Ancient History & Civilisation


The Third Punic War

CARTHAGE WAS A LARGE and well-fortified city, surrounded by over 20 miles of circuit walls. Difficult to approach and with its own harbours, the city was very hard to surround and blockade. An especially strong triple line of defence, based principally on a wall 30 feet (c. 9 m) wide and c. 50-66 feet (15-20 m) high, but fronted by a 60 feet (20 m) wide ditch and a timber palisade, ran across the 2-3 mile wide isthmus approaching the city from the landward side. This was constructed as a casemate wall with two storeys of rooms containing on the ground floor accommodation for 300 elephants and above stabling for 4,000 horses and barracks for 20,000 foot and 4,000 cavalry. In 149 the defenders lacked the animals and a well-organized army, but numerous volunteers from the population ensured that the defences were adequately manned.

The Romans had assembled a large expeditionary force to attack this formidable position. Appian claims that there were 80,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry supported by fifty quinqueremes and 100 lighter galleys. If these figures are correct, then this was the largest Roman army to take the field since Cannae, but most scholars have assumed that Appian was exaggerating, or perhaps counting servants and camp followers as well as soldiers. A common suggestion is that there were in fact four legions, so that the army may have mustered between 40,000 and 50,000 men including allies. This would still make it a significantly larger force than even the highest estimates for Africanus' army in 204. In marked contrast to the reluctance of citizens to serve in Spain in 151, there had been a burst of enthusiasm for this war, with no shortage of recruits and many volunteers coming forward to swell the ranks of the legions. The prospect of a swift, relatively easy campaign and plentiful booty doubtiess encouraged many men to come forward, but there was probably also a far greater romantic appeal to fighting Rome's greatest adversary than risking life and limb fighting against some uncouthly named Celtiberian tribe. The army in 149 was large, enthusiastic and confident, but it was not well-trained. Scipio had spent over a year in Sicily preparing his forces for the forthcoming campaign, even though most of his troops were old soldiers with many years' experience. The consuls in 149 spent only a few months in creating from scratch an army whose officers and men were on average far less experienced. It was typical of the poor preparation of Roman campaigns in this period. As the army waited at Utica for the fighting to begin it began to run short of supplies, for the consuls had expected to obtain most of their requirements locally, but found their foraging restricted by the presence of Hasdrubal's 30,000 strong army. Unlike Scipio, they do not appear to have stockpiled large reserves of grain in Sicily and arranged a system of convoys to convey this to Africa. The legions which pitched their camp on the same site as Castra Cornelia in 149 made a poor comparison with its first occupants.2

The consuls moved quickly on Carthage as soon as it was clear that the Roman ultimatum had been rejected. Even at this late stage, they seem to have expected the city to capitulate and that little more than a display of strength was needed. Manilius led the army against the wall protecting the isthmus. Censorinus brought the fleet to attack a weaker stretch of wall near a narrow spit of land edging the Lake of Tunis to the south of the city. Some men landed and set ladders by hand against the wall, whilst other ladders were mounted directly on the prows of the Roman warships. Both attacks were greeted by a hail of missiles from the defenders. Surprised by this stiff resistance, the assaulting parties gave way. A second attempt was equally unsuccessful and as the confidence of the defenders grew, the Romans constructed camps outside the walls. Hasdrubal brought his army to the other side of the lake and harassed the Roman lines. A party sent by Censorinus to gather wood was ambushed by Himilco Phameas and some Punic cavalry: 500 men were killed. A third attempt to assault the city from both sides also failed. Manilius had managed to cross the outer ditch and breach the stockade, but failed to make any impression on the main wall across the isthmus.3

Since the attempts at escalade had achieved no success, Censorinus constructed two battering rams, filling in a portion of the lake to create a broad and solid enough road to bring these up to the wall. Each was supposedly crewed by 6,000 men, probably both to move them and to swing the rams. One crew was provided by legionaries commanded by tribunes and the other by sailors under their own officers, and rivalry between the two services spurred on both parties to be first to create a breach.

