The Punic wars happened because the Romans had already eviscerated the Etruscans and the Sabines, conquered most of Italy, and were just dying for a good fight. So in 264 BC they packed their bags and prepared to duke it out for the island of Sicily. The Romans lost magnificently for nearly twenty years, at which point someone realized that a navy might be of some use when attempting to conquer an island. So they slapped some boats together and finally started to win. Since this war was fought for Sicily, by the Romans and against the Carthaginians, it was naturally called the first Punic War, much to the dismay of high school students everywhere.
Of course, Carthaginians are rather stubborn, so barely twenty years after the first war was over, some young pup named Hannibal read one too many adventure stories, gathered some elephants, and headed out to seek his revenge. This became one of history’s greatest monuments to stupidity. Hannibal forgot about certain small difficulties such as the Alps, but never let reality stop him. And since in the end all of the elephants made it through it doesn’t seem to matter that he lost at least half his men. Hannibal was fine of course: he was riding an elephant.
Unfortunately for Hannibal, his great elephant tactic just didn’t seem to work too well, as every major battle the Carthaginians won did not include any elephants at all. Perhaps this was just an oversight. It may have worked better with yaks… history will never know. In the end, Scipio was called in and he obliterated Hannibal once and for all.
The third Punic War, however, was not really Carthage’s fault at all. Rome got tired of the way Carthage kept bouncing back after each defeat. They simply would not look properly downtrodden, and what’s more they even had the nerve to appear prosperous. Something had to be done about such people. So Scipio the younger, grandson of Scipio Africanus, and not to be confused with any of the other Scipios in Roman history, went to Carthage where he had an excessively dull dream about the insignificance of it all. This put him in a rather foul temper so he razed Carthage to the ground, putting and end to this nonsense which became the first, second, and third Punic Wars.