Superficialists will tell you Carthage failed, because a Roman army destroyed Carthage in 8 days of door to door fighting. The real philosophical question is how did it come to that, all the more as the Roman imperator (general) commanding said army, devastated by the horror unfolding under the orders he got from the Roman Senate, was crying as his own troops engaged in the carnage. The answer 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, 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.
Carthage established far-out trading posts in Africa, starting the idea of the direct collaboration of Europe, and the Middle Earth collaboration with Black Africa (something idiots call “colonization”… All the more dumb as it went both ways, see the Almoravids.)
Carthaginian agricultural science was so advanced that it gave Rome the only book the latter preserved when insane, mass murdering Roman plutocracy annihilated the North African metropolis. if the West could colonize so well, thereafter, and even the Arabs, or Persians, 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 as an ideal balance bringing stability. 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… 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 (so were the Romans, but not as much, by a very long shot; however, Roman avarice in the way of citizenship is why there was the “Social War” of the First Century BCE). Thus, although Carthage controlled a greater 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 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, never the City of Rome herself.)
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.