Third Punic War Battles > Battle of the Port of Carthage

Battle of the Port of Carthage

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Third Punic War

  • Part of the Punic Wars
  • Date: 149 BC - 146 BC
  • Location: Hills outside Adis
  • Victor: Roman Republic
  • Results: The destruction of Carth, annexation of all Carthaginian territories, and collapse of Punic civilization. Rome gains control over the entire Mediterranean Sea.


Roman Republic


Military Forces

  • Unknown
  • 80,000 Infantry


  • 150,000 - 250,000 Killed
  • 50,000 Enslaved
  • Unknown


The Battle of the Port of Carthage was a significant naval engagement during the Third Punic War, taking place as part of the larger Siege of Carthage (149-146 BCE). This battle was a turning point in the Roman effort to conquer Carthage by cutting off its access to the sea and further tightening the blockade around the city. The Third Punic War began in 149 BCE when Rome declared war on Carthage, motivated by long-standing animosities and the desire to eliminate Carthage as a rival power once and for all. Roman forces, led initially by Consuls Manius Manilius and Lucius Marcius Censorinus, laid siege to Carthage. The Carthaginians mounted a fierce defense, making the siege protracted and challenging for the Romans.

Carthage's port was a critical point of access for supplies, reinforcements, and communication with the outside world. Controlling the port was essential for both the Carthaginians' ability to sustain their defense and the Romans' strategy to enforce a complete blockade. Recognizing the strategic importance of the port, the Romans aimed to cut off Carthage’s naval capabilities and further isolate the city. This would prevent any supplies from reaching the besieged city and stop any attempts at reinforcement.

Preparations and Initial Skirmishes

The Romans initially struggled to establish a full blockade due to Carthage's strong defensive measures and their own logistical challenges. The early naval skirmishes around the port involved attempts by the Romans to assert control over the sea routes and prevent Carthaginian ships from breaking the blockade. Scipio Aemilianus, who took command in 147 BCE, ordered the construction of a mole (a large pier or breakwater) to block the entrance to the Carthaginian harbor. This ambitious engineering project aimed to seal off the port completely.

The Battle

The Carthaginians, aware of the Roman plans, launched several sorties to disrupt the construction of the mole. These attacks involved both naval and land forces attempting to destroy the Roman works and maintain access to the sea. As the mole neared completion, the Romans intensified their naval efforts to blockade the port. Roman ships engaged in battles with Carthaginian vessels trying to break through the blockade. The climax of the naval battle occurred when Carthaginian ships, led by their determined commanders, made a concerted effort to break the Roman blockade. This resulted in a fierce and decisive engagement. Despite their efforts, the Carthaginians were unable to overcome the Roman naval superiority and the strategic advantage provided by the mole.


The Romans successfully blocked the port, completing the mole and effectively sealing Carthage off from maritime access. This was a significant blow to Carthaginian resistance, as it cut off vital supply lines and reinforcements. With the port blocked, the Roman siege tightened. The Carthaginians were now fully isolated, with no hope of external aid. This significantly weakened their ability to sustain the defense and prolonged the siege.


The successful blockade of the port set the stage for the final Roman assault on Carthage. In the spring of 146 BCE, Scipio Aemilianus launched a comprehensive attack on the city, leading to brutal urban combat and the eventual fall of Carthage. Following the fall, Carthage was systematically destroyed. The Romans burned the city, razed its buildings, and enslaved the surviving population, ensuring that Carthage could never rise again as a rival power.

The Battle of the Port of Carthage demonstrated Roman strategic mastery and engineering prowess. By blocking the port, the Romans effectively used siege warfare tactics to isolate and weaken their enemy. This battle was a turning point in the Third Punic War, leading directly to the fall of Carthage and the end of the conflict. It exemplified the Roman determination to achieve total victory and the lengths they would go to secure it. The Battle of the Port of Carthage was crucial in the larger context of the Third Punic War, showcasing the importance of naval power and strategic blockade in ancient warfare.


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Nowaczyk, Bernard (2008). Kartagina 149-146 (in Polish). Warsaw: Bellona. ISBN 83-111-1270-3.Appian of Alexandria, The Punic Wars, "The Third Punic War"

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