There remained Carthage — the great Carthage, and her mighty empire — mighty in a far different degree than Phoenicia’s had been. Rome annihilated it.
Continuing The Battle of Metaurus,
our selection from The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo by Edward Creasy published in 1851. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Battle of Metaurus.
Time: 207 BC
Place: Metaurus River, Italy
[Creasy continues quoting Michelet’s Histoire Romaine – jl]
Many generations must needs pass away before the struggle between the two races could be renewed; and the Arabs, that formidable rear-guard of the Semitic world, dashed forth from their deserts. The conflict between the two races then became the conflict of two religions. Fortunate was it that those daring Saracenic cavaliers encountered in the East the impregnable walls of Constantinople, in the West the chivalrous valor of Charles Martel and the sword of the Cid. The crusades were the natural reprisals for the Arab invasions, and form the last epoch of that great struggle between the two principal families of the human race.”
It is difficult, amid the glimmering light supplied by the allusions of the classical writers, to gain a full idea of the character and institutions of Rome’s great rival. But we can perceive how inferior Carthage was to her competitor in military resources, and how far less fitted than Rome she was to become the founder of centralized and centralizing dominion that should endure for centuries, and fuse into imperial unity the narrow nationalities of the ancient races that dwelt around and near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea?
Carthage was originally neither the most ancient nor the most powerful of the numerous colonies which the Phoenicians planted on the coast of Northern Africa. But her advantageous position, the excellence of her constitution — of which, though ill-informed as to its details, we know that it commanded the admiration of Aristotle — and the commercial and political energy of her citizens gave her the ascendancy over Hippo, Utica, Leptis, and her other sister Phoenician cities in those regions; and she finally reduced them to a condition of dependency similar to that which the subject allies of Athens occupied relatively to that once imperial city. When Tyre and Sidon and the other cities of Phoenicia itself sank from independent republics into mere vassal states of the great Asiatic monarchies, and obeyed by turns a Babylonian, a Persian, and a Macedonian master, their power and their traffic rapidly declined, and Carthage succeeded to the important maritime and commercial character which they had previously maintained.
The Carthaginians did not seek to compete with the Greeks on the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean, or in the three inland seas which are connected with it; but they maintained an active intercourse with the Phoenicians, and through them with Lower and Central Asia; and they, and they alone, after the decline and fall of Tyre, navigated the waters of the Atlantic. They had the monopoly of all the commerce of the world that was carried on beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. We have yet extant (in a Greek translation) the narrative of the voyage of Hanno, one of their admirals, along the western coast of Africa as far as Sierra Leone; and in the Latin poem of Festus Avienus frequent references are made to the records of the voyages of another celebrated Carthaginian admiral, Himilco, who had explored the northwestern coast of Europe. Our own islands are mentioned by Himilco as the lands of the Hiberni and Albioni. It is indeed certain that the Carthaginians frequented the Cornish coast — as the Phoenicians had done before them — for the purpose of procuring tin; and there is every reason to believe that they sailed as far as the coasts of the Baltic for amber. When it is remembered that the mariner’s compass was unknown in those ages, the boldness and skill of the seamen of Carthage, and the enterprise of her merchants, may be paralleled with any achievements that the history of modern navigation and commerce can produce.
In their Atlantic voyages along the African shores the Carthaginians followed the double object of traffic and colonization. The numerous settlements that were planted by them along the coast from Morocco to Senegal provided for the needy members of the constantly increasing population of a great commercial capital, and also strengthened the influence which Carthage exercised among the tribes of the African coast. Besides her fleets, her caravans gave her a large and lucrative trade with the native Africans; nor must we limit our belief of the extent of the Carthaginian trade with the tribes of Central and Western Africa by the narrowness of the commercial intercourse which civilized nations of modern times have been able to create in those regions.
Although essentially a mercantile and seafaring people, the Carthaginians by no means neglected agriculture. On the contrary, the whole of their territory was cultivated like a garden. The fertility of the soil repaid the skill and toil bestowed on it; and every invader, from Agathocles to Scipio Æmilianus, was struck with admiration at the rich pasture lands carefully irrigated, the abundant harvests, the luxuriant vineyards, the plantations of fig and olive trees, the thriving villages, the populous towns, and the splendid villas of the wealthy Carthaginians, through which his march lay, as long as he was on Carthaginian ground.
Although the Carthaginians abandoned the Ægean and the Pontus to the Greek, they were by no means disposed to relinquish to those rivals the commerce and the dominion of the coasts of the Mediterranean westward of Italy. For centuries the Carthaginians strove to make themselves masters of the islands that lie between Italy and Spain. They acquired the Balearic Islands, where the principal harbor, Port Mahon, still bears the name of a Carthaginian admiral. They succeeded in reducing the greater part of Sardinia; but Sicily could never be brought into their power. They repeatedly invaded that island, and nearly overran it; but the resistance which was opposed to them by the Syracusans under Gelon, Dionysius, Timoleon, and Agathocles preserved the island from becoming Punic, though many of its cities remained under the Carthaginian rule until Rome finally settled the question to whom Sicily was to belong by conquering it for herself.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history