Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization by Richard Miles

June 26, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): The devastating struggle to the death between the Carthaginians and the Romans was one of the defining dramas of the ancient world. In an epic series of land and sea battles, both sides came close to victory before the Carthaginians finally succumbed and their capital city, history, and culture were almost utterly erased.

Drawing on a wealth of new archaeological research, Richard Miles vividly brings to life this lost empire-from its origins among the Phoenician settlements of Lebanon to its apotheosis as the greatest seapower in the Mediterranean. And at the heart of the history of Carthage lies the extraordinary figure of Hannibal-the scourge of Rome and one of the greatest military leaders, but a man who also unwittingly led his people to catastrophe.

The first full-scale history of Carthage in decades, Carthage Must Be Destroyed reintroduces modern readers to the larger-than-life historical players and the ancient glory of this almost forgotten civilization.

Note: This is not a “scholarly” review by an expert in ancient history. It is simply a review from an average reader with ZERO academic knowledge of the subject. If you’re looking for in-depth analysis, go elsewhere!

Liked:

  • Obviously the stuff about the Punic Wars was of great interest to me. That’s pretty much all I knew about Carthage going into this book, so this was the part that was easiest for me to follow and understand.
  • I also really enjoyed the recap of The Aeneid, as well as Miles’ summary of the love story between Dido and Aeneas. That was another part of Carthage’s history that I already knew a little bit about, and I liked seeing how it fit into the bigger picture.
  • The cultural survey of the ancient Carthaginian civilization was fairly interesting. I was particularly intrigued (and horrified) by the penchant for child sacrifice that seemed to exist for a time. Wow.

Disliked:

  • The author must have used the word “syncretism” about 50 times in this book. I don’t know why, but that annoyed me to no end!
  • It was difficult for me to place the events the author wrote about and to consider Carthage as an entity unto itself instead of in relation to Rome. This is entirely due to my own scholastic shortcomings rather than anything Miles did; nevertheless, it’s something I felt I should mention.
  • This book was LONG. Granted, it had to cover the rise and fall of an entire civilization, and in that regard certainly doesn’t enter Gibbonian territory. But still…there were numerous boring parts that I had to will myself through.

Rating:

Clearly I’m not part of the intended audience for this book. I just decided to take a chance on it because it was available as a free download (loan) from my library. I can see how the book would have merit for someone doing research or someone intensely interested in the period. But for someone like me, who knew nothing beyond Hannibal, Dido, and Aeneas, this was hard to get into and hard to follow at times. Overall, I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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