Roman genocide of Carthaginian subjects discussed by expert
The Roman Empire was a vast and sprawling governance that spanned Scotland to the Middle East. Founded in around 625 BC, it went on to become the greatest power in the world, led by a variety of emperors all with differing philosophies. With power such as that seen under the Romans, there were many wars and battles, both within the empire and with neighbouring states.
By 338 BC, Rome had gained control over the entire Italian peninsula.
It wasn’t long, however, until the Punic Wars ensued, lasting nearly 100 years between 264 and 146 BC.
Within these wars — there were three — Rome was faced with dealing with Carthage, an ancient city situated in modern-day Tunisia, founded by the Phoenicians and extremely close to the empire.
Of Carthage’s greatest fighters was Hannibal, who in 219 BC led an attack on Saguntum, an independent city allied with Rome.
He then marched his sizable army across the Pyrenees and Alps and into central Italy in what would come to be remembered as one of the most famous military campaigns in history.
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Punic Wars: An artist’s impression of a bloody battle between Scipio and Hannibal
A string of victories saw him gain a foothold in southern Italy, the most memorable being in Cannae, which gave the general great control over the region.
In the intervening years after the defeat at Cannae, the Romans’ war with Carthage spread across the world, and an intercontinental game of cat and mouse followed with fighting on land and sea.
While Rome fought a desperate war in Italy, preventing Hannibal from attacking the city itself, the Roman generals made a wider plan to destabilise the Carthaginian Empire.
This came in 210 BC, when the Romans launched a power attack in Carthage’s main power base, Spain.
Scipio Africanus was just 25 when he became general of the army and almost immediately turned the way in Rome’s favour, capturing Catharginian forces and cities.
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Roman artefacts: One of the spear tips found at Illiturgis
However, as Bethany Hughes during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Eight Days that made Rome’, noted: “He did so with downright cunning and cruelty that would come to be a hallmark of Roman warfare.”
In the ancient city of Illiturgis, Andalucia, southern Spain, researchers have recovered some of the bloody remnants of Scipio’s assault on Carthage in 206 BC.
A group of Spanish archaeologists, led by Juan Pedro Belen in 2018 discovered “fascinating” new evidence directly linking Scipio to an act of “mass murder” against the civilian population of the city.
A “typical Iberian town”, the area tured up houses of the everyday people who lived there, also offering evidence for conflict.
Mr Belen said: “We think that Scipio came with weapons and the idea of entirely destroying the city.
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Scipio Africanus: The renowned Roman general who defeated Carthage
Ancient history: The houses found at Illiturgis hinted at the civilian life before the assault
“And we think there was a kind of genocide by the Romans because we have no evidence of a population in the landscape after the siege.
“The population was pretty much wiped out, probably 80 to 90 percent of the population was eliminated.”
Ms Huges noted: “The evidence found by Juan Pedro and his team is compelling.”
Weapons of varying styles and sizes were found, all indicating a savage Roman assault.
Ms Hughes continued: “At the exact historical moment that Roman weapons appear in this landscape, nearly all signs of life in Illitrugis disappear from the archaeological record.
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“It’s sobering to think that Scipio, one of Rome’s greatest heroes, was capable of the cold blooded massacre of men and women who dared to defy Rome.”
A peace agreement later brought the Second Punic War to an end.
Carthage was allowed to keep only its territory in North Africa, losing its overseas empire permanently.
It was also forced to surrender its fleet, which by this point was a strength to match any.
A further blow saw Carthage made to pay a hefty indemnity in silver, and to agree never again to re-arm or declare war without permission from Rome.
Juan Pedro Belen: He said the team believed 80 to 90 percent of the population was wiped out
Hannibal, who had only narrowly escaped death from the crushing defeat at Zama, still harboured the desire to defeat Rome.
He managed to retain his military title despite accusations that he had botched the conduct of the war, and was even made a civil magistrate in the government of Carthage.
However, he was later denounced by the Carthaginian nobility and fled the country, once again taking up arms against Rome in his later years unsuccessfully.
Cornered, he poisoned himself in the Bithynian village of Libyssa, probably around 183 BC.