Sited on the coast of North Africa in modern-day Tunisia, Carthage was a colony founded by Phoenicians from the Levant around 800 BC. The Phoenicians were seafarers and Carthage grew rich on maritime trade. By the 3rd century BCE its naval power allowed it to dominate much of the western Mediterranean. It had a strong presence in Sicily, where its main enemy was the Greek city of Syracuse. At the same time, Rome was extending its power southward through Italy. Between 280 and 275 BCE King Pyrrhus of Epirus, intervening in defense of the Greek cities in the area, fought both the Carthaginians in Sicily and the Romans in southern Italy. After Pyrrhus left, Roman forces pushed down to the toe of Italy. Their anxiety about the Carthaginian presence in Sicily led them to cross the straits of Messina in 264 to lend support to the Mamertines, a band of mercenary soldiers in conflict with both Syracuse and Carthage. This intervention escalated into a full-scale war for possession of Sicily.