Third Punic War: Rome Decisively Defeats Carthage

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Hannibal after being defeated
at the Battle of Zama
Hannibal spent a total of 15 years in Italy and although he was able to defeat the Romans in key battles he was ultimately defeated because the Romans had a large population to draw new recruits from and Carthage’s mercenary forces shrank as time went on. The Roman armies under Fabius followed the Carthaginians and wore them down with delaying and harassing tactics. During the Battle of the Metaurus, Hannibal and his brother were defeated at the Meataurus River by 7,000 Romans.

The Second Punic War ended when Hannibal was defeated by the Roman general Scipio who counterattacked in Northern Africa and routed the Carthaginian army at the Battle of Zama in 2002 B.C. in Tunisia where the Romans employed a checkerboard formation to absorb an elephant charge and then counter-attacked. This was Hannibal’s Waterloo.

Hannibal received asylum in Bithnynia (now Turkey). His time ran out in 182 B.C. when the potentate of Bithynia gave him up. To avoid capture by the Romans, Hannibal committed suicide while in exile near present-day Istanbul by taking a poison.

According to a peace treaty that ended the second Punic War, Carthage had to promise forever to refrain from capturing and training North African elephants. The entire Carthaginian fleet was towed out to see and burned and Carthaginian aristocrats were forced pay reparations out of their own pockets.

After the Second Punic War, Carthage turned its attention to trading and became rich and prosperous once again.

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity ; Forum Romanum ; “Outlines of Roman History”; “The Private Life of the Romans”|; BBC Ancient Rome; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; Lacus Curtius; The Roman Empire in the 1st Century; The Internet Classics Archive ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors; British Museum; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive ; Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Internet Classics Archive ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame / ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History

Between the Second and Third Punic Wars

According to a peace treaty of 201 B.C. that ended the second Punic War, Carthage had to promise forever to refrain from capturing and training North African elephants. The entire Carthaginian fleet was towed out to see and burned and Carthaginian aristocrats were forced pay reparations out of their own pockets.

Scipio Aemillianus, the Roman general behind who engineered the defeat of Carthage

The terms imposed by Scipio the terms of peace included: 1) Carthage was to give up the whole of Spain and all the islands between Africa and Italy; 2) Masinissa was recognized as the king of Numidia and the ally of Rome; (3) Carthage was to pay an annual tribute of 200 talents for fifty years; (4) Carthage agreed not to wage any war without the consent of Rome. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

Rome thus became the main power of the western Mediterranean. Carthage, although not reduced to a province, became a dependent state. Syracuse was added to the province of Sicily, and the territory of Spain was divided into two provinces, Hither and Farther Spain. Rome had, moreover, been brought into hostile relations with Macedonia, which paved the way for her conquests in the East. \~\

After the Second Punic War, Carthage turned its attention to trading and became rich and prosperous once again. Carthage had faithfully observed the terms of the treaty which Rome had imposed. She had abandoned war and devoted herself to the arts of peace. Her commerce had revived; her ships were again plying the waters of the Mediterranean; and she seemed destined to become once more a rich and prosperous city. But her prosperity was the cause of her ruin.

Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.)

In the Third Punic War, 149-146 B.C., Rome destroyed Carthage. The conflict was inspired by the Roman diplomat Cato the Elder, who wrote in 175 B.C.: Carthage was "teeming with a new generation of fighting men, overflowing with wealth, amply stocked with weapons and military supplies...and full of confidence at the revival of its strength." Whenever he gave a speech in the Senate, Cato reminded Rome "Carthage must be destroyed." Cato’s warning stirred the Romans to do just that.

The Third Punic War began when a pro-war party came to power in Rome and took up arms under the pretext that the Numidians were seizing Roman land. By this time Carthage was no match against Rome. It attempted to avoid war by handing over heavy tributes to Rome. But on top of that Rome then demanded Carthage turn over all of its weapons and give up international trade.

These terms were too hash for the Carthaginians and they unified against Rome even though they probably knew they had little hope of winning. But the Romans were slow to attack and the Carthaginians increased its weapons output to 300 swords and 500 spears a day, fortified their city with 65-foot-high and 98-foot-deep walls and built facilities for 300 elephants and 4,000 horses.

