The primary cause of the First Punic War was the dispute regarding whether Rome or Carthage would control Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, which was at that time under Carthaginian control. While Carthage was at the time a richer state with a larger army, it did not maintain a standing army. Rome, on the other hand, had a large, well-trained army with which to challenge the Carthaginians.
As the First Punic War broke out, Rome was in desperate need of greater land to expand the republic into since its population was burgeoning; the Romans thus wanted Sicily as a Roman suburb. Carthage, on the other hand, wanted to keep Sicily for farming and fishing purposes. Although the conflict over Sicily began as a local issue, Rome and Carthage quickly took sides. The conflict soon expanded into a full-fledged war. Initially Carthage had the advantage, as they avoided land-based battles and prosecuted the fight using their vastly superior navy. Rome, however, soon enlarged its navy and developed tactics that enabled its trained infantry to take part in naval ship-to-ship battles. Rome won the First Punic War in 241 B.C. Carthage not only had to cede Sicily to the Romans, but also had to sign a peace treaty agreeing to pay tribute to Rome for 50 years.