Carthaginem esse delendam - The End of Carthage during the Third Punic War

5 February 146 BCE, 2.160 years ago in North Africa, the troops of Scipio Aemilianus Africanus the Younger took the Byrsa, Carthage's last fortified stronghold, by storm, ending the Third and last of the Punic Wars.

“Scipio, when he looked upon the city as it was utterly perishing and in the last throes of its complete destruction, is said to have shed tears and wept openly for his enemies. After being wrapped in thought for long, and realizing that all cities, nations, and authorities must, like men, meet their doom; that this happened to Ilium, once a prosperous city, to the empires of Assyria, Media, and Persia, the greatest of their time, and to Macedonia itself, the brilliance of which was so recent, either deliberately or the verses escaping him, he said: A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish, And Priam and his people shall be slain. And when Polybius speaking with freedom to him, for he was his teacher, asked him what he meant by the words, they say that without any attempt at concealment he named his own country, for which he feared when he reflected on the fate of all things human. Polybius actually heard him and recalls it in his history” (Polybius, “Histories”)


J.M.W. Turners allegorical “The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire“ (1817)


Every house had been turned into a fortress and the people of Carthage had produced about 300 swords, 500 spears, 140 shields and 1,000 projectiles for catapults every day to defy Scipio Aemilianus 80,000 men while the Romans, after initial setbacks, managed to enclose the city completely, defeat a last relief army, blocking even the harbour with a huge wall and finally take the mighty outworks on February 1st. After they had fallen five days before, with desperate fighting in the streets following, the last stronghold, Carthage’s citadel, the Byrsa, was stormed and the last defenders surrendered, the siege that lasted for three years, the Third Punic War and the history of ancient Carthage were all over.



Pierre Joseph Célestin François (1759 - 1851): "Marius seated amidst the Ruins of Carthage" (c 1794)


The last dramatic scenes were enacted when Hasdrubal, the defending general, went out to Scipio Aemilianus to ask for mercy and his shocked wife threw herself and her two sons into the fires burning in the ruined fortress in shame and so did 900 Roman deserters who could not expect mercy. Of the 500,000 people that inhabited one of the largest cities of antiquity, only one tenth survived and was sold into slavery and Cato the Elder's infamous little piece, ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam ("furthermore, I think Carthage must be destroyed") was immediately put into action. The city was razed to the ground, the place remains a wasteland until Julius Caesar started a resettling program in 49 BC. The city was to be the second largest city of the Empire in the 1st century AD again.



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