The Romans depended on the plunder of their army. The Roman Senate had to keep the army busy, or the army might have turned against the Senate. By 265BC, the Roman army was big enough to defeat anything it faced, so Rome stopped making citizens of the people it conquered. Newly conquered lands became provinces of the Roman Republic and were forced to pay tribute to the city.
The Romans fought three wars against Carthage, a city on the north coast of Africa. The wars are known as the Punic Wars because Punicus was the Roman name for Carthage. The first Punic War was fought over Sicily, an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the southwest coast of the Italian peninsula. Carthage controlled Sicily, and in 265BC, Sicily was richer than any other land in the area. It was a perfect target for the Roman army. The Romans won the First Punic War and forced Carthage to give up control of Sicily.
A generation after the First Punic War, the Romans expected an attack from Carthage from the sea, but a young Carthaginian general named Hannibal had a better idea. Hannibal commanded an army from land Carthage controlled in modern Spain. The Carthaginian general led his army of 46,000 soldiers, 8,000 horses and 37 war elephants in a daring and difficult journey over a mountain range known as the Alps. Hannibal's army destroyed many Roman cities along his route, causing antipathy, or bad feelings, which would last for generations.
Hannibal's army might have defeated the Romans in the Second Punic War, but Carthage ordered Hannibal to return home to defend his native land when Roman soldiers invaded Africa in 202BC. Without Hannibal in charge, the war on the Italian peninsula turned in Rome's favor. Hannibal returned to Italy, but Rome won the Second Punic War.
Carthage was no longer in a position to hurt Rome after the Second Punic War, but in 149BC, Roman antipathy toward Carthage continued to linger. A Roman senator named Cato ended every speech with the cry, "Carthage must be destroyed." Rome attacked Carthage and the two sides fought bloody battles in a war that lasted almost three years. After a siege in 146BC, the Romans broke through the city walls of Carthage and went from house to house slaughtering the people. After destroying Carthage, the Romans sold the remaining citizens into slavery, burned the city and destroyed Carthage's harbor.
Rome annexed Carthage by making the city a part of a Roman province they called Africa. Africa is probably derived from a Latin word that means "sunny land without cold." The Punic Wars established Rome as a powerful nation and the wars were an indication that Rome would develop into one of the most powerful empires in history.