Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization (Anglais) Broché – 26 juin 2012
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Revue de presse
Richard Miles's Carthage Must be Destroyed is a refreshing addition to the debate (Philip Parker Financial Times )
This is a lively and compelling, chronological account of Carthage from its Phoenician foundation to its reception in Emperor Augustus's Rome (Literary Review Paul Cartledge )
Richard Miles tells this story with tremendous élan, combining the best of modern scholarship with narrative pace and energy. It is a superb achievement, a model for all such endeavours. He is even better on the little-known background to this tale (Peter Jones Telegraph )
The dramatic story of these events is set out in gripping detail (The Scotsman )
Miles ... has written an epic and fascinating new history of the city ... [and] performed a splendid feat of resurrectionism (Tom Holland The Spectator )
Miles helps to fill in the blanks with this thoughtful and meticulous book (Daniel Metcalfe Guardian )
Carthage's fate was sad indeed, but Miles here has done much to bring it to dramatic life (John Dillon Irish Times )
A fine, sweeping survey of the rise and fall of an empire and a glimpse into the diversity of the ancient world ... Richard Miles is ... concerned with the wider context ... and his book is all the more valuable for that (Wall Street Journal ) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .
Présentation de l'éditeur
Drawing on a wealth of new research, archaeologist, historian, and master storyteller Richard Miles resurrects the civilization that ancient Rome struggled so mightily to expunge. This monumental work charts the entirety of Carthage's history, from its origins among the Phoenician settlements of Lebanon to its apotheosis as a Mediterranean empire whose epic land-and-sea clash with Rome made a legend of Hannibal and shaped the course of Western history. Carthage Must Be Destroyed reintroduces readers to the ancient glory of a lost people and their generations-long struggle against an implacable enemy.
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Miles begins with the Phoenicians, the people who founded Carthage, and goes on from there. His style is at all times enjoyable, and his arguments well presented. Apart from the obvious following of Carthage's history, he goes into great depth about subjects such as the manner in which Hannibal aped the feats of Hercules in order to show that he had divine backing, and how the Romans fought back against this religious propaganda. He also explains in depth how, from the time of the Second Punic War onwards, the Romans made their business to portray the Carthaginians as untrustworthy, perfidious liars and cheats. This in turn allowed them to show themselves as more heroic and steadfast.
Anyone who is interested in learning the full (well, what is known) details about Carthage and its history, needs to read this book. I for one will be returning to it again and again in the future. In my opinion, leading Lancel's book is also a good idea. Another interesting text is Daily Life in Carthage At the Time of Hannibal by the academic Gilbert Charles-Picard. Although it was written in the 1960s, it has some useful information about Carthaginian culture.
Ben Kane, author of Hannibal: Enemy of Rome and The Forgotten Legion.
The narrative commences with the foundation of the city from Tyre by the legendary Queen Elissa (or Dido). Over time, the Carthaginians gained control of the area that today is Tunisia. From that base became a successful trading and maritime power. A key asset that the Carthaginians exploited early on was the silver mined in Spain, providing an early foundation for the city's wealth. The Rio Tinto area still has the huge slag heaps produced by the mining operations of the time. The importance of commanding access to silver is a recurrent theme in antiquity and later, for example in the importance of the Laurium silver mines to Athens and the significance of the silver of the Potosi mine in Peru to the rise of the West after the sixteenth century (Frank, Reorient).
One of the original reasons for the expansion into the Western Mediterranean by Tyre was the need to find resources such as silver to feed the "Assyrian beast", Tyre's overlord at the time. However, it was eventually Carthage that inherited these resources and its "renown would soon come to far outshine the faded lustre of its Phoenician parent".
Carthage became a major manufacturer of goods which it sold throughout the Mediterranean and an agricultural producer. It also acquired naval supremacy in the Western Mediterranean (The ring shaped military harbour of Carthage one of the great engineering works of antiquity can still be seen). The cities need for supplies however took it further afield with the establishment of control over Western Sicily. This brought the city into conflict with the Greek colonies established in Eastern Sicily such as Syracuse as both expanded. However, it was the expansion of Rome that eventually brought Carthage into conflict with its future nemesis.
