Sicily is a large island off the southwestern coast of the Italian peninsula. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Sicily was colonized by the Phoenicians beginning in the eleventh century B.C., and by the Greeks in the eighth century B.C. One of the most fertile areas of the Mediterranean, the Greek colony of Syracuse became one of the wealthiest Greek city-states, while the Phoenician colonies in western Sicily developed as trade ports. As the Greek city-states in eastern Sicily expanded to the west, they came in conflict with Carthage, leading to two centuries of almost constant war. Carthage achieved the upper hand, taking control of most of the island, but came in turn into conflict with the Roman Republic as Rome secured control of the Greek colonies on the southern coast of the Italian peninsula. As Carthage maneuvered to dominate Syracuse and achieve complete control of the island, Rome in 264 B.C. declared war, leading to the First Punic War between Carthage and the Roman Republic.