Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization by Richard Miles - review by Paul Cartledge

Paul Cartledge

Delenda Est Carthago

Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 522pp £30 order from our bookshop

Cato – the Elder, the Censor – probably didn’t say it in so many words, but there’s no doubt that he meant it, favoured it, and would have loved to have been alive to see it when it did actually happen in 146 BC, at the direction of the younger Scipio (he had died in 149). Move on a hundred years, and leading Roman moralists and historians (often the same people) were taking Carthage’s destruction as the tipping point between the reign of the good old solid Roman values and the present prevalence of decadence and vice. A little piece of Carthage was thus etched on every good – and indeed bad – Roman soul. After the sack of Rome by the Gauls (traditionally dated to 390 BC), Carthage’s destruction was probably the single biggest event to have occurred under what came to be harked back to as the free Roman Republic. Positively and in context, it sealed imperial Rome’s status as suzerain of the Mediterranean, a status she would maintain and indeed enhance over the next three centuries. 

Our ‘Carthage’ is an anglicisation of the Romans’ Carthago. What the Carthaginians themselves called their city was Qart Hadasht, ‘New Town’. Well, it was new in 814 BC (as New College, Oxford was new in AD 1379), the date usually given for the foundation of the original settlement

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