In the First Punic War (264–241 BCE), the Romans emerged victorious from a largely naval conflict. In 218 BCE the Carthaginian general Hannibal decided to take the war to Rome with an unprecedented overland invasion, which involved taking his troops, including cavalry and war elephants, across the Alps. The strategy took its toll: during the crossing of the Alps, thousands of his troops died from cold and avalanches, and he lost virtually all his war elephants. However, the shock of his arrival in northern Italy was soon intensified by his military brilliance, and he routed the Romans at Trebia, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae. Macedon and Sicily joined the Carthaginian cause, and the Romans adopted a ‘scorched earth’ policy, refusing to meet Hannibal in battle, but destroying his sources of supply. Hannibal lacked the siege technology to storm Rome, and was increasingly bottled up in the south of Italy, as the Romans began to retake territory. After a 15-year campaign, a frustrated Hannibal eventually sailed back to Carthage in 203 BCE.
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