Punic Win Powered Rome Economically, Study Says

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August 20, 2017

Rome's victory in the Second Punic War was an economic turning point as well as a military one, researchers say.

The victory, which Rome achieved despite a decades-long inspirational challenge by the Carthaginian general Hannibal, gave Rome supremacy in the Mediterranean and, more importantly to the results of the recent study, control over the silver mines in Spain.

Long a Carthaginian stronghold, Spain came fully under Roman sway after Hannibal's final defeat, at the Battle of Zama in 202 B.C. A Roman victory seven years earlier, however, played a key role in shutting off Carthage's Iberian supply line and transforming the area into a Roman colony; in effect, the silver mines began supplying Rome instead of Carthage. The war officially ended in 201 B.C., and Rome took over Carthage's trade routes and economic and political infrastructure in the Iberian Peninsula and other places around the Mediterranean area.

The study, done by researchers at Frankfurt's Goethe University, studied lead isotopes found in 69 Roman coins minted between 310 B.C. and 101 B.C. A full 52 of those coins contained metal from Spain, not from Sicily or Greece or elsewhere in Italy, suggesting to the researchers that the Spanish mines helped turn Rome into an economic powerhouse at a time when it was most needed.

The study is part a larger project analysing 164 coins from the across the Mediterranean.

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