Beginning of the Third Punic War

The jealousy of Rome was aroused by the recovery of her former rival. The story is often told, that Cato (the Censor) was sent to Carthage on an embassy; that he was astonished at the wealth and prosperity which everywhere met his gaze; that he pictured the possibility of another struggle with that queen of the seas; and that he closed every speech in the senate with the words, “Carthage must be destroyed.” [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

Whether Rome was really alarmed at the growth of Carthage or only jealous of its commercial prosperity, the words of Cato became the policy of the senate. The Romans only waited for an opportunity to put this policy into effect. This they soon found in the quarrels between Carthage and Numidia, whose king, Masinissa, was an ally of Rome. After appealing in vain to the senate to protect their rights against Masinissa, the Carthaginians were bold enough to take up arms to protect their own rights. But to Rome it was a deadly offense to take up arms against her ally. As a guaranty to keep the peace, the Carthaginians were commanded to give up three hundred of their noblest youths as hostages. \~\

The hostages were accordingly given up. The Carthaginians were then informed that, as they were then under the protection of Rome, they would not need to go to war; and that they must surrender all their arms and munitions. This hard demand was also complied with, and Carthage became defenseless. The demand was now made that, as the city was fortified, it too must be given up, and the inhabitants must remove to a point ten miles from the coast; in other words, that “Carthage must be destroyed.” To such a revolting and infamous command the Carthaginians could not yield, and they resolved upon a desperate resistance. \~\

William Turner's idealized Carthage

Carthage’s Response to Rome’s Ultimatum to Break Up Its Army and Navy

Polybius (c.200-after 118 B.C.) wrote in “The Histories” Book 36: “When the Carthaginians had been some time deliberating how they should meet the message from Rome they were reduced to a state of the utmost embarrassment by the people of Utica anticipating their design by putting themselves under the protection of Rome. This seemed their only hope of safety left: and they imagined that such a step must win them favor at Rome: for to submit to put themselves and their country under control was a thing which they had never done even in their darkest hour of danger and defeat, with the enemy at their very walls. And now they had lost all the fruit of this resolve by being anticipated by the people of Utica; for it would appear nothing novel or strange to the Romans if they only did the same as that people. Accordingly, with a choice of two evils only left, to accept war with courage or to surrender their independence, after a long and anxious discussion held secretly in the Senate-house, they appointed two ambassadors with plenary powers, and instructed them, that, in view of the existing state of things, they should do what seemed for the advantage of their country. The names of these envoys were Gisco Strytanus, Hamilcar, Misdes, Gillimas, and Mago. When they reached Rome from Carthage, they found war already decreed and the generals actually started with their forces. Circumstances, therefore, no longer giving them any power of deliberating, they offered an unconditional surrender. [Source: Polybius, “The Histories of Polybius”, 2 Vols., translated by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London: Macmillan, 1889), II.499-507, 511-515, 528-530]

“I have spoken before about what this implies, but I must in this place also briefly remind my readers of its import. Those who thus surrender themselves to the Roman authority, surrender all territory and the cities in it, together with all men and women in all such territory or cities, likewise rivers, harbors, temples, and tombs, so that the Romans should become actual lords of all these, and those who surrender should remain lords of nothing whatever. On the Carthaginians making a surrender to this effect, they were summoned into the Senate-house and the Praetor delivered the Senate's decision, which was to this effect: "They had been well advised, and therefore the Senate granted them freedom and the enjoyment of their laws; and moreover, all their territory and the possession of their other property, public or private." The Carthaginian envoys were much relieved when they heard this; thinking that, where the alternatives were both miserable, the Senate had treated them well in conceding their most necessary and important requirements. But presently the Praetor went on to state that they would enjoy these concessions on condition of sending three hundred hostages to Lilybaeum within thirty days, sons of members of the Hundred or the Senate, and obeying such commands as should be imposed on them by the consuls. This dashed their satisfaction for a time, because they had no means of knowing what orders were to be given them through the consuls; however, they started at once, being anxious to report what had occurred to their countrymen with all speed. When they arrived in Carthage and stated the facts, the citizens considered that the envoys had in all respects acted with proper caution; but they were greatly alarmed and distressed by the fact that in the answer no mention was made of the city itself.