The events of the Punic wars are well known but briefly, during the First Punic War, Rome successfully transforms itself from a land power into a sea power and defeats Carthage. Carthage loses Sicily but expands in Spain to try to make up for its losses. Than expansion once again brings the two cities into conflict. Despite Hannibal's epic march across the Alps and early victories over Rome, the Romans eventually wear the Carthaginians down, take the war to Africa and win. Carthage is then left with just its hinterland and a huge war indemnity. Even then, she is thought to be too much of a threat so that the Romans again go to war and destroy the city in 146 BCE after three year's of heroic defence by its citizens. In that same year, the Romans also destroy the Greek city of Corinth leaving the Romans with supremacy over the Mediterranean. The narrative however does not stop at 146 BCE. Miles looks at Roman "war guilt" and how that worked itself through the following centuries, for example in the Aenid of Virgil. Miles' narrative of these events is compelling and easy to read but with a lot more.
Miles looks at the problems with writing a history of Carthage. There are no Punic sources, the great library of Carthage having vanished after the destruction of the city. Instead, the historian needs to rely on hostile Roman and Greek sources - and some pro-Carthaginian Greek sources. Miles does a convincing job of cutting through the hostile propaganda and constructing a more even handed and broadly sympathetic picture of the Carthaginians and their story. He explores the Roman stereotype of "Punic faith", the supposed treachery and deviousness commonly attributed to Carthaginians - as well as their reputation as cunning and deceitful traders. Miles however shows a pattern of behaviour that is not too different to that of the Romans and Greeks. The accusations of child sacrifice that the Romans levelled at their Punic foes are also explored. The conclusion is that these accusations were not without foundation but are also highly exaggerated. In his study of stereotypes, Miles looks at Greek and Roman literature as sources.
Miles also uses the limited sources available and archaeological evidence to examine the intellectual, cultural and religious life of Carthage, a difficult task in view of the scarcity of sources. The Carthaginians appeared to have worshipped a number of West Semitic deities such as Baal and Tanit. Melqart as the god of the city however assumed great significance. The culture of the city appears to have been quite syncretic in its final centuries, absorbing much from the Hellenistic world. Melqart for example appears to have been conflated with the Greek God Hercules.
This kind of admixing worked to provide points of cultural contact with the Greek world and a common cultural idiom. That common idiom gave Carthaginians the means to engage with and deliver propaganda to Greeks and Romans, hopefully to win allies and demoralise enemies. Hannibal hires Greek historians to accompany him on his campaigns and write his war propaganda - self consciously following the example of Alexander. Hannibal effectively uses religious propaganda. He tries to convince the world that he had the favour of Hercules who had abandoned Rome. The tables are turned however when in 146 BCE, Scipio Aemilianus uses the same propaganda tools. Before taking the city, he calls the gods of Carthage to leave the city and take up residence in Rome.
Despite Miles' compelling effort to reconstruct from the debris and try to tell us how Carthaginians saw themselves and their world, one is left with the feeling that one would like to know more. Miles recounts the story of Hannibal's confrontation with Roman envoys in Spain in which he sharply rebukes them and speaks of "the old principle of Carthage never to neglect the victims of injustice". Hannibal's statement at least suggests a strong sense of Carthaginian self belief - and an emphasis on justice and righteousness, eerily reminiscent of passages from the Old Testament (eg Psalms 33:4-6). Given the closeness of Tyre and Israel as well as the common cultural threads binding Levantine peoples, if common points of cultural reference are found, this should not be surprising. This can however be speculation only in the absence of Punic sources.