Two breaches were made, but the Carthaginians managed to drive the Romans back late in the day and did their best to repair the damage during the night. Under cover of darkness, a raiding party went out and managed to set fire to both of the Roman engines. Although they were not destroyed the damage was sufficient to make both rams inoperable. Daylight revealed that in spite of their best efforts, the defenders had failed to fill the gaps in their wall and at least one of the breaches was still practical. Aware of the danger, Carthaginian soldiers had formed up behind the gap in the wall, whilst a crowd armed only with missiles thronged the roofs of the nearby houses. The Romans rapidly formed an assault party and launched a furious attack through the breach. The onslaught was badly organized and after initial success bogged down. One of the military tribunes, the same Scipio Aemilianus who had served with Lucullus and begged elephants from Masinissa, had kept his men under tight control. Instead of following the main body into the city, he had stationed them to defend the wall around the breach. When Carthaginian pressure grew too much and the assaulting parties were chased back out of the city, Scipio's men prevented them from being cut off and covered their retreat.4

Scipio was the only senior officer to win distinction in the early phases of the Third Punic War. The youngest of four sons of Aemilius Paullus, he had first seen service as a teenager at Pydna. Missing at the end of the battle, he was just about to be added to the list of casualties when he returned with a few friends, all of them heavily bloodstained from an enthusiastic pursuit of the enemy. Whilst the older brothers remained to continue the family name, the two younger boys were adopted into famous families who lacked a male heir. The third brother became Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, whilst the youngest was adopted by Publius Scipio the son of Africanus, whose ill-health had denied him a significant political career. Both of the elder brothers died before their father. The Roman aristocracy took adoption very seriously and men like Scipio Aemilianus were considered to combine the reputation of both families and were expected to live up to the standards of behaviour of both real and adopted parents. In 151 Scipio had helped to encourage volunteering for the Celtiberian war by coming forward as a military tribune. In Spain he won renown by killing an enemy champion in single combat, a deed reminiscent of the young Marcellus in the First Punic War. It was perhaps his service in Spain which taught Scipio the importance of maintaining a reserve and cautious pursuit, for the tribes of the Peninsula were quick to punish careless attackers. It was a lesson which few of the other Roman officers seem to have learned.5

Censorinus' camp by the lakeside was placed in an unhealthy spot. By late July disease started to spread in the camp, forcing the consul to withdraw to a position near the sea. Whenever the wind was right, the defenders sent fireships down towards the Roman fleet, causing serious losses. They also prepared a sally against Manilius' camp on the isthmus, some men being detailed to carry fascines and beams to fill or bridge the ditch surrounding it. Delivered at night, the sudden attack caused panic amongst the surprised Romans. Once again Scipio Aemilianus restored the situation, leading a body of horse out of the rear gate of the camp and bringing them round to attack the Carthaginians in the flank, driving them back in confusion. The consul subsequently strengthened the defences of his camp to prevent a repeat of this near disaster. Another fort was built near the shore to cover the landing of Roman supply ships.6

The Romans had failed to make any impression on the city's defences. With winter approaching and his colleague returned to Rome to hold the next year's elections, Manilius drew off a column of 10,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry and led them in an expedition to ravage the rural areas loyal to Carthage. In part this was another means of putting the enemy under pressure, but the main purpose was to gather food for men and horses and wood for cooking and building, laying in supplies for the winter which would now be spent in the siege lines around Carthage. Once again the Romans displayed their inexperience as the tribunes leading foraging parties carelessly allowed their men to disperse. Himilco Phameas, probably leading some of the Numidian and Moorish cavalry who had deserted from Masinissa in 150, ambushed and raided the Roman foragers, inflicting heavy losses. Scipio Aemilianus avoided such attacks by ensuring that his troops did not disperse too widely and that there were always groups of horse and foot kept formed and ready to cover the unarmed parties of foragers. Malicious rumours circulated in the Roman camp, claiming that Himilco was deliberately avoiding Scipio because of a bond of hospitality between one of his ancestors and Africanus. This may well suggest that Phameas was of mixed Punic and Numidian or Libyan blood. When Manil-ius brought his column back to the main camp, the Numidians mounted another night-time raid from within the city. This time the target was the smaller fort guarding the landing site for the transport ships. On this occasion Scipio led out the ten turmae, about 300 men and perhaps the cavalry element of his own legion, but this time did not directly attack the sallying force. Instead the Roman horsemen carried lighted torches and moved and manoeuvred near the Carthaginians, trying to create the impression of far larger forces massing to attack. The ploy worked and the nervous raiders withdrew.7