“At this juncture they say that Mago Brettius delivered a manly and statesmanlike speech. He said: "The Carthaginians had two opportunities of taking counsel in regard to themselves and their country, one of which they had let pass; for in good truth it was no use now to question what was going to be enjoined on them by the consuls, and why it was that the Senate had made no mention of the city: they should have done that when they made the surrender. Having once made that, they must clearly make up their mind to the necessity of submitting to every possible injunction, unless it should prove to be something unbearably oppressive or beyond what they could possibly expect. If they would not do this, they must now consider whether they preferred to stand an invasion and all its possible consequences, or, in terror of the attack of the enemy, accept without resistance every order they might impose upon them."

Carthage today

“But as the imminence of war and the uncertainty of the future made every one inclined to submit to these injunctions, it was decided to send the hostages to Lilybaeum. Three hundred young men were forthwith selected and sent to Lilybaeum amidst loud expressions of sorrow and tears, each of them being escorted by his nearest friends and relations, the whole scene being made especially moving by the lamentations of the women. On landing at Lilybaeum the hostages were at once handed over by the consuls to Quintus Fabius Maximus, who had been appointed to the command in Sicily at that time. By him they were safely conveyed to Rome and confined in the dockyard of the six-benched ships.”

The historian Oliver J. Thatcher wrote: “Rome, with the end of the third Punic war, 146 B. C., had completely conquered the last of the civilized world. The best authority for this period of her history is Polybius. He was born in Arcadia, in 204 B. C., and died in 122 B.C. Polybius was an officer of the Achaean League, which sought by federating the Peloponnesus to make it strong enough to keep its independence against the Romans, but Rome was already too strong to be resisted, and arresting a thousand of the most influential members, sent them to Italy to await trial for conspiracy. Polybius had the good fortune, during seventeen years exile, to be allowed to live with the Scipios. He was present at the destructions of Carthage and Corinth, in 146 B. C., and did more than anyone else to get the Greeks to accept the inevitable Roman rule. Polybius is the most reliable, but not the most brilliant, of ancient historians.” [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 166-193]

Unarmed Carthaginians Decide to Resist the Romans

According to Appian, Pun. 91ff and Livy, Ep. 49: The Carthaginians determined to resist, and the consuls, who had not hurried to Carthage, because they believed that resistance from an unarmed populace was impossible, found, when they approached Carthage, that it was prepared to offer a vigorous resistance. Scipio Aemilianus, on the strength of his family name, was elected Consul for 147-146 B.C., and immediatly began operations to confine the Carthaginians to the city itself

Polybius wrote in “The Histories” Book 36:“Hamilcar Phameas was the general of the Carthaginians, a man in the very prime of life and of great physical strength. What is of the utmost importance too for service in the field, he was an excellent and bold horseman. . . . When he saw the advanced guard, Phameas, though not at all deficient in courage, avoided coming to close quarters with Scipio [military tribune in 149-148 B.C.]: and on one occasion when he had come near his reserves, he got behind the cover of the brow of a hill and halted there a considerable time....The Roman maniples fled to the top of a hill; and when all had given their opinions, Scipio said, "When men are consulting what measures to take at first, their object should be to avoid disaster rather than to inflict it." . . .It ought not to excite surprise that I am more minute than usual in my account of Scipio and that I give in detail everything which he said. . . . . . When Marcus Porcius Cato heard in Rome of the glorious achievements of Scipio he uttered a palinode to his criticisms of him: "What have you heard? He alone has the breath of wisdom in him: the rest are but flitting phantoms." [Source: Polybius, “The Histories of Polybius”, 2 Vols., translated by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London: Macmillan, 1889), II.499-507, 511-515, 528-530]

Final Negotiations Between Romans and Cathaginians

Polybius wrote in “The Histories” Book 38: “Hasdrubal, the general of the Carthaginians, was a vain ostentatious person, very far from possessing real strategic ability. There are numerous proofs of his want of judgment. In the first place he appeared in full armor in his interview with Gulussa, king of the Numidians, with a purple-dyed robe over his armor fastened by a brooch, and attended by ten bodyguards armed with swords; and in the next place, having advanced in front of these armed attendants to a distance of about twenty feet, he stood behind the trench and palisade and beckoned the king to come to him, whereas it ought to have been quite the other way. However, Gulussa, after the Numidian fashion, being not inclined to stand on ceremony, advanced towards him unattended, and when he got near him asked him "Whom he was afraid of that he had come in full armor?" And on his answering, "The Romans," Gulussa remarked: "Then you should not have trusted yourself to the city, when there was no necessity for your doing so. However, what do you want, and what do you ask me to do?" To which Hasdrubal replied: "I want you to go as our ambassador to the Roman commander, and to undertake for us that we will obey every injunction; only I beg of you both to abstain from harming this wretched city."