Rome in the end established its dominion over the Mediterranean world - not Carthage. The common elite culture of the Mediterranean became Graeco-Roman culture not Punic culture. For Miles, nevertheless, the history of Carthage is also a history of Rome. The Carthaginians were the first to try to build an empire spanning both shores on the Mediterranean. Though it was the Romans who succeeded in the end, to do so they had to take over Carthage's empire and build upon it. The early overseas provinces of Rome with the exception of Macedon were all inherited from Carthage and with it presumably some of its structures of governance and law. The Quinqueremes of the Roman navy were based on the design of a captured Carthaginian ship. The Romans valued the technical expertise of the Carthaginians and had translated all 28 volumes of Mago's agricultural treatise said to be the "agronomic bible of the ancient world". Miles writes "Rome hugely benefited from the appropriation of the economic and political infrastructure that Carthage had previously put into place in the central and Western Mediterranean. In Sardinia, Sicily, North Africa and Spain, the Romans inherited not wild, virgin lands but a politically, economically and culturally joined up world which was Carthage's greatest achievement". The foundations of the Roman Empire therefore were laid by Carthage to a great extent but whether the Romans themselves recognised their Punic inheritance is less clear. A nephew of Constantine was called "Hannibalianus" suggesting perhaps some acknowledgement of the Carthaginian past. The emperor Septimius Severus himself a North African reburied Hannibal in a marble mausoleum.
The Romans to be clear were not out to destroy Punic culture but to destroy a political rival. Punic culture continued to exist in North Africa for centuries along with the other cultures that fell under Roman rule. The continual process of the mixing of ideas, cultures and peoples in the Mediterranean which under Carthage began, continued under the Roman imperium. The westward road that the early Tyrians took to found Carthage was followed during Roman times by other west bound peoples from the Levant. These included the early Christians such as Paul. These later travellers unlike their Tyrian and Carthaginian predecessors left a more permanent cultural and religious imprint on the Mediterranean world and Europe - Christianity.
On the whole, Richard Miles is less tendentious than many younger ancient historians and more willing to consider the fine points. His emphasis on the syncretism of Greek and Phoenician culture in Sicily and Sardinia is useful and usually keeps him from demonizing the Greeks. Nonetheless, his treatment of Greek sources is sloppy, and it is not at all clear that he knows Greek--the necessary language, since the best sources on Carthage are written in Greek--or sufficiently understands Greek literature and history. For example, he pops out Herodotus' tale that Gelon of Syracuse was waiting to see which side won (during the invasion of 480) before declaring his allegiance without considering Herodotus' willingness to repeat any story he has heard or Herodotus' generally favorable view of Gelon, whom he does not accuse of Medizing. Besides, even if the story is literally true, it means no more than that Gelon, in the midst of defending Sicily from invasion, could not really spare his forces to fight against the Persians, and, if the Persians won, it would be foolish to declare his enmity. In the same chapter, Miles has a howler--making Theron the brother of Gelon--which, if it is not a typo--would indicate serious deficiencies in his knowledge of Sicilian history.
Miles complains, naturally, of the bias of Greek historians against Carthage and sees it (following the speculative and tendentious work of Edith Hall) as an invention of the fifth century, a piece of propaganda orchestrated by Sicilian Greeks who wanted to claim some of the panhellenic glory won by Athens and Sparta against the barbarians. But the stories and artistic representations of the Hellenic struggle with mythical barbarians antedates the Persian Wars. The Greeks were simultaneously aware of how much they owed to eastern cultures and yet determined to assert their own unique identity. This is no late invention. Miles might also consider the plain fact that the Carthaginians did not produce much of a literature. It is not only that they were eventually defeated by the Romans, since Greeks and Romans did translate and read Carthaginian books, when they were of interest. The truth is that the Carthaginians were a lot like Americans, more interested in getting and spending than in creating anything particularly beautiful or original. This left them, naturally, vulnerable to Greek culture.
Although it is loosely written and ineffectively arranged--his distracting excursus, e.g. on Melqart, should have been turned into appendices--Carthage Must be Destroyed is a valuable contribution and should be read by anyone interested in Carthage and its conflicts with Greece and Rome. If it displays the typical postmodern hatred of the West and enthusiasm for the "other," those faults can be corrected either by rereading Herodotus, Diodorus, and Livy or by looking at the earlier works on ancient history by, for example, Edward Freeman, Bury, Hammond, and even Grote.
