Carthage

Carthage

Carthage

Carthage

Excerpt

It is many years since a book about ancient Carthage appeared in this country in spite of the fact that Carthage played a major part in the history of Rome, and of the Greek colonies in Sicily. I hope that this attempt to give an account of Carthaginian history and civilization and to describe its position in the ancient Mediterranean world will do something to fill the gap.

The difficulty which faces anyone who tries to write such an account is that he must rely largely on the information provided by the Greek and Roman enemies of Carthage, since nothing survives of the Carthaginians' own literature. It is true that there were several Greek writers who described the history of the wars of Carthage with Rome from a standpoint favourable to the former, but their works are lost and what we know of them has to be deduced from later writers who used them as a source. Essentially the Carthaginians are portrayed for us by Greeks for whom they were a people who disputed possession of Sicily, and by Romans for whom they were the rivals in a struggle for mastery of the western Mediterranean, and it is not surprising that the picture is an extremely hostile one. The task is to separate the truth from the fiction, the legitimate criticism from the tendentious, without indulging in unjustified sentiment in favour of a state which suffered such a cruel end. There is the further point that Carthaginian history is only recorded when it impinges on the history of Rome or of the Greeks in Sicily. However, the information which can be gathered from ancient authors about the general history, in stitutions, religion and trade of the Carthaginians can be augmented by the results of the archaeological work which has been done in North Africa over the past fifty years, and especially since 1946. There can be no doubt that as a result of the discoveries and analyses of material which have been made lately, the archaeology of Carthage is entering a new and important phase.

I have sought to combine these two sources of information while admittedly concentrating on the literary material, which must be the basis of all historical writing. It must be said that in some places the narrative of events is presented as if the facts were certain, which is very far from being the case; almost every important aspect of Carthaginian history has been the subject of several different interpretations by modem scholars. But a discussion of all the problems would have required an apparatus of footnotes and qualifications which would have been out of keeping with the purpose of the book, designed as it is for those who have an interest in the history of antiquity but not a specialized knowledge. Some . . .

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