Although Himilco Phameas and his horsemen ranged widely, Hasdrubal had drawn his main army back into the area around Nepheris, in the area of the modern Djebel Zaghouan, just under 20 miles south-east of Tunis. The Carthaginians were camped beyond a small river at the end of a valley, a strong position which was difficult for the Romans to approach in anything other than a narrow column. Manilius decided to mount a direct attack on the enemy, an aggressive move typical of Roman generalship. Equally characteristically for this period the attack was badly planned, the Romans advancing directly from the march, without waiting to fortify their own camp and rest. Plunging through the river, Manilius' men made some headway and after a tough fight managed to push the Carthaginians back up onto the higher ground. It was a strong position and the weary Romans stood little chance of success in an uphill assault. Hasdrubal bided his time, knowing that the Romans could not stay where they were and would have to pull back. Disengaging from close contact with the enemy has always been a dangerous and demanding task. It was especially so for Manilius, because the fordable section of the river was relatively narrow. As the Romans fell into some confusion, Hasdrubal attacked, slaughtering the legionaries who quickly fell into panic. Scipio, who had spoken against the attack and was once again in command of 300 cavalry, rallied some more Roman horsemen and led them in a series of controlled charges. His men went forward far enough to push the enemy back, but did not pursue too far, rallying instead to prevent their formation breaking up and the horses from growing tired. The check on the Carthaginian advance gave enough time for the bulk of the fugitives to escape across the stream. There was only just time for the tribune to pull his own men back before they were overwhelmed, and as it was they galloped back across the ford under a hail of missiles. Four Roman units, maniples or possibly cohorts, were cut off during the retreat and left surrounded on a hillock. Demonstrating that he could be very bold when the occasion demanded, Scipio led some of his cavalry in a successful rescue operation. He also managed to negotiate with Hasdrubal and arrange the burial of several fellow tribunes killed in the rout.

The expedition had been a disaster. It was made even more humiliating when the retiring Roman column was attacked both by Himilco Phameas and by the defenders of Carthage on its return to camp. Scipio Aemilianus' achievements had been the only bright spot in the otherwise dismal performance of the Roman forces, a fact noted by the Senatorial commission sent out to report on operations. When reports of his deeds reached Rome, Cato once again quoted Homer when he praised Scipio as uniquely capable amongst the army in Africa. The ageing senator was to the during the next months, not living to witness the final destruction of Carthage. Another link with the past, the 90-year-old Masinissa also passed away in the first months of 148. Scipio, as the descendant of his patron Africanus, was chosen by the old king to setde his affairs and divided the rule of the kingdom between Masinissa's three legitimate sons. The Numidians had not as yet contributed any significant aid to the Roman army, but Scipio was able to persuade Gulussa, who had been placed in charge of Masinissa's troops, to join Manilius with a force of light cavalry. Very early in the spring the Roman general decided to attempt another attack on Nepheris before a new consul arrived to replace him. This time the expedition was better prepared, the legions carrying food for fifteen days. A camp was laid out before crossing the river and a ditch and wall constructed closing off the valley. Even so the operation resulted in a second failure, although it did provide an opportunity for the defection of Himilco Phameas and 2,200 of his cavalrymen, an act of treachery arranged by Scipio. This was another instance of the defection of a relatively senior Punic officer for which there is no parallel amongst the Romans. Manilius remained facing the enemy for seventeen days, so that by the time he was forced to retire his soldiers were dangerously short of food. Their plight was only eased when Scipio returned after leading Phameas' and Gulussa's men off on a foraging expedition. Universally praised by the army, the tribune then returned to Rome to present Phameas, who was rewarded by the Senate with a fine horse, splendid equipment, a tent and a considerable sum of silver. The deserter pledged himself to serve with the Romans until the end of the conflict.8

Only one of the consuls for 148 went out to Africa. This was Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, who brought with him Lucius Mancinus to command the fleet, either as his kgatus or as a propraetor in his own right. Mamtaining a loose blockade around Carthage itself, the Romans decided to subdue the smaller cities of the region. Results were unimpressive, with a combined sea and land attack on Aspis unsuccessful and a prolonged siege of Hippagreta achieving nothing. The Carthaginian mood was ebullient, sending a delegation to Macedonia to form an alliance with Andriscus, a pretender to the throne of Perseus. This man had formed an army of Thracian tribesmen and invaded the four Macedonian Merides, defeating first the local militia and then a Roman army, killing the praetor in command. This was the worst defeat the Romans had ever suffered at the hands of the Macedonians and another sign of the decline in the efficiency of the legions. The Carthaginians received further consolation for the defection of Phameas when one of Gulussa's chieftains deserted to them with 800 men. Hasdrubal, the commander of the field army, who had once been condemned to death, was so restored to favour that he was able to assume command within the city, supplanting the other Hasdrubal who was accused of plotting treachery with his relative Gulussa and lynched.

