Carthage Must Be Destroyed

Carthage Must Be Destroyed

The Rise and Fall of An Ancient Civilization

Book - 2010
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The devastating struggle to the death between the Carthaginians and Romans was one of the defining dramas of the Ancient World. In an epic series of land and sea battles both sides came close to victory before the Carthaginians finally buckled and their capital city, history and culture were almost utterly erased. The last great threat to Roman supremacy across the entire Mediterranean had gone, fulfilling Cato the Elder's insistent demand 'Carthage must be destroyed'.

'Carthage Must Be Destroyed' brilliantly brings to life this lost empire - from its origins among the Phoenician settlements of Lebanon to its apotheosis as the greatest sea-power in the Mediterranean, with interests stretching from the Middle East to southern Spain. Roman ferocity tried to remove Carthage from history, but it is possible nonetheless to create an extraordinary narrative of a civilization which left an indelible, if often hidden legacy for those that followed. At the heart of all attempts to understand Carthage must lie the extraordinary figure of Hannibal - the scourge of Rome and one of the greatest, most charismatic and innovative of all military leaders, but a man also who ultimately led his people to catastrophe.

Drawing on a wealth of new archaeological research, Richard Miles makes Carthage vivid as it has never been before.

Publisher: London : Allen Lane, 2010.
ISBN: 9780713997934
Branch Call Number: 939.73 MILES
Characteristics: 520 p.


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Mar 12, 2016

(Note: my notes are based on the British edition—Allen Lane Publishing—but I'm assuming there is little difference between the versions.)

"It is impossible to assess the debt that Rome owed to Carthage with the same confidence as for the debt to Greece."

What I value most from Richard Miles' history is his attempt to minimize the Roman filter on the history of Carthage. iles spends time on the background and history of Phoenicia, showing how the expansion to Carthage and other areas in the west were motivated by survival rather than greed or glory. The view toward the Phoenicians by the Greeks seems to have been a mixed bag. There is evidence of Phoenician and Greek cooperation in trade and settlements as the goals of the two states were complementary in some areas. Yet as some lines in the Iliad and the Odyssey show, there seem to be negative attitudes toward the Phoenicians, maybe as a result of the commercial rivalry or in differing views on colonial expansion. In later writings, Aristotle praised Carthage’s government as excellent while Plato presented Carthage as a well-ordered state.

Carthage’s aims were constantly misrepresented by those that felt threatened by their expansion. With the rise to power of the tyrant Agathocles in Syracuse in the 320s BC, “Once more the totally erroneous but seductive idea that the Sicilian wars [conflicts between Carthage and Greek-backed Syracuse] were a western extension of the age-old struggle between the civilization of Greece and the dark forces of the barbarian East would have renewed capital.” The resulting war with Agathocles, even though ultimately successful, would highlight at least two structural problems for Carthage which would return to haunt them during the Punic Wars with Rome. The first problem was their reliance on mercenary armies and their unreliability. The second problem developed as these armies would become mostly independent institutions, outside the control of Carthage’s government.

Carthage and Rome had been on the same side during one of many Sicilian skirmishes but Carthage misplayed its role and Rome established a secure base in Syracuse. From here, although neither side seemed to desire war, both sides continued expansionist policies that guaranteed conflict. Or as Miles puts it, “In fact the main antagonists of the First Punic War drifted into the conflict less for reasons of grand strategy, and more for the lack of political will to prevent it.”

Miles does a good job of following the Punic Wars, providing enough detail about the conflicts for the reader to follow without getting bogged down in minutiae. At the same time he shows how Carthage’s and Rome’s political actions fit into a central arc that guaranteed continuing war. Also of importance, he lays out how the different government structures meant very differing approaches to war.

Very highly recommended.

Oglethorpe1983 Oct 16, 2011

Very Interesting Book.

Anyone interested in early Roman history should enjoy this. This book looks at Carthage not as a mere roadblock to the might of Rome but as its own empire.

Positives: The Punic Wars are featured heavily in the book, covering abut 1/3 of the work; with emphasis on the Second Punic War

Negatives: The author spends a lot of time on the religion of Carthage and how it relates to specific figures in Greco-Roman religion... I found this to be tedious and a little boring and would up skimming and even skipping parts of those chapters

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