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May 20, 2012

Book Review - Carthage Must Be Destroyed - by Richard Miles

It's been a while since I've posted a book review here! Or at least a *new* book review, as opposed to revisiting a couple of older ones that I just had never posted here.

For those of you who love ancient history, Carthage Must Be Destroyed is right up your alley. Especially if you're a big fan of studying the Roman Empire (as opposed to being a big fan *of* the Empire, because that would be wrong).

Some of the major series of events in the early Roman Empire are the Punic Wars with Carthage, the Mediterranean kingdom on the northern coast of Africa that rivaled Rome in power. We've read a lot from the Roman side on these wars, eventually ending in the total destruction of the Carthaginian Empire. But what about from the Carthage side? Just how did this city become so great, and such a prominent feature of the Mediterranean landscape?

Richard Miles goes into a lot of detail about Carthage and how it formed, along with it's long and tempestuous relationship with Rome.

My review of the book is now up on Curled Up With a Good Book (actually, it's been up for a while now, but I'm just now getting to post it here).

From the review:
""Carthage must be destroyed" was uttered by Cato the Elder, a Roman statesman and general who fought in the Punic Wars, and is a fitting title for this book—though one that highlights one of the weaknesses of the book as well.

The book jacket promises that this book is a "full scale history" of Carthage. That's not totally accurate. While Miles does convey a great deal of information about how Carthage was formed as a colony of the Phoenicians but ended up becoming greater than its sire, Carthage Must Be Destroyed is almost entirely about Carthage as an empire, not Carthage as a place to live. We read how it became a great empire in itself, with colonies in modern-day Spain and Sicily, and how this eventually forced them to butt heads with the growing Roman influence in the Mediterranean. It's all about foreign affairs, meaning we learn relatively little about what life in Carthage was actually like. This may be due to a lack of sources and thus may not be Miles's fault. Taken as a whole, however, the book does not come as advertised."
That really is the only problem with the book. So many of the sources are Roman, because the ones from Carthage are pretty much lost, that there really isn't a lot about the day to day life in Carthage that Miles can tell us about.

It does give a blow by blow account of the Punic Wars, what Carthage hoped to achieve, and how they ended up on the sharpened point of history, flailing away until they ceased to exist.

This was interesting to me because it was something I knew a little about but never enough. The fact that it was a huge book (and heavy, so if you're carrying it around, you might want to get the Kindle version) just made more to savor.

If you're interested in the subject, it's definitely a book to check out.


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