“Then said Gulussa: "Your demand appears to me to be quite childish! Why, my good sir, what you failed to get by your embassies from the Romans, who were then quietly encamped at Utica, and before a blow had been struck, how can you expect to have granted you now, when you have been completely invested by sea and land, and have almost given up every hope of safety?" To which Hasdrubal replied that "Gulussa was ill-informed; for they still had good hopes of their outside allies,"---for he had not yet heard about the Mauretanii, and thought that the forces in the country were still unconquered, ---"nor were they in despair as to their own ultimate safety. And above all, they trusted in the support of the gods, and in what they might expect from them; for they believed that they would not disregard the flagrant violation of treaty from which they were suffering, but would give them many opportunities of securing their safety. Therefore he called on the Roman commander in the name of the gods and of Fortune to spare the city; with the distinct understanding that, if its inhabitants failed to obtain this grace, they would be cut to pieces to the last man sooner than evacuate it." After some more conversation of the same sort, these men separated for the present, having made an appointment to meet again on the third day from that time.

“On Gulussa communicating to him what had been said, Scipio remarked with a laugh: "Oh, then, it was because you intended to make this demand that you displayed that abominable cruelty to our prisoners! And you trust in the gods, do you, after violating even the laws of men?" The king went on to remind Scipio that above all things it was necessary to finish the business speedily; for, apart from unforeseen contingencies, the consular elections were now close at hand, and it was only right to have regard to that, lest, if the winter found them just where they were, another Consul would come to supersede him, and without any trouble get all the credit of his labors. These words induced Scipio to give directions to offer Hasdrubal safety for himself, his wife and children, and ten families of his friends and relations, and permission to take ten talents of his private property and to bring out with him whichever of his slaves he chose.

final assault on Carthage

"With these concessions, therefore, Gulussa went to his meeting with Hasdrubal on the third day, who again came forward with great pomp and at a dignified step, clothed in his purple robe and full suit of armor, so as to cast the tyrants of tragedy far into the shade. He was naturally fat, but at that time he had grown extremely corpulent, and had become more than usually red from exposure to the sun, so that he seemed to be living like fat oxen at a fair; and not at all like a man to be in command at a time of such terrible miseries as cannot easily be described in words. When he met the king, and heard the offer of the Consul, he slapped his thigh again and again, and appealing to the gods and Fortune declared that "The day would never come on which Hasdrubal would behold the sun and his native city in flames; for to the nobly-minded one's country and its burning houses were a glorious funeral pile."

“These expressions force us to feel some admiration for the man and the nobility of his language; but when we come to view his administration of affairs, we cannot fail to be struck by his want of spirit and courage; for at a time when his fellow-citizens were absolutely perishing with famine, he gave banquets and had second courses put on of a costly kind, and by his own excellent physical condition made their misery more conspicuous. For the number of the dying surpassed belief, as well as the number who deserted every day from hunger. However, by fiercely rebuking some, and by executing as well as abusing others, he cowed the common people: and by this means retained, in a country reduced to the lowest depths of misfortune, an authority which a tyrant would scarcely enjoy in a prosperous city. Therefore I think I was justified in saying that two leaders more like each other than those who at that time directed the affairs of Greece and Carthage it would not be easy to find. And this will be rendered manifest when we come to a formal comparison of them....

Defeat of Carthage in the Third Punic War

When the Romans finally invaded, it took them three years to breach Carthage's walls and from there it was street to street, house-to-house fighting that resulting in huge losses for both sides. The Romans finally prevailed after a bloody six-day assault led the Roman general Scipio Aemillianus on Byrsa Hill. After the victory he said, "I feel terror and dread. lest someone someday give the same order about my own native city."

Some 50,000 Carthaginians surrendered and many of them ended up being sold into slavery. Everyone else in a city had been home to several hundred thousand people was dead. One of the last to die was the wife of a leader who, after holing herself up in a temple, grabbed her two children and leap to her death on the flaming Temple of Eshumun rather than surrender.

Appain wrote: “The fire spread and carried everything down.” Archaeologists have found layers of black char in the excavations which date the conflagration. In the 2nd century B.C. the Romans rebuilt their own Carthage on the same spot.

