Flawed Philosophy Is WHY CARTHAGE FAILED

Remember Carthage!

Superficialists will tell you Carthage failed, because a Roman army destroyed Carthage in eight days of door to door fighting. That is correct and true, but the consequences of greater causes. The real philosophical question is how did it come to that, this genocide? All the more as the Roman imperator (top general endowed with imperium) commanding said army, was psychologically devastated by the horror unfolding under his eyes. Scipio Aemilianus was enacting the orders he got from the Roman Senate. He cried as his own troops engaged in the carnage, and he became conscious of the enormity of what was happening: the destruction of a civilization. Scipio realized that it was not just Carthage which was being destroyed, but Rome itself.

Scipio, “reflecting upon the inevitable fall of cities, peoples and empires” said to Polybius that “I feel a terror and a dread, lest someone someday gives the same order about my own native city“, i.e. Rome. By city he meant state and civilization.

The answer to how the situation got to being that extreme is philosophical, yet of extreme importance, looking forward in the present situation of civilization.

Some Traits of Carthage’s Extreme Plutocratic Philosophy Were So Wrong, That Carthage Failed. A lesson to meditate!

Carthage was one of the most striking civilizations, ever. Differently from Sparta, which did not contribute much to civilization (even considering the 300 stand at Thermopylae, which was later thoroughly eradicated with extensive collaboration with fascist imperialist Persian juggernaut).

Carthage made present-day Tunisia bloom. It was never again so agriculturally productive. In 300 BCE, the part of North Africa Carthage cultivated was as great as the private farms, and the Ager Publicus of Rome, and all the area of Italy cultivated by Rome’s allies. In other words, Carthage’s resources were enormous.  

But not just that. Differently from a land power such as the richest of them all, agriculturally wealthy Egypt, Carthage mostly lived of maritime trade. She controlled the Western Mediterranean, all the way to tropical Black Africa, except for Phocian Marseilles’ own little Greek empire, and Magna Grecia (Great Greece) in southern Italy. 

Partial view of Carthage’s famous Cothon: the commercial harbor is rectangular, the circular inner harbor is military, and could hold 188 trireme warships, each in its own shelter. Cap Bon at the horizon. Contemporary Tunis, population, one million, is to the right.

Carthage established far-out trading posts in Africa, starting the idea and practice of the direct collaboration of Europe, and the Middle Earth, collaboration with Black Africa (something erroneously called “colonization” by politically correct, cognitive dwarves … The notion of “colonization” being all the more dumb as it went both ways, see the Almoravids.)

Carthaginian agricultural science was so advanced that the Romans preserved a book describing it. It was the only Punic book Rome preserved. Others were destroyed when the insane, scared and vengeful mass murdering Roman plutocracy annihilated the North African Punic metropolis. If the West and even the Arabs, or Persians, could colonize desertic areas so well, thereafter, it’s in no small measure thanks to Carthaginian agricultural science.

Carthage was much admired by Aristotle, for its “mixed constitution” (monarchy + aristocracy + democracy). That was viewed by Aristotle and his Middle Ages’ followers, to be an ideal balance bringing stability (Aristotle’s excuse for monarchy). Except for Sparta, Greek City-States were notoriously unstable.  Sparta, like Rome, and Carthage, also had a “mixed” constitution (and was much admired by all too many of the Socrates-Plato-Aristotle-Macedonia clique… that much admired clique which ended democracy in Greece).


If Carthage was so great, why did it fail? Too much oligarchy, not enough citizenship:

Carthage’s plutocratic oligarchy was avaricious with citizenship… Avaricious with citizenship were also the Romans, some will argue, instinctively inappropriately comparing with modern melting pots states like the Western democracies. Well, one has to start somewhere: ur meltingpotness comes from Rome. Rome was the original melting pot. Right, Roman avarice in the way of citizenship is why the “Social War” of the First Century BCE occurred: Rome was defeated, and had to accept to share its citizenship. 

The fact remain that Rome grew into a metropolis by absorbing all the Latium and then Etruria. Whereas etruscan cities remained independent city-states in a sort of spiritual confederacy of various political systems, Rome slowly incorporated its neighborhood, enabling her to constitute a massive hoplite army: similar to that of the largest Greek city-states, but even bigger.

By contrast, although Carthage controlled a greater agriculturally productive domain than Rome, Carthage had much fewer real citizens. Moreover the latter were city-dwellers, poorly trained in war.

