Geography > Pillars of Hercules

Pillars of Hercules

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration


The Pillars of Hercules, known in antiquity as the gateway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, played a significant strategic and symbolic role during the Punic Wars. The Pillars of Hercules refer to the two promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. These are the Rock of Gibraltar in Europe and Jebel Musa in Africa. Controlling the Pillars of Hercules was crucial for dominance over maritime trade routes. It allowed the controlling power to regulate access to and from the Mediterranean Sea, influencing trade and military movements.

Before the Punic Wars, Carthage had established itself as a major maritime power and controlled significant parts of the western Mediterranean, including the area around the Strait of Gibraltar. This control allowed Carthage to secure trade routes and access to resources from the Atlantic. For Rome, gaining control over the Pillars of Hercules was part of its broader strategy to dominate the Mediterranean. By securing this strategic point, Rome could cut off Carthaginian supply lines and assert naval supremacy.

Role in the Punic Wars

The Strait of Gibraltar was a critical point for naval operations during the Punic Wars. Control over this area allowed either Rome or Carthage to launch naval expeditions into the Atlantic or to secure their Mediterranean holdings from outside threats. The ability to control and protect supply lines through the Pillars of Hercules was vital. Carthaginian supply routes from their Iberian territories and beyond had to pass through the strait, making it a target for Roman blockades and naval actions.

Hannibal’s Campaigns: Although Hannibal famously crossed the Alps to invade Italy, the control of maritime routes, including the passage through the Pillars of Hercules, remained strategically important for Carthage to reinforce and resupply its forces in the Mediterranean.

Scipio Africanus’ Strategy: Roman general Scipio Africanus recognized the importance of cutting off Carthaginian supply lines and securing maritime dominance. His campaigns in Hispania (modern-day Spain) aimed to disrupt Carthaginian control and resources, indirectly influencing the strategic importance of the Pillars.


The Pillars of Hercules were steeped in mythology and were considered the western boundary of the known world in ancient times. This symbolic significance added a layer of prestige and power to the control of the region. Both Rome and Carthage used the symbolism of the Pillars to project their power and influence. For Carthage, it represented the extent of their maritime empire, while for Rome, it became a symbol of their expansionist ambitions. In summary, the Pillars of Hercules were a crucial strategic point during the Punic Wars, influencing naval operations, supply lines, and the broader conflict between Rome and Carthage. Control over this gateway was integral to the maritime dominance and the outcome of the wars.


+ Geography Links


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Sabalico Logo
Sabalytics Logo
World Map Logo
rStatistics Logo
Time Zone Logo
Galaxy View Logo
Periodic Table Logo
My Location Logo
Weather Track Logo
Sprite Sheet Logo
Barcode Generator Logo
Test Speed Logo
Website Tools Logo
Image Tools Logo
Color Tools Logo
Text Tools Logo
Finance Tools Logo
File Tools Logo
Data Tools Logo
History of Humanity - History Archive Logo
History of Humanity - History Mysteries Logo
History of Humanity - Ancient Mesopotamia Logo
History of Humanity - Egypt History Logo
History of Humanity - Persian Empire Logo
History of Humanity - Greek History Logo
History of Humanity - Alexander the Great Logo
History of Humanity - Roman History Logo
History of Humanity - Punic Wars Logo
History of Humanity - Golden Age of Piracy Logo
History of Humanity - Revolutionary War Logo