Scipio Returns, 147-146 BC

In 148 Scipio Aemilianus as a patrician planned to stand for the office of curule aedile for the following year. Stirred by tales of his recent exploits and the association with his illustrious grandfather, the centuries in the Comitia Centuriata selected his name first in the consular elections. Still only 36 or 37, he was several years below the legal age for the highest magistracy, but when the presiding consul pointed this out the voting centuries remained adamant that Scipio was their choice. When one of the tribunes of the plebs supported their demands and threatened to declare the whole election invalid, the Senate decided to fudge the issue. The law stipulating minimum ages for the important magistracies, the lex Villia anntilis, was annulled for a single year and then immediately re-enacted. Scipio's consular colleague, Caius Livius Drusus, himself a member of a very wealthy and influential, although plebeian, family, wanted the African command and suggested that the two men draw lots in the usual way. Again a tribune intervened, declaring that the matter should be decided by Popular vote in the Concilium Plebis, who overwhelmingly chose Scipio. By the same law he was allowed to raise sufficient new recruits to replenish the ranks of the army already in Africa, and, like Africanus before him, take as many volunteers as came forward.10

This is the essence of Appian's account of Scipio's premature rise to the consulship and the African command. As with other cases where the normal electoral procedure was not followed and extraordinary appointments were made, it is impossible now to know what really happened and how much had been decided behind the scenes before the public meetings. We cannot know to what extent Scipio himself had actively sought the more senior post, although it seems distinctly probable that he did so. Nor is it clear to what extent other senators opposed the suspension of the law in his favour. It is probably a mistake to see this as the triumph of a politician relying entirely on the People for support, for it is likely that many senators were well disposed to Scipio, and others may simply have thought him the best man for the job. His military record stood out at a time when military defeats and disasters were depressingly common. The emotional appeal of sending not just a Scipio but the grandson of Africanus to defeat the new threat from a prosperous and so far successful Carthage was massive amongst all classes of Romans, who possessed such a strong sense of family characteristics. It must also be remembered that the appointment was far less radical than the decision to invest Africanus with proconsular imperium and send him to Spain in 210. Scipio Aemilianus was no more than five years below the minimum age for the consulship and had so far had a conventional and highly distinguished career. The strength of his support, at least as far the African command was concerned, is seen in the ease with which his imperium was extended to allow him to complete the war in 146.11

In early 147 the blockade of Carthage was being maintained by Mancinus and the fleet. Observing an apparently weak spot in the walls where the natural defences were so strong that fortification seemed unnecessary, the Romans beached their ships and attempted an escalade, provoking the defenders to sally out from a nearby gate. In the ensuing combat the Romans managed to put the Carthaginians to flight and pursued them back through the open gateway. Elated by this unanticipated success, Mancinus led in as many men as he could find, some of them poorly armed ships' crews. In total there were only 500 fully equipped soldiers and around 3,000 others. A small corner of Carthage was now in Roman hands, but their hold on it was precarious for they had little food and no immediate supports to draw upon, since the main army was operating some distance away. Mancinus sent out messengers to Piso with the army and also to nearby Utica, asking for reinforcement and supplies of food. By chance Scipio had sailed into Utica that evening and received the message. Riders were at once dispatched to find Piso and preparations made to sail to Carthage in the early hours of the morning. Sacrificing the element of surprise in favour of making the enemy nervous, Scipio released some Punic prisoners and allowed them to hasten back to their city with news of his arrival. The next day the Carthaginians attacked Mancinus in great numbers, steadily pushing the Romans back. They were only checked when Scipio sailed into view, legionaries thronging the decks of his warships to suggest the arrival of a huge army merely instead of the draft of replacements that had come from Sicily. The sight stalled the Punic onslaught for long enough to evacuate Mancinus' men, who were carried away by the Roman ships.12

