Posts Tagged ‘Carthage’

Carthaginians were a nasty lot – probably

January 23, 2014

The Carthaginian Empire supposedly came into being with the Phoenician Queen Elissa (better known as Dido) sometime around 813 BCE. It reached its zenith around 500 years later  and by 264 BC controlled the Western Mediterranean.

Carthage in 264 BC (Ancient Encyclopedia)

Carthage in 264 BC (Ancient Encyclopedia)

But they made the mistake of expanding into Sicily and this was the start of their conflict with Rome:

Ancient Encyclopedia:

The Carthaginian trading ships sailed daily to ports all around the Mediterranean Sea while their navy, supreme in the region, kept them safe and, also, opened new territories for trade and resources through conquest.

It was this expansion which first brought Carthage into conflict with Rome. When Rome was weaker than Carthage, she posed no threat. The Carthaginian navy had long been able to enforce the treaty which kept Rome from trading in the western Mediterranean. When Carthage took Sicily, however, Rome responded. Though they had no navy and knew nothing of fighting on the sea, Rome built 330 ships which they equipped with clever ramps and gangways (the corvus) which could be lowered onto an enemy ship and secured; thus turning a sea battle into a land battle. The First Punic War (264-241 BCE) had begun. After an initial struggle with military tactics, Rome won a series of victories and finally defeated Carthage in 241 BCE. Carthage was forced to cede Sicily to Rome and pay a heavy war indemnity.

The Carthaginian Empire effectively came to an end when they lost the third Punic War against Rome

A Roman embassy to Carthage made demands to the senate which included the stipulation that Carthage be dismantled and then re-built further inland. The Carthaginians, understandably, refused to do so and the Third Punic War (149-146 BCE) began. The Roman general Scipio Aemilianus besieged Carthage for three years until it fell. 

It is not surprising that most Roman and Greek writings are quite disparaging about Carthage and the customs of the Carthaginians. It is from these accounts by the victors that we learn that the vile Carthaginians were a very nasty lot who indulged in child sacrifice. Many have put this down as black propaganda and a biased view. But apparently this is still a hot topic among archaeologists with the same bones leading to diametrically opposite conclusions.

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