Adrian Goldsworthy – The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146 BC
This is a history of the Punic Wars, mostly from the Roman side. It is not a survey history of Carthage. For that, turn to Richard Miles’ excellent Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Carthage versus Rome was the big rivalry of its day, the Ancient Mediterranean equivalent of Yankees-Red Sox or Packers-Bears, except with rather higher stakes. The temperature ran especially hot on the Roman side of the dispute. Cato the Elder, for example, ended his every Senate speech, regardless of topic, with the phrase “Carthago delenda est” (“Carthage must be destroyed”).
That said, the rivalry has an artificial cast to it. Roman culture placed a heavy emphasis on self-aggrandizement. Virgil’s Aeneid, for example, ties Rome’s origins all the way back to the Trojan War epics of Homer. And every hero needs a villain to fight; Rome’s villain was Carthage. Goldsworthy is a good narrative historian, and though he remains Rome-centric, he gives the reader an idea of Carthage’s origins and why the former Phoenician colony (whence “Punic”) stuck in Rome’s craw so much. He also explains prominent Carthaginians such as Hamilcar and Hannibal’s significance, strategies, and motivations. Finally, Godsworthy also separates the three Punic Wars into distinct entities. They blend together for many people, including me, and this book helped to give a more detailed understanding. This was a multi-generation conflict, and each generation had a different fight.