Scipio concentrated the army outside Carthage, observed by Hasdrubal with 6,000 foot and 1,000 horse as well as some of the defenders of the city camped just over half a mile away (5 stades). The discipline of the Roman army in Africa had never been especially high, but months of reverses had made things worse. Avoiding direct confrontation, the soldiers had most often served on plundering expeditions. In the same way that the legionaries involved in the constant raiding in southern Italy during the Second Punic War had degenerated into little more than bandits, service of this kind had further lowered the efficiency of the legions. Scipio made a speech declaring his intention to restore tight discipline and then expelled from the camp many of the volunteers and camp followers who had come not to fight but to loot. There was not time to train the soldiers properly. Instead he decided to mount an attack on the Megara, one of the largest of the suburbs surrounding the old citadel (or Byrsa). Two Roman assaulting parties moved forward during the night against two widely separated sections of wall. Observed by the enemy during the last stage of the approach, the attackers were repulsed by a hail of missiles, despite some initial confusion amongst the defenders. Appian tells us that the Romans then found an deserted tower adjacent to the wall, climbed it and, after throwing planks across to bridge the gap, fought their way onto the rampart. In this way the soldiers gained control of a gate and admitted Scipio with 4,000 men. The defenders panicked and fled back to the Byrsa as did the troops in the camp outside the walls, but the Romans moved forward slowly and with great care, uncertain in the dark of the routes through the Megara, much of which was given over to gardens and orchards rather than housing. Eventually Scipio decided that he was in no position to hold the ground permanently and so withdrew back to his own camp. The breakthrough had so frightened the defenders that Hasdrubal ordered Roman prisoners to be led onto the walls and then, in full view of the besiegers, tortured to death, believing that the gesture would demonstrate to the Carthaginians that there was now no hope of surrender. When members of the Council of 104, whose relations with the general had long been strained, protested, Hasdrubal had them arrested and executed.13

The Romans now decided on establishing a much tighter blockade around the city. Scipio ordered the abandoned enemy camp to be burned then moved his own position further forward onto the isthmus. There the Romans spent twenty days constructing a series of fortifications despite the best efforts of the enemy to slow the progress. An enormous rectangle of ditches was dug, backed by a rampart 12 feet high (c. 4 m) with towers at intervals, including one in the middle of the wall facing the city which was built especially high to provide an observation post. The whole complex dominated the isthmus and made access to the city from the landward side impossible. The overland route into the city had been cut off, but supplies of food were still able to get through by sea. It was very difficult for ancient oared warships to impose a tight blockade, especially in the conditions off the coast of Carthage, and a few ships kept getting through. Hasdrubal is supposed to have kept nearly all of these supplies for the 30,000 active defenders of the city, and he and his officers lived in riotous luxury whilst the civilian population began to starve. In an effort to deny the enemy this last source of supply, Scipio ordered the construction of a mole running across the channel approaching the narrow entrance to Carthage's great harbours.14

Ancient sieges tended to consist of move and counter-move as the attacker and defender employed their engineering skill and massive labour to gain an advantage or negate a project begun by the other side. The whole population of Carthage now threw itself into a concerted effort to keep the sea route open. Once they realized that the Roman plan was likely to succeed and that the mole was not being swept away by the sea, the Carthaginians decided to cut a new channel connecting the military harbour with the sea. The work was done at night and great secrecy maintained, with great numbers of women and children coming forward to add to the labour force. At the same time a fleet of fifty triremes supported by lighter ships was built from scratch. The Romans knew nothing of either project until at dawn one morning the new channel was cut through to the sea and the last fleet of the Carthaginian Empire sailed out.

Appian expresses surprise that the Punic ships did not immediately fall upon the Roman fleet, which, he points out, had been neglected in recent months as most of the crews were drawn off to add to the labourers working on the siegeworks. However, it is probable that the next three days were spent training the Punic crews up to at least a basic level of efficiency for it had been many years since Carthage had possessed great numbers of skilled oarsmen. When the two fleets did finally give battle, the result was a very close engagement fought close to the shore. The smaller Punic ships proved fast and manoeuvrable, stealing in to break the oars or rudders of the larger Roman warships and then escaping. No decisive result had been achieved by the end of the day, when the Carthaginians began to withdraw, the triremes covering the lighter ships. Perhaps the new channel had not been properly finished in the haste of its construction, or maybe some of the crews and captains panicked, but some of the small ships collided with each other and soon created a solid obstacle, completely blocking the route back into the harbour. Unable to retreat by that route, the Punic triremes pulled back and moored against a stretch of quayside directly under the city walls. The area seems to have been formerly used for unloading merchant vessels which could not be accommodated in the great harbour. The galleys drew up with their bow rams facing outwards. Additional protection was provided by a rampart which had been built on the quay earlier in the siege in case the Romans had tried to land at the spot. Enthusiastically the Roman ships rushed into the attack, but suffered as much as if not more than the enemy, since after each ram the galleys were vulnerable as they carefully rowed backwards to withdraw. It was only when five allied ships from the city of Sidatae (Side) in Asia Minor dropped their stern anchors before charging forward to ram and then warped themselves back that the Roman started to gain an advantage. Copying the tactic of these experienced sailors, the larger Roman ships inflicted heavy damage. Only as darkness fell were the few surviving Punic ships able to make their way back into the harbour, the blockage in the new entrance having presumably been cleared.15

