(ROME STAGGERS to EMPIRE – continued)
Carthage, photo of a model
In 157, a Roman senator, Cato, visited North Africa and became aware that prosperity had returned to Carthage. This led him to complain that Carthage continued to be a menace to Rome. He began ending his speeches in the Senate with the words "Carthage must be destroyed."
A neighbor of Carthage, Numidia, took advantage of Rome's hostility to Carthage by making encroachments on Carthaginian territory and then asking Rome for arbitration. Rome failed to act with the impartiality that might have inhibited Numidia from making further encroachments, and after suffering a number of aggressions by Numidia, Carthage lost its patience and retaliated. Rome saw this as a breach of peace by Carthage, and, in the year 150, Rome's Senate voted for another war against Carthage.
Believing that war against Rome was hopeless, a delegation that Carthage sent to Rome offered surrender in the form of a commitment to "the faith of Rome" – understood to mean that Rome could take possession of Carthage but that the lives of the people of Carthage would be spared and that they would not be taken as slaves. Rome's Senate responded by granting Carthage self-rule and the right of the city and its people to keep all their possessions on condition that Carthage send to Rome three hundred of its leading citizens as hostages.
Hoping to save their city from destruction, amid much grieving, the Carthaginians sent their leading citizens to Rome as hostages. Rome had already decided to wipe Carthage from the map. Rome demanded that Carthage surrender all its weapons, and Carthage did so, including two hundred thousands suits of mail and two thousand catapults. Then Rome demanded that the people of Carthage surrender their city and move ten miles inland. For the Carthaginians this means leaving behind their homes, their docks and quays and their ability to carry on their sea-going trade. The people of Carthage preferred war and refused. Rome responded as it had planned, with military operations, which began in the year 149.
The war against Carthage was delayed as people in what today is Portugal – the Lusitani – were again attempting to free themselves from Roman domination, and so too were peoples in central Hispania – what today is Spain. Roman legions overwhelmed the Lusitani. Rome offered them peace and land, trapped them, slaughtered 9,000 of them and enslaved 20,000. A new leader arose among the outraged Lusitani and renewed his people's war against the Romans, the Lusitani achieving their first success in the year 147, killing 10,000 Roman soldiers.
One response by Rome to the new trouble in Spain was a change in the New Year. To give one of its generals a longer season for campaigning, the Senate moved the date of the New Year from March 15 to January 1.
While Rome was busy with Spain and Carthage, an adventurer named Andricus, who claimed to be the son of Perseus, defied Rome and reunited Macedonia. Rome sent an army to Macedonia that arrived in 148 and drove out Andricus. By the fall of 147, Rome's legions were in control of the countryside around Carthage. Rome had not yet penetrated Carthage's wall, but the possibility of a united effort against Rome by Carthage, Macedonia and the Greeks was over. Rome decided that its presence would be needed in Macedonia to keep the Macedonians in line, and it began a permanent rule and military occupation there, Macedonia becoming the first Roman province east of the Adriatic Sea.
Some in the city of Corinth saw the continuing war between Rome and Carthage and the continuing rebellion in Spain as an opportune time to stand against Rome's pretensions of authority over Greek cities. It was a time of economic distress among the Greeks, and a leader from Corinth named Critolaus traveled from town to town in Greece calling for debt reform and opposition to Rome.
Critolaus described the real enemies of the Greeks as those among them who called for conciliation with Rome. Moderate opinion in Corinth was silenced, and, in the spring of 146,Critolaus persuaded the Achaean league to declare war against Rome's presence in their part of the world. The city of Thebes, resenting Roman interference in their affairs, allied itself with the Achaean league. Across Greece, patriotic clubs appeared and denounced Rome. Athens and Sparta stayed out of the war, but elsewhere across Greece men eagerly joined Critolaus' army or another army preparing to fight Rome. Slaves were freed and recruited for the fight, and wealthy Greeks who favored Rome were frightened into contributing jewelry and money to the cause.
In the spring of 146, Roman soldiers were finally able to penetrate Carthage's walls. They swarmed into the city and began fighting street by street. First Carthage's harbor area fell to the Romans, then the market area, and finally the citadel in the city-center. Amid suicides and carnage, the Romans demolished and burned the city. They carried off survivors, selling the women and children into slavery and throwing the men into prison, where they were to perish. Then the Romans spread salt across what had been Carthage's farmlands, and Carthage was no more.
In Greece, Critolaus' army was defeated by the Roman army sent from Macedonia. Later in 146 a force sent from Rome arrived and defeated an army of Greeks at the city of Corinth. To warn others, the Romans slaughtered all the men they found in Corinth. They enslaved the city's women and children, and they shipped Corinth's treasures to Italy and burned the city to the ground. Greek cities hostile to Rome had their walls demolished and their people disarmed. The Romans found Thebes entirely empty of people, its inhabitants having fled to wander through mountains and wilderness. According to the Greek historian Polybius, people everywhere were throwing themselves "down wells and over precipices."
Rome dissolved the Achaean league and had its leaders put to death. Rome's governor to Macedonia became governor also of the entire Greek peninsula. Rome would now allow only internal rule by Greek cities – by wealthy elites. Border disputes would remain, but they would be settled by Roman power. It was the beginning of Rome's permanent presence in the region and of a rule by foreigners in Greece that was to last two thousand years.
Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.