Page 0794




We now come to the struggle between Rome and Carthage for the mastery of the

West-a struggle most bravely contested, and, at the same time, one of the most

important recorded in ancient history. By it was decided a question no less

momentous than this: Whether the Aryan or the Semitic race should become

predominant in Europe-whether the speech, language, institutions, and laws of the

aggressive sons of Japhet should prevail over the star-lore and mysticism of the

Chaldee and the Phoenician. For more than a hundred years the struggle was

renewed with a courage and pertinacity rarely equaled-never surpassed- in the

annals of mankind. It was a battle to the death. The issues involved were of such

a sort as to admit of a solution only by the destruction of one of the

combatants. It was a case in which victory to either party meant not merely to

defeat, but to devour and annihilate the other. .

The city of Carthage was situated on a peninsula extending into a bay of the

Mediterranean, near the site of the modern Tunis. It is said to have been founded

about B. C. 880, by a Phoenician colony led by the princess Dido. Of the early

history of the city, beyond the mere nativity of the colonists, nothing definite

is known. Even the date of the foundation has remained a matter of dispute among

historians and antiquarians. It is safe, however, to assume that Carthage was an

older settlement than Rome, and that she became populous and wealthy at a date

when her rival was still struggling for existence. The two principal facts which

may be relied on as authenticated in the early history of the city are the

monarchical character of the government and the commercial enterprise of the


For how long the monarchy was maintained before it gave place to a republican

aristocracy, we are not certainly informed. Tradition makes the period extend

over three hundred years. The commercial relations of Carthage were the most

important in the West. Her maritime trade extended to all the ports of the

Mediterranean, and her inland commerce was carried in one direction to the Nile,

and in the other to the Niger. The Carthaginian ships passed the pillars of

Hercules, and navigated the coasts of Western Africa and Northern Europe. .

The first relations between the Carthaginians and the Romans dated from the year

B.C. 508, and bore upon the question of commerce. It appears from the treaty

that, at that time, both Sardinia and Sicily were subject to Carthage; nor was it

long until her supremacy was established over all the islands of the

Mediterranean. The maintenance of her commercial ascendancy was the fundamental

article in the policy of the city, and it was in the pursuance of measures

calculated to foster and uphold her maritime rank that she became embroiled with

foreign states, and notably with Rome.

Of the general character and history of the Carthaginians, from the founding of

the city down to the epoch of her wars with Rome, less is known than of any other

great nation of antiquity. With the exception of a few inscriptions on medals and

coins, a score of verses in one of the comedies of Plautus, and the periplus of

Hanno, not a solitary relic of Carthage has been preserved. She left no

literature, no art, no monuments, no traces of her language or people. For the

preservation of her fame the modern world is indebted to her enemies, and it is

believed that among these the Romans instead of exercising care to preserve the

authentic memorials of the great power with which they had struggled for more

than a century, destroyed in the temple of Carthage the Punic archives covering a

period for more than three hundred years.

At the beginning of the fourth century B. C. we find, then, the power of Carthage

well established around the shores of the Western