Carthage was now cut off from the outside world and any source of supply. In time, the city would starve and be forced to capitulate, but Scipio was determined not to wait for this and continued to press his assault as closely as possible. From the newly constructed mole the Romans attacked the rampart defending the stretch of quay recently used by the Punic ships. Breaches were made with rams and the wall bombarded by artillery to prevent its repair. At night some Carthaginians swam naked across the harbour, carrying with them dry torches and the means to light them. In a furious attack these extremely brave men managed to set fire to many of the Roman siege engines, despite suffering very heavy casualties. The Roman soldiers displayed their old nervousness and ill-discipline and panicked at the noise and confusion. Scipio rode with his cavalry bodyguard outside the camp and galloped about trying to stop the rout. Where the fleeing soldiers refused to stop, the general and his men cut them down, a rare but not unknown gesture by a Roman commander.16

Free from the barrage of missiles, the Carthaginians were able to continue repairing the damaged wall in daylight, filling the breaches and adding wooden towers to provide dominating missile platforms. The Romans returned to the attack, constructing new engines and assault ramps. Several of the new towers were set on fire and the defenders finally forced to abandon the wall. The Romans had gained control of the quay and Scipio gave orders to construct a brick wall facing and of equal height to the main city wall. When completed it was occupied by 4,000 men who were able to hurl javelins and shoot missiles at the defenders on the rampart only a short distance away. Such a massive project took considerable time and was only finished at the beginning of autumn 147. During the following months, whilst his men continued to press the siege of Carthage, Scipio decided to destroy the Punic field army which was again wintering at Nepheris. In a well co-ordinated and planned attack the Romans stormed the enemy camp, Scipio feeding reserves into the main assault against the breach until the enemy was fully occupied and then attacking with another party on the far side of the camp. Gulussa's men pursued the beaten enemy relentlessly, while the Romans moved on to take the city of Nepheris itself. The last force which might have threatened the Romans' hold on Carthage was gone. Most of the communities in the area bowed to the inevitable and surrendered to Rome.17

The main assault on the city was renewed in the spring of 146, using the area of the captured quay as its base. Hasdrubal guessed that the attack would come first against the rectangular merchant harbour and set light to the warehouses surrounding it. However, a party led by Caius Laelius, the son of Africanus' friend and an equally loyal companion of Scipio Aemilianus, managed during the night to slip unobserved into the inner, naval harbour and seize it. Punic resistance was, for the moment, rather feeble, due to a combination of the increasingly small rations and the hopelessness of their position. Before the end of the night the Romans had pushed forward into the Agora, or marketplace, adjacent to the civil harbour. The next morning Scipio led in 4,000 men to support Laelius but, in a display confirming the continued ill-discipline of the African army, the legionaries stopped to strip the gold from the lavishly decorated Temple of Apollo. Nothing Scipio or their officers did could persuade the men to return to duty until this had been picked clean. This incident ran directiy against the ideal of Roman discipline in which all booty was gathered and centrally distributed to the army on an equal basis. Fortunately for the Romans, the Carthaginians were unable to take advantage of this delay.

