Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization

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Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization. By Richard Miles. (New York, N.Y.: Viking, 2010. Pp. xvii, 521. $35.00.)

Carthage grew from a Phoenician colony into a cultural, economic, and imperial center and Rome's chief rival in the western Mediterranean. Its most famous general, Hannibal, came within a whisker of defeating Rome, but, after a century of conflict, including three major wars, it was a triumphant Roman general who oversaw the sack of Carthage and, effectively, the destruction of this ancient civilization. Richard Miles tells this epic story in a lively, single-volume historical overview. The book is aimed at a more general audience. This does not mean that it is not a scholarly work. It is well researched, argued, and documented. It will, however, appeal more to the educated layman than to an expert in the field.

It is organized chronologically, beginning with the reign of Hiram I of Tyre It. 969-936 BC] and concluding with the city's destruction in 146 BC, with a postscript on the enduring importance of Carthage in the Roman imagination. Several important themes emerge. Although Carthage developed along its own unique cultural trajectory, its Phoenician heritage remained central to Carthaginian identity, especially in the area of religion, as evinced by the continued importance of the worship of Melqart. Carthage typified the cultural melting pot of the Mediterranean, both absorbing aspects of Greek culture and exerting cultural influence in Sardinia, Sicily, and Italy, including Rome; e.g., Miles argues that the terra cotta statues from Sant'Omobono represent Heracles-Melqart and Aphrodite-Astarte (109). Although ancient authors tended to emphasize Carthaginian-Greek and Carthaginian-Roman hostility, interactions were often peaceful and cooperative, with Carthage engaged in wide-ranging international trade from an early date. Formal imperial structures were slow to develop within the Carthaginian sphere of influence. …