Siege and Destruction of Carthage (146 B.C.)

Roman catapults

Never was there a more heroic defense than that made by Carthage in this, her last struggle. She was without arms, without war ships, without allies. To make new weapons, the temples were turned into workshops; and it is said that the women cut off their long hair to be twisted into bowstrings. Supplies were collected for a long siege; the city became a camp. For three long years the brave Carthaginians resisted every attempt to take the city. They repelled the assault upon their walls. They were then cut off from all communication with the outside world by land—and they sought an egress by the sea. Their communication by water was then cut off by a great mole, or breakwater, built by the Romans—and they cut a new outlet to the sea. They then secretly built fifty war ships, and attacked the Roman fleet. But all these heroic efforts simply put off the day of doom. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

The historian Evelyn S Shuckburgh wrote:: “After various operations during the autumn of 147 B.C., the upshot of which was to put the whole of the open country in Roman hands, in the beginning of spring, 146 B.C., Scipio delivered his final attack on Carthage, taking first the quarter of the merchants' harbor, then the war harbor, and then the market-place. There only remained the streets leading to the Byrsa and the Byrsa itself. — Appian, Pun., 123-126; Livy, Ep. 51].

At last, under Scipio Aemilianus, the Romans forced their way through the wall, and the city was taken street by street, and house by house. Carthage became the prey of the Roman soldiers. Its temples were plundered; its inhabitants were carried away as captives; and by the command of the senate, the city itself was consigned to flames. The destruction of Carthage took place in the same year (146 B.C.) in which Corinth was destroyed. The terrible punishment inflicted upon these two cities in Greece and Africa was an evidence of Rome’s grim policy to be absolutely supreme everywhere.” \~\

Roman Destruction of Carthage

Polybius wrote in “The Histories” Book 39: “Having got within the walls, while the Carthaginians still held out on the citadel, Scipio found that the arm of the sea which intervened was not at all deep; and upon Polybius advising him to set it with iron spikes or drive sharp wooden stakes into it, to prevent the enemy crossing it and attacking the mole [the mole of huge stones constructed to block up the mouth of the harbor], he said that, having taken the walls and got inside the city, it would be ridiculous to take measures to avoid fighting the enemy. . . [Source: Polybius, “The Histories of Polybius”, 2 Vols., translated by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London: Macmillan, 1889), II.499-507, 511-515, 528-530]

“The pompous Hasdrubal threw himself on his knees before the Roman commander, quite forgetful of his proud language. . . When the Carthaginian commander thus threw himself as a suppliant at Scipio's knees, the proconsul with a glance at those present said: "See what Fortune is, gentlemen! What an example she makes of irrational men! This is the Hasdrubal who but the other day disdained the large favors which I offered him, and said that the most glorious funeral pyre was one's country and its burning ruins. Now he comes with suppliant wreaths, beseeching us for spare life and resting all his hopes on us.

Who would not learn from such a spectacle that a mere man should never say or do anything presumptuous?" Then some of the deserters came to the edge of the roof and begged the front ranks of the assailants to hold their hands for a little; and, on Scipio ordering a halt, they began abusing Hasdrubal, some for his perjury, declaring that he had sworn again and again on the altars that he would never abandon them, and others for his cowardice and utter baseness: and they did this in the most unsparing language, and with the bitterest terms of abuse. And just at this moment Hasdrubal's wife, seeing him seated in front of the enemy with Scipio, advanced in front of the deserters, dressed in noble and dignified attire herself, but holding in her hands, on either side, her two boys dressed only in short tunics and shielded under her own robes.

First she addressed Hasdrubal by his name, and when he said nothing but remained with his head bowed to the ground, she began by calling on the name of the gods, and next thanked Scipio warmly because, as far as he could secure it, both she and her children were saved. And then, pausing for a short time, she asked Hasdrubal how he had had the heart to secure this favor from the Roman general for himself alone, and, leaving his fellow-citizens who trusted in him in the most miserable plight, had gone over secretly to the enemy? And how he had the assurance to be sitting there holding suppliant boughs, in the face of the very men to whom he had frequently said that the day would never come in which the sun would see Hasdrubal alive and his native city in flames..” [ Livy reported that Hasdrubal's wife finally threw herself and her children from the citadel into the burning streets, Livy, Ep. 51].