Three wide streets led up from the captured Agora to the Byrsa, flanked on each side by tall buildings, six storeys high according to Appian. Excavations in this area have revealed such large apartment buildings, many with central courtyards, built on a regular grid pattern of roads in the Hellenistic manner. Even the main roads were unpaved and no more than about 21 feet across (7 m), the side streets averaging only 16 feet (5m). Along these roads, sloping up towards the old citadel at a gradient of around 1 in 7, the Romans attacked, led by the men who had plundered Apollo's Temple, but who had not yet been involved in any serious fighting. A deluge of missiles from roofs and windows stopped the attack almost immediately. Unable to advance up the open streets, the legionaries managed to fight their way into some of the buildings on either side, taking them floor by floor. Then parties of men climbed onto the roofs and, laying down planks across the gaps, crossed to attack the adjacent buildings. As they fought their way from building to building, the quantity of missiles being thrown into the open streets slackened and assaulting parties there were able to move forward again. Like street fighting in any era, this was a vicious business and casualties were high. The Romans fed reserves into the fighting and kept the momentum of the advance going until they had reached the Byrsa. Scipio needed to improve the access for his assault parties and engines to the inner citadel, so he ordered the rows of houses running along the three streets to be burned. As the buildings collapsed, Roman working parties set about levelling the rubble to create solid, wider paths, their commander taking little rest as he constantly urged the men on. There was no time for delicacy and Appian gives a lurid description of how corpses and the injured from the buildings were heaped with the spoil and built into the Roman assault road. Finds of human bones amongst the ruins of this area suggest that his description, which probably goes back to Polybius' eyewitness account, is not exaggerated. The project took six days, by which time the Romans were ready to move against the walls of the

On the next day a delegation carrying olive branches, the Hellenistic equivalent of a flag of truce, appeared from the citadel offering to surrender if the Roman general promised to spare their lives. The last defenders, packed into the small area of the Byrsa, with little food or water, were clearly aware of the futility of future resistance and so made none of the usual requests to be permitted to carry with them a number of garments or some of their possessions. Fifty thousand men, women and children are supposed to have marched out into captivity and a life of slavery. Only the Roman and Italian deserters, 900 in number, had been refused pardon and remained with Hasdrubal and his family. This last group had barricaded themselves into the high and inaccessible Temple of Aesculapius, but despaired of further resistance. Hasdrubal, portrayed as a poltroon by Polybius, publicly announced that he would never give in and intended to perish with his city, before abandoning his family and soldiers and surrendering. The deserters committed suicide, setting the Temple on fire and perishing in the flames. Hasdrubal's wife is said to have dressed in all the finery still left to her and appeared in plain view hurling abuse at her faithless husband. She then killed her children, throwing their bodies into the fire, and then herself stepped into the flames and died. The story may be no more than a dramatic literary invention and we can never know whether or not it actually occurred, but such a ghastly scene is a fitting end to the last day of the Carthaginian Empire.19

The siege was over and Scipio allowed his men several days to plunder freely, only the gold, silver and votive offerings in the temples being kept aside. Some of this was distributed to the army in the usual fashion, although the men who had plundered Apollo's Temple without orders were excluded from the division. Messengers were sent to Sicily, announcing that spoils taken from them in the past and dedicated in Carthage's temples could now be reclaimed. Unclaimed votive offerings were then auctioned off and captured weaponry and ships burned. When the news of the victory, carried in a ship containing a sample of the plunder, reached Rome it produced a spontaneous night of public rejoicing, followed by more organized celebrations and sacrifices the next day.20

Carthage was destroyed, fulfilling Cato's ardent wish and the Roman demand which had finally forced the unwilling Carthaginians to fight in 149. Soon a senatorial commission of ten would arrive to supervise Scipio's systematic destruction of the city. Large areas had been destroyed by fire, leaving a layer of burnt material still covering much of the site today.

Remaining buildings were demolished, although the destruction was not as total as has sometimes been assumed. Archaeologists have discovered walls still standing several yards high underneath the later Roman city. The oft repeated story of the ground being ploughed up and the earth sown with salt to prevent future cultivation is a much later invention. Yet even though the ruins of the city remained, the existence of Carthage the living state and political entity had ceased for ever. The Roman city which would one day be built on the same site shared little or nothing apart from its name and location with its Punic predecessor. As Scipio Aemilianus gazed upon the wreck of the once proud city he is supposed to have wept and quoted from a passage of the Iliad referring to the fall of Priam's Troy. He explained to a puzzled Polybius that he was wondering whether his own home would one day suffer a similar fate.21

