Malta was first raided by the Romans during the first Punic War (264-241 B.C.), when Rome was still a Republic, and Malta a Carthaginian outpost. The war began with the Roman conquest of the Carthaginian-controlled city of Messina in Sicily, granting Rome a military foothold on the island.
By now, Rome had well understood the importance of naval power and modelled its fleet on those of its enemies when building a navy to challenge Carthage, then the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean. The ensuing naval battles coupled with storms led the loss of some 700 Roman and 500 Carthaginian warships, known as quinqueremes, along with hundreds of thousands of lives. The war dragged on for twenty three years, with command of the sea swaying repeatedly between the confronting powers. It was during this war that our islands were attacked by the Romans, in 255 B.C., leaving behind a wake of widespread devastation. This raid was part of the campaign and invasion of the North African Coast, which ended in disaster when the Roman army was destroyed in battle at the Bagradas, with consul Marcus Atilius Regulus taken prisoner. Despite this setback, the Romans persisted and turned their attention to Sicily. Hamilcar Barka A new fleet under consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus. Gaius confronted and destroyed the Carthaginian fleet at the Aegates Islands in 241 B.C., forcing the cut-off Carthaginian troops on Sicily to give up. These events brought an end to the first Punic War with the signing of a peace treaty and vast reparations imposed by the victorious Romans. Despite the end of Carthaginian rule in Sicily, thereafter annexed as a Roman Province, the Maltese Islands were left under Punic control. But tensions remained high and despite the peace treaty, the Romans seized Sardinia and Corsica. The seeds of war had readily been sown and war erupted again in 218 B.C.
When the Second Punic War broke out between 218-201 B.C., the Roman Co-Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus was sent to Africa with a large fleet of 160 Quinqueremes. This campaign led to a second invasion of Malta in 218 B.C. According to Roman writer and historian Livy, the commander of the Punic garrison surrendered to Tiberius without resistance, effectively ending Carthaginian rule in Malta. But Rome itself would eventually be threatened by the Carthaginians when their able commander, Hannibal Barka invaded Italy.