Scipio Cries at The Sight of Carthage in Flames

Scipio surveying the damage of Carthage

Polybius wrote in “The Histories” Book 39: “After an interview with [Scipio], in which he was kindly treated, Hasdrubal desired leave to go away from the town....At the sight of the city utterly perishing amidst the flames Scipio burst into tears, and stood long reflecting on the inevitable change which awaits cities, nations, and dynasties, one and all, as it does every one of us men. This, he thought, had befallen Ilium, once a powerful city, and the once mighty empires of the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and that of Macedonia lately so splendid. And unintentionally or purposely he quoted — the words perhaps escaping him unconsciously — "The day shall be when holy Troy shall fall/ And Priam, lord of spears, and Priam's folk." [Source: Polybius, “The Histories of Polybius”, 2 Vols., translated by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London: Macmillan, 1889), II.499-507, 511-515, 528-530]

“And on my asking him boldly (for I had been his tutor) what he meant by these words, he did not name Rome distinctly, but was evidently fearing for her, from this sight of the mutability of human affairs. . . . Another still more remarkable saying of his I may record. . . [When he had given the order for firing the town] he immediately turned round and grasped me by the hand and said: "O Polybius, it is a grand thing, but, I know not how, I feel a terror and dread, lest some one should one day give the same order about my own native city." . . . Any observation more practical or sensible it is not easy to make. For in the midst of supreme success for one's self and of disaster for the enemy, to take thought of one's own position and of the possible reverse which may come, and in a word to keep well in mind in the midst of prosperity the mutability of Fortune, is the characteristic of a great man, a man free from weaknesses and worthy to be remembered.”

After the Third Punic War

Like Macedonia, Africa was reduced to the form of a province. It comprised all the land which had hitherto been subject to Carthage. Utica was made the new capital city, where the Roman governor was to reside. All the cities which had favored Carthage were punished by the loss of their land, or the payment of tribute. The cities which had favored Rome were allowed to remain free. Numidia, on account of its fidelity to Rome, was continued as an independent ally. In this way the condition of every city and people was dependent upon the extent of its loyalty to Rome. After Africa was made a province, it soon became a Romanized country. Its commerce passed into the hands of Roman merchants; the Roman manners and customs were introduced; and the Latin language became the language of the people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

Jamie Frater wrote for Listverse: “There is a popular misconception that when Rome conquered Carthage, they salted the farmlands to prevent anything from growing. In fact, this is a 20th century myth which has no bearing in reality. When the Romans conquered Carthage, they went from house to house capturing slaves and slaughtering the rest. They burnt the city to the ground and left it as a pile of ruins. This resulted in the loss of a great deal of historical information on Carthage, which makes the study of it difficult in modern times. [Source: Jamie Frater, Listverse, May 5, 2008]

End of Carthage and the Phoenicians

Scipio at the deathbed of Masinissa, the Carthaginian king

Carthage and Phoenician civilization died when Carthage was sacked by Romans under General Scipio in 146 B.C. The entire city was raised (but the crop fields were not salted as some books allege) and the entire city was abandoned for more than a century. Rubble was imported to Rome and used as building material.

Carthage was the only city that was entirely destroyed by the Romans. This was because it was the rival that Rome considered a real threat. Other rival states were generally defeated and then absorbed. Surviving Carthaginians were to forced learn Latin and give up human sacrifices but the continued to worship Ba'al as incarnation of the Roman god Saturn.

In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar decided to build a new city on the site of destroyed Carthage but he was assassinated before his plan could be realized. Beginning in A.D. 31 his successor Augustus reduced the height of Byrsa Hill by 16 feet by removing 245,000 cubic meters of rock, earth and ruins and built a Roman city on the resulting plateau with, according to one Roman historian, seven story buildings. The city expanded under Hadrian and Antonine.

In the early centuries of the Christian era, Carthage was a great center of Christian learning , second only to Alexandria. It was occupied by the Vandals and prospered under the Byzantines. In A.D. 698, Carthage was seized by the Arabs. After that Carthage declined while new cities such as Tunis appeared and prospered. After centuries of neglect the bishopric of Saint Cyprien was restored and a massive basilica was built on Mount Byrsa by the French. Some development occurred when a rail line was built between the coast and Tunis.

In A.D. 193, Rome had a North African Emperor, Septimius, who reportedly spoke with a Phoenician accent. See Romans

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity ; Forum Romanum ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) |+|; BBC Ancient Rome ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP,“History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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