images or on the links below the images to enlarge them.
Appian based his history of the war on the mostly lost text of
Pro- and anti-war factions developed in Rome in the inter-war
Similar factions grew in Carthage where a small faction also
developed that favored an new Numidian (Masinissa) monarchy.
Between the Second and Third Punic wars, Roman control over Iberia
slackened and revolts followed. Most Romans wouldn't
volunteer for Iberian military duty -- until Scipio Aemilainus
Scipio Aemilianus, an adoptive grandson of Africanus, was the new
star of the faction that thought war with Carthage was not
Cato the Elder, a veteran of the Second Punic War, was the
iplacable foe of the Scipios and led the Roman faction that said
war with Carthage was necessary for Rome's long term existence.
Masinissa, with tacit support of Rome, ate away at the edges
of Carthaginian territory and led cavalry raids well into his 80s.
Polybius differentiated between pretexts and causes for Rome's
wars. In this case, the pretext was Carthaginian reaction --
without Roman permission -- to one of Masinissas seizures.
The pretext may have been a real part of the cause. Although
Polybius says Rome had decided on war long before the Carthaginian
army marched out to fight Masinissa (the Carthaginians lost), it
suddenly had been proved that Carthage could quickly put a big
army, equal to several Roman legions, in the field.
Politically correct modern historians mostly agree with Polybius
that the preemptive Roman declaration of war was
unjustified. (In fact, Carthage had clearly violated the
terms of the treaty it had been forced to accept at the end of the
2nd Punic War.)
Historians from Polybius until today have cast Cato as the
villian of the piece, but, as we shall see, his misgivings about
Carthaginian intentions were justified. His fears of the
cult of personality exemplified by the Scipios in their dealing
with the Roman army were also prophetic.
The Carthaginian anti-war appeasement faction took over the
city as soon as Rome announce the existence of a state of renewed
war (actually resumption of hostilities of the Second Punic
War). They agreed to hand over sons of 200 prominent
families as hostages, and also turned over "all" their weapons and
Appeasement, as could be expected, whetted the Roman
appetite. In addition, the turnover of enough weaponry to
equip 200,000 troops ratified the claims of the Roman pro-war
faction that Carthage was preparing for war.
Utica again stabbed Carthage in the back by abjectly surrendering
to Rome. Utica thereafter became the base for the Roman
expeditionary Consular armies.
Rome's final ultimatum was rejected: the Carthaginian
negotiators refused to agree to the self-destruction of
Carthage. They cursed the Romans and accurately predicted
that they (the negotiators) would face a lynch mob when they made
known the latest Roman demand.
Both Consular armies besieged Carthage, but several attempts to
take the supposedly disarmed city were repulsed by well-armed
local militias. Appian records that the defenders quickly
made new weapons, but at minimum that meant that they had held
back a great deal of military raw materials (mostly metals) when
they had supposedly surrendered all their weapons.
The Consuls built camps on the neck of land separating Carthage
from the hinterland and constructed two massive battering rams
(each "operated by 6000 men" -- perhaps an exageration). Holes
were punched in the walls, but Roman troops could not flow
through. Defenders sortied out and burned the machines.
Through maneuvering back in Rome, Scipio Aemilianus was elected
Consul for 147 BC and given command of the expeditionary
force. As a subaltern, he had already distinguished himself
on several occasions in the North African campaign by rescuing
Roman troops that had been unwisely hazarded by superior officers.
Scipio first tightened discipline among the Roman troops and then
tightened the land and sea blockades, making them really effective
for the first time. But the defenders soon surreptitiously
built a new port entrance and a new fleet with which to attack the
Roman sea blockade. The Carthaginan fleet was defeated, but,
once again, Roman claims that Carthage had all along been getting
ready to fight were justified -- we know, and certainly the Romans
knew, that ships were built of prefabricated parts, which Carthage
had clearly held in reserve.
After Scipio successfully penetrated and withdrew from the
area of the City, the enraged Carthaginian military commander,
Hasdrubal, brutally tortured and killed Roman prisoners on the
city walls. Moderns historians think he did this to make
surrender impossible by the Carthaginian anti-war faction.