Scipio returned to Rome and celebrated a spectacular triumph, the procession carrying the spoils being described after the pattern of recent decades as more lavish than anything ever seen before. Like his grandfather, Scipio Aemilianus took the name Africanus, but unlike him he proved more successful in the political life at Rome, perhaps as a result of his more conventional career. His circle of friends, notably Gaius Laelius, were later considered to represent the best of the Roman aristocracy, combining a traditional sense of duty with awareness of Greek culture, so that Cicero would later frame his discussion of the Roman Republic as an invented debate between these men. In 134 Scipio was again elected to the consulship amidst widespread popular enthusiasm and sent to Spain where he finally ended the Celtiberian War by capturing Numantia in the following year. So low had the confidence of the Roman soldiers in Spain dropped after repeated defeats that Scipio refused to fight a battle against the massively outnumbered Numantines and instead blockaded and starved them into submission. In 129 Scipio died, in slightly mysterious circumstances with rumours of murder circulating at the time and later, never having experienced the disappointment of his grandsire.22

It is as pointless to compare the generalship of Aemilianus to that of Africanus as it is to attempt to prove that any famous commander was better than another, however entertaining such a pursuit might seem. Both men won the victories that concluded a war and success was the principal criterion which the Romans themselves used to judge their commanders. The campaigns of 149-146 were very different to either of the earlier wars between Rome and Carthage, lacking the formal, pitched battles which had been especially characteristic of the Second Punic War. Although the size of the Roman expeditionary force in 149 cannot be established with any certainty, it is clear that far fewer soldiers were fielded by each side in the Third War. In most respects the armies and the majority of their commanders were far less efficient than their predecessors. The decline in the effectiveness of the legions at this period has already been noted and it must also be remembered that the Carthaginians had few experienced mercenaries or officers to call upon in 149, their only military expedition of recent years having ended in disaster. Africanus had been granted the time to train his armies to the highest peak of efficiency in Spain and in Sicily prior to the African expedition, but Aemilianus never enjoyed this luxury. To the very end of the siege, the Roman troops were prone to sudden panics and bouts of indiscipline such as the uncontrolled looting of Apollo's Temple.23

The fighting in the Third Punic War was confined within a small area of North Africa, reflecting the diminished territory of Carthage and its lack of any real offensive capacity. There was considerable raiding of the surrounding area, some attacks on other cities and the three Roman drives on the position at Nepheris, but these were all essentially subordinate to the main effort, the siege of Carthage. The siege illustrated once again the extreme difficulty of capturing a large and well-fortified city. Repeated attempts at direct assault failed, and even when the storming parties managed to break into the city it was rarely possible for them to hold onto the ground they had gained. Feeding in strong supports to reinforce an initial success was necessary if the attackers were not to be overwhelmed, but required a level of planning, organization and leadership which the Romans simply did not possess until near the end of the siege. The final, successful assault was mounted from the secure base provided by massive siegeworks constructed with great labour over several months. It was also delivered against defenders who were by that time very weak from starvation. The final collapse in the defenders morale came very suddenly, as it frequently did in other sieges of the ancient world, for instance at Jerusalem in AD 70. The Carthaginians' defence of their city was active and skilful. The sallies to burn the Roman rams and engines, the carefully concealed excavation of a new channel from the naval harbour to the sea and the building of a fleet all displayed a degree of flair and determination rarely shown by the Carthaginians in the earlier conflicts. This is especially notable given that the bulk of the city's defenders were Punic citizens, who had performed poorly in 255 and at Zama. When the very existence of their city was under threat, the Carthaginians fought long and hard before famine forced their capitulation. The main difference between the two sides throughout the wars was that the Romans had always fought as if this were the case.24

In the same year that Scipio Aemilianus presided over the destruction of Carthage, another Roman army laid waste to Corinth, one of the oldest and largest of the Greek city states. An anti-Roman faction in Corinth had won control of the city and persuaded the rest of the Achaean League to declare against Rome, only to suffer rapid defeat at the hands of the Romans who had already dealt with Andriscus. The devastation of Corinth was to serve as a warning of the futility of opposing Rome. There was also a marked change in the Roman attitude to Macedonia after the end of the Fourth Macedonian War. Victory over Philip V in the Second War had reduced the kingdom to a subordinate ally of Rome with little freedom in external affairs, and the renewal of war with Perseus had resulted in the abolition of the monarchy and State and their replacement by four self-governing regions. In 149 the governments of these Merides had failed to cope with Andriscus, so that in the following year a permanent Roman province of Macedonia was finally created. The Roman response and peace setdement had become progressively harsher after each fresh confrontation with Macedonia. The same progression is clearly visible in the Romans' treatment of Carthage. In the end Rome's relendess pursuit of total victory destroyed her rival both physically and as a political entity, creating the new province of Africa to administer the region.25

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