Thus Carthaginian armies had not much in common with Roman armies, which were full of healthy and wealthy Roman farmers. By 400 BCE, Roman farmers serving in the Roman army were paid a stipend; the end result is that Rome was able to field the largest national armies in the Ancient Mediterranean World; Persia could field larger armies, but, like the Carthaginian armies, they were multinational armies of mercenaries.

The all too small full citizenry of Carthage meant that much of the “Libyan” population Carthage administered did not have a full stake in the fate of the metropolis. Carthage drafted them during wars, but also paid mercenaries, many of them from Spain or Gaul.

After the First abominable “Punic” war with Rome (which started in 265 BCE), Carthage suffered a striking revolt of an army of its own mercenaries. By contrast, Rome’s core legions were made of full citizens, superbly trained and equipped… Even when the Roman legions rebelled, centuries later, they rebelled against each other, to seize power, rarely against the City of Rome herself… and, even then, barely, and more directed at the Senate than at the population.


It was cruel to deny citizenship to stakeholder, so Carthage became ever more cruel:

Carthaginian cruelty was legendary. Crucifying generals, to encourage the others, was common (whereas Rome, in 22 centuries of Roman history, never crucified a single general).

3,000 years ago, human sacrifice of children was still practiced: consider the Bible and the famous would-be child killer Abraham. 2,800 years ago, queen Dido founded the Phoenician colony of Carthage. Phoenicia, the cities of the present-day Lebanese litoral (Tyr, Sidon, Byblos, etc.) was most advanced: it created the alphabet (and books, bibles, from the word “Byblos”). Phoenicia practiced child sacrifices. Thus, so did Carthage.

However killing children became uncool in the Middle Earth: it was a big civilization there, and some of the national civilizations, such as Egypt, had never practiced child sacrifice. Those nation-civilizations were in competition and trade with each other, and child killing was no advantage. In the end, Phoenicia dropped that monstrous religion.  

But Carthage kept it.

Why? Because Carthage ruled North Africa, and had no competitors (Numidian kingdoms were clients and supplicants, and allies against Rome). Carthage’s absurdly obsolete cruelty would have been a lethal disadvantage further east. But, in North Africa, overlording the savage Numids and Libyans, it was rather a way to awe them some more, and thus to rule them, sort of.

And Carthage kept killing more and more children.

Why? Because denying citizenship to stakeholders was cruel, and needed cruelty to keep on going. And the more it went, the more cruel Carthage got.

Thus the more wrong it was about citizenship, the more cruel Carthage got (to impose that inequality ever more). Doing so it weakened itself in two ways: too small a citizenry (especially with all those dead kids), and Carthage put herself in the moral crosshairs of Rome (which was notoriously antagonistic to human sacrifice religions).

In the end, Carthage became much more democratic, infuriating and alarming Roman plutocracy ever more. Out of this fury, Roman plutocracy got ever more mileage. Indeed, the annihilation of Carthage by an unhinged Roman Senatorial class was an unmitigated disaster. It’s not just that the greatest Semitic civilization which ever was disappeared. It’s also that Carthage gave an excuse for the Roman plutocracy to get completely mad, insane, unhinged, and thus able to vaporize Roman total democracy (which had been growing, prior to the Punic wars).


Many are the lessons’ from Carthage:    

We saw above that the growth in inequality is justified, and accompanied by a growth in cruelty. This was true both on the Carthaginian and Roman sides. After 146 BCE, when Rome destroyed with extreme cruelty free city states in Spain and Greece, and annihilated Carthage, Roman cruelty turned against the Roman population itself.

This was of course insane, and the more insane it got, the more cruelty itself was used as an excuse and occasion for further madness. In the end, Rome found itself ruled by a plutocratic clique among which emperors were selected. This concentration of power among few hands and brains made Rome increasingly stupid (just as Carthage had become increasingly stupid). The result was a degeneracy of the state in a theocracy symbolically led by a crucified, and thus crucifying, messiah, Jesus his name.

Republics such as the USA and France also have a mixed constitution (the presidents have the powers of elected kings, the politicians, in combination with the plutocrats who feed them, make oligarchies, etc.) The US and France are the paradigms of today’s “republics”.

Still the same psychological laws which led Carthage and Rome down the abyss, are in place. Thus history can teach us how to avoid the pitfalls.


What Should Carthage Have Done?