When the city governing council objected, Hasdrubal executed
In spring of 146 BC, Scipio's forces breached the walls of the
circular naval port and began its six day march up to the top of
the Byrsa Hill. Narrow streets made progress difficult, and
troops had to move from house to house along rooftops.
Scipio finally burned down three adjacent streets and then
advanced up the hill buryiing dead and wounded Carthaginians in
the flattened rubble. The whole remaining population of the
city fled to the Byrsa.
On the seventh day, 50,000 Carthaginians surrendered carrying
olive branches from the Temple of Aesculapius on the Byrsa
Hill. They were sold into slavery. Hasdrubal and his
wife and two young sons held out in the temple along with about
500 Roman army deserters who knew they would face instant
execution. After a while, Hasdrubal surrendered, but his
wife refused and cursed him for a coward. The Romans fired
the temple, and the wife threw her children into the flames and
leapt in after them. The deserters retreated to the temple
roof where they too were consumed by the flames.
It's impossible to know how many Carthaginians were in the city at
the beginning of the siege, but it's clear the Carthaginian
civilian death toll was very high. Estimates of the total
population of the city and suburbs in peacetime go as high as
700,000 (although that's probably a gross exaggeration).
Scipio, according to Polybius and Appian, reluctantly carried out
the orders of the Roman Senate to destroy the city -- he is said
to have recited an Homeric couplet about the fall of Troy,
supposedly showing his feeling that all empires eventually
fall. Appian says that Polybius was at Scipio's side when
Scipio said the words.
A few Carthaginian ruins are still visible on the side of the
Byrsa Hill. The Romans burned the hilltop temple and later
flattened the hill itself for later construction. A recently
restored but desacralized 1890 French Basilica which was dedicated
to St. Louis stands on the site now and is used for concerts and
Scipio Aemilianus quickly was granted a victor's triumph in Rome
and was awarded the agnomen Africanus in his own right. The
deceased earlier Africanus was thereafter know as "the Elder"
while Aemilianus was designated "the Younger." His services
were required again several years later in Iberia where his
conquests became the two additional new provinces of "closer" and
Polybius went on to write his history of Roam conquests up to his
time. His history included an explanation for his Greek
audience of why the stability of Rome's tripartite Republican
government made Rome invincible. He might have thought
otherwise one hundred years later then the real conquests began
that in "simple governments" anacyclosis (see image) was an
inevitable cycle in which mob democracy led to mob rule followed
by monarchy, tyranny, aristocracy, plutocracy, the again to
democracy, etc., in a never ending circular progression.
The Roman Republic, according to Polybius, had figured uot how
to avoid the three bad parts of anacyclosis -- mob rule, tyranny,
and oligarchy -- by similtaneously having a monarchichal executive
branch (actually a duarchy, two co-equal Consuls), an aristocratic
legislature (Senate), and a democratic civil court system (the
public Comitiae). The three branches naturally checked and
balanced each other. If that sounds familiar, it's because
the framers of the US Constitution had multiple copies of Polybius
at the Constitutional Convention of 1789, thoughtfully provided by
Jefferson who was, at the time, the US ambassador in
Paris. Some moderns historians credit Charles-Louis
de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (usually
simply "Montesquieu"), with being the
originator of the idea of thre branches of government and
"checks and balances". In fact, Montesquieu
credits the idea to Polybius. Jefferson knew this
and sent to the Constitutional Convention copies of the
theorizing of both Polybius and Montesquieu.
Later, the American "Founding Fathers" also emulated the
Roman "Twelve Tables" when they pusued and adopted the
American Bill of Rights -- there were originally to be twelve
amendments in the Bill of Rights but only ten were agreed
upon. An eleventh of the proposed twelve ammendments later
became the 27th Amendment. It dealt with congressional pay
raises. The twelfth, which would have mandated
representation "by the numbers" rather than proportional
representation, never passed.
Niether Cato nor Masinissa, the two "old men" involved in the
saga, lived through the 3rd Punic War.
By 90 AD, Rome had control of the western Mediterranean.
Roman North Africa -- the subject of the next unit.