Back to Index


Several WAISers have proposed explanations for the numerous US towns called Carthage. They are divided about equally between North and South. Lee Madland has sent me a long account of the prosperity of once great Carthage, which preferred destruction to submission to Rome. "Give me liberty or give me death!" Well, not quite. Lee describes the end of wealthy Carthage.:

"But the die was cast, with the best known protagonist, the Roman senator Cato who, in what may be the classic forerunner of anti-Semitism (Carthaginians were Semites whose ancestors originally came from Tyre), finished every speech, on any subject, with the sentence Cartago delendum est -- Carthage must be destroyed! Over the years Catoıs message took root in the Roman mind. Seizing on a legal pretext which claimed that in resisting predatory incursions by inland Numidian tribes Carthage had violated the peace treaty by which it had agreed not to go to war without Roman permission, Rome in 149 BC sent a huge army to invest the city. Its frightened leaders submitted to Roman demands to surrender all weapons, public and private, in return for a pledge that Carthage would keep ³her territory, her sacred rites, her tombs, her liberty, and her possessions.² Some 200,000 sets of arms and all war machines were handed over. The Roman consuls then summoned the cityıs representatives for their last instructions: Accept with courage the final command of Rome. Surrender Carthage to us and withdraw into your territory, remaining at least ten miles from the coast. We intend to raze your city to the ground.

All Carthaginians knew that this was a mass death sentence, as they would soon starve if not killed first by tribal attacks. Deciding that resistance to the death was preferable to submitting to such a demand, the entire population slammed the gates shut and from behind their city walls began forging new weapons from scratch. " [All in vain. The Romans destroyed the city, scattering salt over the ruins.]

My comment: This brings up a new problem. History is written by the victors. In school, I learned ancient history from the Roman viewpoint, and thought Cato was a fine fellow. Of course, the Roman Empire fell, and Lee wonders if we will ever learn from history. I still think the choice of the name Cathage for American towns is odd. The early generations of literate Americans learned their ancient history, as I did, from the Roman viewpoint.

Ronald Hilton - 8/14/00