The Punic wars started as a three-way struggle for Sicily, between Carthage, Greek tyrants, and the rising Roman power. Retrospectively, after a Greek tyrant landed in North Africa on the prominent cape next to Carthage (Carthage got rid of him with difficulty), Carthage should have extended her citizenship to Libyans, and grow to cover North Africa, imitating the Roman Republic, which was closer to a total democracy, then, than to a plutocratic oligarchy as Carthage was.

Thus Carthage could have grown organically, as a civilization (as Rome did). In particular, child killing would have disappeared, because Numidians and Libyans would not have acquired with enthusiasm Carthaginian citizenship, if they thought it meant their kids may have had to be thrown in the fire.

Carthage: it is alarming to see that a civilization so splendid, so smart and so advanced could be so wrong, and so retarded. But cruelty has a beauty that the herd often indulges in.

Patrice Ayme’

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7 Responses to “Flawed Philosophy Is WHY CARTHAGE FAILED”

  1. ianmillerblog Says:

    Help Patrice,
    I agree that the cruelty of Carthage did not help, but I still think that part of the reason Carthage was reduced to ashes was that too many Roman plutocrats had their noses out of joint, and saw the chances to get a pile of slaves and make their fortunes. From a military point of view, Carthage sent 25,000 troops against the Numidians, and got into trouble. Rome then sent 80,000 troops to deal with Carthage. This was never going to end well for Carthage.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Well, as I tried to explain, Carthage could have made more citizens but decided not to. That inequity was made sustainable by more cruelty. Then it went as you said, sort of.

      At Cannae, more than 50,000 Roman soldiers died. In a few hours, including more than 60 Senators and some more officers of consular rank… At Trasimene, another Roman army, prior, had been annihilated. But Hannibal had no siege engines, and the rampards of Rome, and other top cities, were more than biblical…

      My point is that Carthage should have grown its citizenry, using the gigantic, hyper productive agricultural area she owned.

      BTW, Marseilles did OK, although she fell to CAESAR himself, no less, and was the last Greek city submitted… After the conquest of Gallia, Gallia pretty quickly (re) became the SENIOR partner in the relationship with Rome… By 400 CE the Greco-Roman empire was more of a Franco-GALLO-Greco-Roman And then took total control after 507 CE…

      So Carthage’s history could have been completely different…


      • ianmillerblog Says:

        Agreed that Carthage sacrificing of children was both stupid and counter-productive, but the point I was making is that if it had not sent out 25,000 troops against the Numidians, the third Punic war would not necessarily have happened. It was a bit late then to fix their population problem.

        There is no reason why Hannibal could not have taken Rome, simply by starving it. If he prevented all food from going in, he would be doing what Alaric, who also had no siege engines, did later on. Carthage also had the advantage of control of the sea at the time, which Alaric did not have, although by that time Rpme was probably finished anyway. The problem for Hannibal was that he seemed to have no policy for finishing the war, yet after Cannae, Rome was close to being on its knees. Letting Rome get up again was not sound strategy, which, of course, led to Carthage losing the second Punic war.

        Which gets me back to my point – Carthage must have known it was in no position to face Rome again, and with the treaty, it should have informed Rome of the Numidians actions and let Rome do the heavy lifting. It simply could not give Rome an excuse to start a third Punic war


  2. benign Says:

    And will our plutocrats invite their own (and our) destruction likewise?


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Lost my own long comment I was trying to write. Plutos hold everything, even the so-called “liberal” press.I am banned from many “liberal” sites, no explanation ever given. The real reason is that Plutos and even the intelligence agencies hold these sites. The Daily Kos related sites (there is more than a dozen, including VOX) have carefully erased all their connection to the CIA in search engines, which used to be easy to find.

      Now, no more. Instead they plant their own pseudo-excess on how left they are…

      It’s a shame humanity is coming down to that. I was talking today to a bookstore owner, an immigrant to the USA, who has a “European” bookstore. He is now getting discouraged… Americans don’t think anymore, he says.

      Fact is all of those I personally know who have TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome, used to be extreme right wing, by my standards, a few years back (and they still are considering their blatant racism). If I talked to them indignantly about banks and Trump then, they had no idea who, what, I was evoking, and couldn’t care less. But now they are in the media, so they care to say exactly what their bosses tell them to think.


  3. frank nash Says:

    all the child sacrificing and carthage cruelty was mostly roman propaganda to stir up support for the war.
    we only have one side of the story.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I am all for Carthage in many ways, and her annihilation in the Third Punic War, and attendant propaganda by Cato etc. was a crime against humanity. However archeology has apparently found a sort of machine to kill children as described in ancient texts.


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