Carthaginian Rivalries

The loss of Sardinia stunned the Carthaginians, who now began to create a new overseas empire in Spain. Rome kept a close eye on this development. Still, in 218 B.C. they were caught by surprise when Hannibal led a massive Carthaginian army over the Alps and thrust southward into the Italian peninsula. Within a couple of years, the Carthaginians held sway over huge tracts of Italy. But an inspired war of attrition and a bold offensive strategy in Spain on the part of the Romans gradually weakened Hannibal's position. In 203 B.C. Hannibal withdrew to Carthage, but the Romans followed close behind: a year later, his forces were overwhelmed at nearby Zama. A negotiated settlement, among other things, deprived the Carthaginians of their fleet and forced them to pay a crippling tribute to Rome for decades thereafter.

This territorial expansion gave the Romans the fertile lands of the southern lowlands of the Alps, the coastal plain of northern Africa and river valleys of southern Spain. The Romans also now controlled the mineral wealth of Spain, and could set up surface mining operations in regions rich in ores of copper and silver. Within a couple of decades, the Romans developed Aquileia into a major Adriatic port that could ship the minerals and metals (including gold) which were being exploited in the city's hinterland.