Saturday, February 04, 2006

Goldsworthy, Adrian, The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146 BC. Cassell, 2000. 412 pages including notes and index, paperback, purchased from Amazon.

When I've not felt the energy to do much of anything else, I've been reading this interesting summary of this subject. The author takes a particularly realistic view, I'd call it, trying to see things as the participants would without imputing modern values to them. Moreover, his ideas of how battles were fought seem to me far more likely than the wild charges and melees we see in the movies.

My history prof used to say "there were just too damn many Romans", and (including non-Roman Italians) that seems to be the way it was. This, combined with the uniquely Roman determination to fight until the enemy was not merely defeated but subordinated (permanently, it was hoped) meant they, not the Carthaginians, would prevail in the long run. Where Hellenistic states expected negotiated peace with a possible renewal to the struggle later, the Romans fought on. Disasters that would have prompted any other state (including Carthage) to sue for peace only made the Romans fight harder. They thought they had finished it at the end of the First war, but Hannibal's family found a way to continue in the Second. The Third war was terrifically one-sided, a consequence of Roman arrogance and fear of the economic revival of Carthage that resulted in the utter destruction of the Carthaginian state.

Once again we see how much of the history of the ancient world was lost in the Dark Ages. For the greatest prolonged struggle of the ancient world--much larger in scope than Greece vs Persia--we have large holes in our knowledge and often sometimes depend on only one (unreliable) author.

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