Delenda Est Carthago…

It suddenly downed on me while reading yet another article pointing out how the US still cannot manage to justify their invasion of Iraq, even after the fact…

Delenda Est Carthago

First, let me give a bit of explanation for the ones who were lucky enough not to endure years of latin grammar and history during their childhood.
Delenda Est Carthago, or more exactly: “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (“And therefore, I conclude that Carthage must be destroyed”), was the motto of Roman conservative senator Cato the Elder. In fact, it was much more than a motto, it was a slogan, tirelessly punctuating every single of his interventions at the senate. Even when the subject debated was in no way related, he would always weave in his subliminal message: “Carthago delenda est”…
Something like: “we need more fund for the new aqueduct, and carthage must be destroyed… let’s paint the coliseum blue and carthage must be destroyed… we need to fight corruption within the administration and carthage must be destroyed… etc. etc”

The goal, obviously, being to convince the Roman senate to go on yet another war against rival city Carthage and make sure nobody got out alive this time…

This warmongering successfully started the third, last and most vicious of the Punic wars, opposing Rome to Carthage and unsurprisingly resulting in the complete obliteration of the weaker one.

Now, I am sure I could find half a dozen wars in the world’s History which would perfectly stand the comparison to “US-Irak Pt. 2: The Vengeance”, but this one is particularly striking in its similarities.

What reminded me of this old tidbit of history was probably, more than anything, the rhetoric used by US warmongers to justify their position before the war: no need to be subtle there, just utter pseudo-truths and dumbed-down arguments over and over again, until they become the official media truth.

But is this the only points of comparison between the two? Well, hardly… curious about how far it could go, I tried to complete my superficial knowledge of this particular slice of history and felt an increasingly dizzifying feeling of déjà-vu as I dug into history books.

What are we talking about again?

Well, it all starts with this rather wishy-washy politician, not really famed for his wit, but quite popular among conservatives for his obtuse, simplistic traditional views.
Then, there is this old nemesis, once a mighty and threatening empire, but now a war-torn piece of land crushed by the previous conflict, painfully recovering under strong economical sanctions.
What happens then?
Well, building a hatred for the other, based mostly on inane non-factual arguments, employing fear and panic as instruments of war, this politician and his allies eventually succeed in starting an unnecessary and unfair conflict, quite predictably won by what is then an unchallenged superpower… all this for the benefit of none but the private interests of a handful of people.

As you guessed, I was merely giving a small lecture on the Third Punic War (149-146 BC), as accounted for by most history books.
History, perpetually repeating itself? nah…

Among the many interesting details of this (rather gratuitous, I’ll admit) comparison, is that this war, although it had little impact on the Roman empire by itself, is considered the first step of what eventually became its demise… and because it just sounds too familiar, I will merely quote some history website:

“The accidental Roman Empire suddenly shifted into high gear. However, the massive wealth that was created for Rome awoke old tensions between the classes, and the Republic would live in a state of crisis for over a hundred years – a crisis that, at its conclusion, would precipitate the demise of the Republic in favor of a dictatorship.
Rome failed to prosecute corrupt bureaucrats effectively since the courts showed a strong bias towards the senatorial class. […]
The historian Sallust […], dated Rome’s corruption to the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC and the absence of any foreign threat.”

Did that sound a bit scary? oh sorry…

1 comment

  1. Hi Dave.
    …I stumbled over your web page while looking for some info about ‘Carthago’.
    After having a quick look at it, I got caught by the content. I found your thoughts quite interesting and finally read the whole page.
    Well, I can’t agree more!
    Anyhow, good job, well done!
    Kind regards!
    Ted

    *…may I suggest a slight improvement to the page? I found the page a bit dark and therefore it was a bit difficult and somewhat tireing to read due to the small font and the dark color (or probably my bad eye sight?).
    Pls don’t get me wrong, it’s just my humble opinion here but I’m quite sure the pleasure of reading what you have to say would have been even bigger when it would have been easier to read.
    Thanks. ;o)

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