disastrous fight against Numidia are condemned to death by the defeated Carthaginians in an effort to appease Rome and remove any pretext for war (Appian 74; Diodorus Siculus 32.3)

A Carthaginian delegation to Rome speaks against Masinissa and against their fellow citizens for taking up arms against him without Rome’s permission; the Senate finds their defence unsatisfactory and tells the Carthaginians to ‘make it right with the Roman people’ (Appian 74; Diodorus Siculus 32.1-3)

A second Carthaginian delegation to Rome attempts to clarify what the Senate meant by ‘make it right with the Roman people’, but no detailed answer is forthcoming; Carthaginians debate on how best to respond (Appian 74; Polybius 36.3; Diodorus Siculus 32.1-3)

The Roman Senate continues to search for other ‘attractive’ pretexts that could be used to justify a final Punic War, in addition to the Carthaginian-Numidian conflict (Polybius 36.2)


To 150 B.C.149 B.C.148 B.C.147 B.C.146 B.C.


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