The Greatness of Carthage

The Decline of Carthage

The dividing line between Greece and Carthage seemed to bisect the island of Sicily. The western half belonged to Carthage and the eastern half to Greece. Carthage attempted the conquest of the eastern half of the island. This led to a desperate struggle with Syracuse and the Greek colonies. Then Borne and Carthage began a contest which lasted with varying results for over a hundred years. It was in many respects the most determined and relentless warfare ever waged, and both parties seemed to realize that it was a fight to the finish, and must result in the extermination of the one power or the other. The First Punic War lasted from 264 to 241 B. C, when Carthage was defeated and compelled to give up Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. After twenty-three years, war was again declared between these two inveterate enemies, and in 218 B. C, Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general, led an army by way of Spain over the Alps into Italy, and at one time it seemed as if Rome would be completely crushed beneath his mighty blows. But the tide of war turned again, and the Carthaginians were defeated and made a dependent province of Rome. Finally, in the Third Punic War, B. C. 149, the Romans utterly destroyed the city of Carthage, carrying its inhabitants who survived the siege into captivity, burning its houses and demolishing its temples. Not content with even this, they plowed the land where Carthage had stood, sowed it in salt, thus making it utterly barren, and then pronounced a curse upon any one who should attempt to rebuild the city. Could revenge be deeper of more complete? Unfortunately, for us, they also destroyed the libraries and records of this remarkable people, so that all we know of them has come down to us through their enemies. We are told that Carthage was a city twenty miles in circumference, and contained not less than one million inhabitants. The land about the city was laid out like a vast garden, and embellished with innumerable magnificent villas.

In the same year, Corinth, one of the greatest of the Greek capitals and seaports, was captured, plundered of vast wealth and given to the flames by the Romans. Athens and her magnificent harbor of Piraeus fell into the same hands sixty years later, and thus the seat of commercial greatness moved westward to the banks of the Tiber.

The Romans were naturally statesmen and warriors rather than merchants. They were better adapted to govern than to trade or work. With Roman supremacy, set in an era of growth and activity in trade and commerce throughout the then civilized world, which lasted five hundred years. The effect of Roman domination was to put an end to all the little wars that had been previously waged among adjacent peoples. By becoming Roman provinces they exchanged their independence for peace, and peace with unrestricted commerce fostered trade in all parts of the empire. The Mediterranean nations were brought closer to each other, both politically and commercially, and became common inheritors of such knowledge as was then in the world. Arts, sciences, improved agriculture and manufactures spread among them. The city of Rome became the center of the system, and from one quarter wheat had to be brought, from another clothing, from another luxuries, and Rome had to pay for it all in coin. She had nothing to export in return. How could she continue to pay out coin? The coin was continually flowing into her treasury, as tribute from all of her numerous provinces, and then it found its way back again to the provinces in payment for merchandise. By this there was a tendency to an equalization of wealth in all parts of the empire, and a perpetual movement of money.