The Third Punic War

by MaximusDecimus

The fall of Carthage is undeniable. Yet the reasons for the Third Punic War seem unclear. Carthage could not have been any military threat to Rome at all.

One possibility is simply that Rome remained fearful and suspicious of its African neighbour and, alas, decided to rid itself of the possible threat. Another possibility being brought by historians is that the fear of someone as power hungry as Masinissa taking over Carthage might have caused Rome to act. A third theory is that Carthage, like other cities at the time, became a revolutionary hotbed. In the same year as Carthage, 146 BC, the city of Corinth should be utterly destroyed by the Romans. This was done to make an example of the revolutionaries. It is deemed well possible that Rome was as worried about revolutionary radicals in Carthage as it was in Corinth.

In any case, war it was. It all began as relations between Numidia and Carthage exploded into war (150 BC). Two battles were fought near the city of Oroscopa. The second ended in disaster for Carthage, famine forcing her army to surrender to the Numidians, only to be slaughtered by the Numidians. If this wasn't bad enough, news then arrived that Rome was mobilizing as a reaction to Carthage's breach of the peace treaty.
A delegation was immediately dispatched by Carthage, virtually begging for Rome not to attack. The city of Utica now came out in favour of Rome, so allowing the Roman army under the command of consuls Manius Manilius and L.Marcius Censorinus to land in Africa unhindered (149 BC). While the Roman army marched on Carthage, the delegation in Rome was handing over control of the city to the Romans, if only they spared Carthage.
The rulers of Carthage handed over all the weapons of the city to avert an attack. But it was hopeless. Manilius, encamped outside the city with his legions, let it be known that the Roman senate had decided that Carthage should be destroyed. If Manilius hoped for a simple surrender, then his announcement achieved the exact opposite. The entire city put to producing weapons, to replace those handed to the Romans. When finally Manilius lost patience in waiting for a surrender. His army was ordered to attack, but was beaten back by the rearmed Carthaginians.

The Fall of Carthage

And so a siege began. But Carthage proved a hardy opponent. The following year, the two new Roman consuls arrived, maintained the siege but concentrated their efforts on capturing other Punic cities which had remained loyal to Carthage. However they failed utterly.
Alas, Rome lost patience with such incompetence and elected a new consul to deal with the matter. They chose Scipio Aemilianus, who had so far served successfully as a military tribune in the conflict. Scipio Aemilianus arrived just in time to save L.Hostilius Mancinus, one of the consuls he came to replace, who found himself and some troops trapped by Carthaginian forces.
Immediately after the arrival of their new commander the Romans went on the attack and his siege works started closing in on the city's defences. A dam was built across the mouth of the harbour to cut off any supplies which still got in by ships. The Carthaginians, desperate to open up their harbour again, cut a channel, from their military docks to the sea, but the Roman navy outside enforced an effective blockade nonetheless. Scipio's forces edged their way gradually into parts of the city. But still no breakthrough occurred. In the winter of 147/146 BC the last Punic army was defeated, which meant Rome was effectively in control of all the countryside. Spring 146 BC saw the final Roman assault.
Starving and exhausted the defenders could hold them back no longer. Vicious street fighting saw the legionaries edge ever closer to the citadel, to where 50,000 terrified souls had fled. They held out for 6 days. Their lives were spared, only for them to spend the rest of their days as slaves.
Carthage's last stand, however, was made by Romans. 900 deserters, who knew they'd be granted no mercy at the hands of the conquering legions, locked themselves up in the Temple of Eshmun. When they could no longer resist they chose instead to set fire to the temple and die in the flames.
The last leader of the Carthaginians, yet another Hasdrubal, who was with them escaped the temple and surrendered to Scipio Aemilianus, though not before his wife and children had thrown themselves into the flames.

Scipio then followed his orders to the letter. Carthage was to be razed to the ground, no stone was to be left upon another, the soil was to be ploughed and strewn with salt. Alas, when Carthage was destroyed so famously by Rome, not all of her building were razed to the ground. As buildings were destroyed on the hills, their rubble covered some of those buildings on the slopes. Therefore there were indeed buildings left to excavate for modern day archaeologists. (The buildings suggest that even wealthy Carthaginians lived in relatively small houses, with no central courtyards.)

Yet Carthage did arise again, however this time as a Roman colony. Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC established it as the first Roman colony off Italian soil. However, it was not until further efforts were made by Julius Caesar that the place began to prosper. And it would take until the reign of emperor Augustus for it become a city again.

The Carthaginian Conquest 1997 Auvus Minicrat
Ancient History Class and my teacher (project for school this was)

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