on images or on the links below the images to enlarge them.
Appian based his history of the war on the mostly lost text of Polybius.
Pr- and anti-war factions developed in Rome in the inter-war years.
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 joined up.
Scipio Aemilianus, an adoptive grandson of Africanus, was the new star
of the faction that thought war with Carthage was not necessary.
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 --
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 iw was
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 theid dealing with the Roman army were
The 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 armor.
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 thereby became the base for the Roman expeditionary
Romes final ultimatum was rejected. The Carthaginian negotiators
refused to agree to the self-destruction of Carthage. They
cusrsed the Romans and accurately predicted that they (negotiators)
would face a lynch mob when the 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 loca
militias. Appian records that thee defenders quickly made new
weapons, but at minimum that meant that they had a great deal of
military raw materials (mostly metals) in addition to the arms they had
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. He had
earlier distinguished himself on several occasions by rescuing Roman
troops that had been unwisely hazarded.
Scipio first tightened discipline and the tightened the land ans sea
blockade, making it effective for the firs 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 was 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 northern
area of the City, the enraged Carthaginian 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 several members.
In spring of 146 BC, Scipios forces breached the walls of the circular
naval port and began its six day march up to th Byrsa Hill.
Narrow streets made progress difficult, and troops had to move from
house to hous 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 iwife threw her children into the
flames and leapt in after them. The deserterd retreated to the
temple roof where they too were consumed.
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 to show
his feeling that all empires eventually fall. Appian says that
Polybius war at Scipio's side when Scipio said the words.
Carthaginian ruins are still on the side of the Byrsa Hill.
The Romans burned the hilltop temple and later flattened the hill
itself for later construction. An recently restored but
desacralized 1890 French Basilica of St. Louis stands on the site now
and is used for concerts and cultural events.
Scipio Aemilianus quickly was granted a victor's triumph in Rome and
was awarded the agnomen Africanus in his own right. The decease
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 "farther" Hispania.
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 sans republic.
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.
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 later became
the 27th Amendment, and the twelfth 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.