Why must Carthage be destroyed?
Everyone knows the famous Latin phrase “Carthage must be destroyed”. But few people know that it is attributed to the Roman commander and statesman Cato the Elder. Carthage was the city that once existed on the northern coast of Africa. In general, the mysteries of ancient city have long been a source of interest not only for scientists and travelers, but also for history lovers. Romance of antiquity, Punic wars, wealth and luxury of antiquity … All this makes us again and again return to the history of Carthage, one of the greatest cities of the Ancient world with almost a million people that nearly crushed the Roman Empire.
The ruins of ancient Carthage lie in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. In the second millennium BC the ancestors of the Carthaginians, the Phoenicians, occupied only a narrow strip of the coast of the eastern Mediterranean. It was 60 years before the appearance of its main rival – Rome.
Its trade monopoly Carthage supported with the help of a large military fleet and a powerful mercenary army. Approximately in 480 BC ships were sent to study the trading opportunities of other lands. Traveling west along the African coast, as well as to Sicily, Sardinia, Southern Spain, the Phoenicians arranged their trading settlements there.
It is commonly believed that Carthage was founded in 814 BC.
In 264 BC the Romans began war against Carthage, which was called the First Punic War. This war, during which the most grandiose sea battles of antiquity took place, lasted almost twenty years. In the end, the Carthaginians were forced to leave Sicily. Corsica and Sardinia moved to Rome.
To make up for the losses and restore the might of his power, the Carthaginian commander Hamilcar Barca captured the southeast coast of Spain, where the New Carthage (now Cartagena) was founded. In these places, silver was discovered. In 218 BC the Second Punic War broke out.
One of the sons of Hamilcar Barca Hannibal was at the head of the Carthaginian army. He decided to transfer the military actions directly to the Apennine peninsula and made his famous trip through the Alps – with an army consisting of about forty battle elephants. Scientists still cannot explain how Hannibal succeeded. The Romans lost one battle after another. On August 2, 216 BC the army of Hannibal destroyed Roman troops. But the Romans did not give up and for the next thirteen years waged an exhausting semi-guerrilla war. When Rome sent troops directly to Africa, left by allies and defeated in Spain and in Sicily, Carthage was forced to withdraw Hannibal.
In 202, the Roman commander Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal. The Second Punic War was lost, Carthage had to give its entire fleet to the enemy and pay a huge indemnity. However, the money was paid ahead of schedule. This viability of the city was very troubling to the enemies.
In 150 BC the Romans, accusing the Carthaginians of violating the peace treaty, declared war on them for the third time. It was the Third Punic War – a war of total annihilation. The city was besieged for three years and the Romans finally broke the wall. After six days of street fighting, about 50,000 starved defenders of Carthage surrendered at the mercy of the Roman soldiers. Some were executed, others were sold into slavery. The city was destroyed to the ground. Its territory was plowed and covered with salt, so that the grass would not grow there. A huge number of monuments of art, manuscripts, and architectural structures were destroyed.
However, over a hundred years the city began to revive. Julius Caesar decided to found Julian Colony of Carthage there. The colony was built after the death of Caesar, under Octavian Augustus. Removing about a hundred thousand cubic meters of soil, Roman engineers completely destroyed the traces of the past. They built Roman temples and public buildings: a circus, a theater, an amphitheater, huge baths and a 132-kilometer-long aqueduct. In Roman times the city had about 300 thousand inhabitants.
At the very end of the 7th century, Muslim Arabs conquered almost the whole of North Africa. A great city with a thousand-year history was again wiped off the face of the Earth and no longer was reborn. Fertile lands had become a desert. Harbor, where hundreds of ships stood, was covered with silt. Marble and granite of the city were used for the construction of Tunisia. The stones of Carthage and now lie in the foundations of the Italian cathedrals of Genoa and Pisa. It is said that Canterbury Cathedral stands on the same slabs in England. Everything passes, but nothing passes without a trace…