Miles opens with a general discussion of Carthage's Phoenician roots and Phoenician expansion into the western Mediterranean. Miles emphasizes what is likely to have been a considerable degree of cultural cross-fertilization and syncretism that accompanied Phoenician and Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean and their interactions with native cultures. He is particularly good on religious syncretism, something that clearly had considerable importance during the Punic Wars.
About half the book is devoted to the Punic Wars. This is largely a careful interpretation of the work of Livy, Polybius, and others who wrote of these conflicts. Miles takes pains to rebut versions of Carthage as an imperial power bent on domination of the western Mediterranean and instead presents the Romans as the practicioners of an aggressively imperialist system. There is very good narrative of the Punic wars with thoughtful analyses of probable internal Carthaginian politics, the importance of Spain as a Carthaginian colony, the very interesting role of religious identifications and propaganda in the Second Punic War, Hannibal as something of an outsider in the Carthaginian system, and the broad and complicated diplomacy of the Mediterranean world. What Miles ultimately presents is a picture of a relatively varied and cosmopolitan, though very violent, Mediterranean world being brought under Roman political and cultural hegemony.
Given the length of the book, there are understandable omissions. What accounts, for example, for the remarkable regenerative powers of the Roman state? After the first Punic War, the Romans had naval superiority and this clearly had huge implications for the later Punic Wars. The Carthaginians could only move troops between Spain, Italy, and North Africa by land while the Romans could move troops and other resources much more economically. There is a good bibliography.
"Carthage must be destroyed" was uttered by Cato the Elder, a Roman statesman and general who fought in the Punic Wars, and is a fitting title for this book--though one that highlights one of the weaknesses of the book as well.
The book jacket promises that this book is a "full scale history" of Carthage. That's not totally accurate. While Miles does convey a great deal of information about how Carthage was formed as a colony of the Phoenicians but ended up becoming greater than its sire, Carthage Must Be Destroyed is almost entirely about Carthage as an empire, not Carthage as a place to live. We read how it became a great empire in itself, with colonies in modern-day Spain and Sicily, and how this eventually forced them to butt heads with the growing Roman influence in the Mediterranean. It's all about foreign affairs, meaning we learn relatively little about what life in Carthage was actually like. This may be due to a lack of sources and thus may not be Miles's fault. Taken as a whole, however, the book does not come as advertised.
That being said, Miles's work is quite comprehensive when it comes to Carthage's foreign relations and empire-building. An archaeologist as well as historian, Miles has led many digs where Carthage stood before its destruction. While he plumbs plenty of written sources and records, he also utilizes archaeological evidence to back up his statements. Many of the notes in the back of the book refer to pottery in certain areas and how inscriptions on the pottery indicate that there was more of a relationship between two civilizations, or money that was minted by certain leaders indicating something else. It's truly fascinating seeing how it's all pieced together.
There are very few Carthaginian written sources available. All of the written material from the time period comes from Roman and Greek historians, most of whom hated the Carthaginians. Miles admits up front that most of the available primary sources may not actually be that reliable. He does an admirable job of sifting through the sources, the archaeological evidence, and other historians' studies of the period to put together an interesting book that holds together quite well.
I much prefer footnotes to endnotes in history books; I hate thumbing back and forth, either having a bookmark on the notes page or my finger. Carthage Must Be Destroyed has an endnotes system, but it is understandable and actually quite useful. I usually stop even looking at the notes--mainly they just quote the source, and the constant flipping of pages gets annoying--but I was riveted to Miles's notes.
This is because he uses the notes section not only to quote his sources but often to also address some ongoing controversies regarding the subject or to clarify exactly what he's talking about. Some of the notes run to a quarter of a page long as he gets into what other historians say about the subject or states why he's going with a particular interpretation of the evidence. With anything greatly controversial, he doesn't merely ignore the side he disagrees with so that the reader doesn't even know that there is a debate. He acknowledges both sides and states why he thinks the way he does. This would sidetrack the narrative of the book itself, but in the notes section, it's great.
Carthage Must Be Destroyed runs the gamut from Carthage's founding to its utter destruction and will keep anybody with any interest in the subject reading long into the night.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2012