Sunday, March 4
Hello and welcome back to The Bygone.
Endless apologies about being a terrible blogger, etc. Here is a gigantic post to make up for my absence.
LET’S TALK ABOUT CARTHAGE.
[THANKS FOR THE REQUEST, YUGIMUTTON!]
The ruins of Carthage are in what is now Tunisia. They are very sexy ruins.
There will come a day that I will use an adjective other than ‘sexy’ to describe old shit, but it is not this day.
Back in the day (like, 1st millennium BCE), Carthage was a Phoenician colony. The Phoenicians sure as hell knew what they were doing when they colonised the area—the site of Carthage would come to be super important in just about every single realm: trade, agriculture, and military. Carthage also managed to piss off the goddamn Romans. More on that in a minute.
According to legend, Carthage was founded by the exiled Phoenician princess Dido (aka Elissa) who manages to build up a kingdom in just seven years. Buuuuuut because this story comes from Virgil’s Aeneid, Dido then kills herself because Aeneas won’t stay in Carthage with her. SO TYPICAL.
Anyway fast forward to the third century BCE. Carthage is now independent, super wealthy, and an all-around ballin’ place to be. It is the most powerful economic and military power in the Western Mediterranean, and has the best navy.
It does, however, have some rather, uh, difficult neighbours.
Rome and Carthage had already signed some treaties to avoid conflict that they both must have thought was inevitable (Rome = conflict always being inevitable), and had even sided together to defeat Pyrrhus. But in 264BCE, their pretty little alliances all came crashing down.
See that island in between Carthage and Rome? That’s Sicily. And everyone wanted it.
The problem was that Carthage’s navy was like 29302X better than the Roman navy. And the Roman infantry was 29302X better than the Carthagian infantry. So the two regions found themselves in a stalemate.
So then the Romans started building warships…by copying Carthagian ones.
[I KNOW THIS POST IS ABOUT CARTHAGE BUT I NEED TO YELL ABOUT THE EMINENTLY BADASS THING THE ROMANS INVENTED FOR THEIR TRIREMES: THEY MADE A GANGPLANK WITH A GIGANTIC METAL SPIKE AT ONE END THAT THEY WOULD SLAM INTO THE ENEMY SHIPS AND THEN THEY WOULD BOARD THE ENEMY’S SHIP WHILE IT WAS SINKING AND DESTROY THEM. SO BADASS.]
Because of the Gangplanks of Death and Badassery (aka the corvus), the Romans were able to turn naval warfare into infantry battle on the high seas. And thus the Romans won the First Punic War.
BUT BACK THE FUCK UP BECAUSE HERE COMES HANNIBAL.
Cooler than you.
I am so good at photoshop.
Hannibal was a Carthagian general and scholars generally agree that he is the King Badass of History. He gathered his forces, brought them to Spain, marched them north, and then right goddamn through the Alps..in the winter.
We are not in Tunisia any more.
Oh, and he brought elephants.
Hannibal’s ballsyness (ballsiness?) never ceases to shock me.
After Cannae, the Romans realised that this Hannibal guy knew what he was doing. So they started chasing him around Italy, basically attacking him if they got a chance and then retreating. Hannibal, meanwhile, was low on supplies and didn’t have the equipment to attack Rome directly. So, despite winning both pitched battles, Hannibal heads back to Carthage.
He is followed by Scipio Africanus. At the Battle of Zama, the Romans defeat the Carthagians, and the Second Punic War ends.
BUT DON’T WORRY BECAUSE THERE IS A THIRD PUNIC WAR STILL.
This post is a novel so here is the TL;DR version: some dude in Rome (Cato the Elder) yells CARTHAGO DELENDA EST a lot (“CARTHAGE MUST BE DESTROYED”), the Romans siege the city, the Romans build a goddamn bridge across the harbour, and then what follows might be one of the saddest events in all of history.
The Romans devastate Carthage.
The destruction of Carthage is so violent and so savage that the site is left abandoned for nearly two centuries. The entire population is killed or enslaved. Legend says the Romans even salted the earth so nothing would grow. What was once the most powerful city in the Mediterranean is gone.
I don’t have a joke about it because it’s actually really sad.
Carthage would eventually rise to power again as a Roman colony, but its age of independent glory was over. There would never be Carthaginians living in Carthage again: from that moment on, it became Roman.
After the fall of Carthage, the Roman Republic began to crumble. And thus a whole new period of history begins.
[Also, a GIGANTIC THANK YOU to everyone who signed the petition to get Spike TV to not air their disastrously bad idea called American Digger. I’m not sure what’s happening with it right now, but I know that a bunch of archaeological associations are sending in letters to try to get the show cancelled for legal reasons and also because it is AWFUL.]
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