Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Bad Day in the History of Carthage

 A Bad Day in the History of Carthage

       Today is the anniversary of two significant events in the history of Carthage. Neither, at least from the perspective of Carthage, was positive.

      The first of these events was the Battle of Zama, the climactic battle of the Second Punic War and a crushing Roman victory. The Battle of Zama took place in 202 BC.

      The Second Punic War had started off looking pretty good for Carthage. Hannibal Barca, beginning in what is now Spain (then Carthaginian territory) had famously moved his army  and his elephants across the Alps, gaining allies as he moved into what is now Italy. There they had a number significant victories against the Roman forces, including the battle of Cannae, famous for its encirclement and complete destruction of the Roman legions. It was during this period that Cato the Elder famously ended every speech in the Senate, irrespective of the topic  he was addressing, with “And Carthage must be destroyed.” {"Carthago delenda est"}.

      Ultimately, the tables would turn, and Rome got the upper hand. That turn of fortune culminated at Zama, where having taken the battle back to Carthage, Hannibal’s forces were ultimately defeated. Under the terms imposed by Rome, Carthage, previously a significant naval power, was limited to ten ships, and forbidden to raise an army without the permission of the Roman Senate.  A good recent book on the topic is Richard Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization.

      The other significant event in the history of Carthage would not take place until 439 AD. The Vandals, under Gaiseric, had been pushed out of what had been their homeland in what we today consider Spain, transporting themselves to North Africa (they had started in the region we today call Poland). From there, they proceeded east. On this day, they captured and sacked Carthage. Ultimately, the Vandals would invade Italy proper, sacking the city of Rome in 455 AD.

     Again, it’s just not a good day in the history of Carthage.

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