Hannibal of Carthage

           Destruction of Carthage 

                                                                                  Destruction of Carthage 

          In the spring of 146 B.C. Scipio returned to Africa and took command of the operations against Carthage. After re-training and restoring discipline in the army he quickly set about plans to launch another frontal assault upon Carthage, this time during the middle of the night, under cover of darkness. In the weeks before Scipio had returned, Hasdrubal had left Nepherus with around 5,000 men and returned to Carthage, leaving command of the forces at Nepherus under a general named Diogenes. On the selected evening, with assistance from Carthage deserters, Scipio launched his attack upon the wall of Carthage. The defenders upon the wall heard the Romans as they approached but could not see them. A call of alarm was sounded and troops raced to the wall. Scipio, however, had already launched his assault upon the walls and several hundred troops had already scaled the walls. With the help of the Carthage deserters, they were able to open a gate and Scipio poured through with several thousand men. Once inside, the few Carthaginians who reacted to the alarm fell upon them with fury, but soon gave way and retreated to the Byrsa. Scipio, meanwhile found his army among the "outskirts " of Carthage, among the grape vineyards and other berry bushes that were entangled among numerous streams and irrigation ditches.  Some of the ditches were very deep and the lack of knowledge of the terrain along with conducting the operation in the middle of the night, when visability was existent due to only torches, caused Scipio to progress slowly. In the meantime, Hasdrubal had gathered troops and they fell upon the Romans with the fury of a cornered animal, forcing Scipio to retreat with heavy losses through the gate where they had entered.

          Meanwhile, as the battle was raging, the terrified populace fled their homes and retreated to the Byrsa where they took refuge in their temples. As the morning sun rose over Carthage, the city was aware of the Roman retreat and the populace was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Hasdrubal, upset at themselves as well as the Romans, took the Roman prisoners who were captured the evening before and brought them to the top of the wall, in plain view of not only the Roman army, but also the Carthage citizens.  It was here that he committed horrible atrocities against these Romans that violated all laws of man. He ordered their eyes, tongues, genitals, and fingers severed from their bodies, and then ordered them thrown from the wall in the direction of the Roman camp while these poor souls were still alive. Hasdrubal did this for two reasons. First he hoped that the Roman moral, after seeing what had happened, would  sink to a new low. He wanted this to be in their minds that if they were captured with-in the walls of Carthage that the same fate would await them. Fear, Hasdrubal decided, would help their cause. He also made sure that his citizens watched what had happened, to ensure that they now knew that there was no hope of surrender after what had happened. Their desire to never surrender would now be cemented with the thoughts of what would happen to them should the Romans take the city by storm. However, the two points that Hasdrubal had hoped to procur did not happen. Instead of being more fearful of Carthage, the Roman army was now more dettermined  than ever to press forward and avenge these atrocities. The Carthaginians, as well, did not respond as Hasdrubal had hoped. Instead, they were horrified at what had happened and feared retribution from the Romans over what they had witnessed. Hasdrubal had, however, made certain that a surrender of the city was no longer an option. The event even caused several members of the Carthage senate to angrily denounce what Hasdubal had done, causing Hasdrubal to have them arrested and executed.  

Ercole, the wife of Hasdrubal, with their children shortly before she tossed them and herself jumped into the fire below, rather than surrender to the Romans. Upon seeing her husband, Hasdrubal, leader of the city,  kneeling before the Roman general asking to accept their surrender , she is said to have shreiked and pointing at her husband tosay' "That Carthaginian groveling at the feet of that Roman is no longer my husband, you will be punished by the gods of Carthage!".

          After the failed assault upon Carthage from the land, Scipio was now resigned to never launch such an attack again. Instead, he decided that  he must destroy the Carthage army at Nepherus and procur a better blockade of Carthage to starve her into submission. Since very little of the supplies entering Carthage was arriving over land, Scipio was intent to stop where it was arriving from, the sea.  Since he had over 80,000 men, he decided that they would construct a huge mole blocking the Carthage commercial harbor. The harbor was not overly deep and he utilized his men by having them bring enormous amounts of rocks that were placed in the harbor with an outside curve. Once the rocks were close to the surface, dirt was brought in to place upon them, until enough was above the water to allow for a brick wall to be built that was 16 feet wide and 12 feet tall. The undertaking of such a feat took  the summer, fall, and into the winter to complete. As this was slowly transpiring, the Carthaginians kept a close watch and would make frequent sorties from the walls to harrass the Romans. Several attempts during the evening caused great loss for the Romans but only slowed their progress. Hasdrubal at one time also set small boats aflame when the winds were  favorable and they were carried into the Roman fleet, causing many Roman ships to burn and sink. Every effort was also made to destroy the battering rams that Rome had in the darkness of the night as well.

          As the mole progressed slowly, Scipio would split his army and lead one of them to the Carthage camp outside of Nepherus. Here Scipio launched a frontal assault upon the Carthage camp and charged up the hill to engage the Carthaginians, as they stormed down to meet him. The battle raged for the better part of the day, until several thousand Roman cavalry were able to navigate the difficult terrain behind the Carthage camp  and storm down upon the rear of the Carthaginians. What followed was the destruction of the Carthage army. After the battle, Roman historians place the total dead between the two armies at near 50,000 dead. With this number, surely the Roman victory came at an awful high price.

          Scipio immediately followed his success by attempting to storm Nepherus after his offer for surrender to the city was not taken.  He was repulsed with heavy losses and forced to surround the city and lay siege to her walls to force the surrender due to starvation. After 23 days, Nepherus, with the pains of starvation heavy on their minds, surrendered unconditionally to Rome. The citizens were either executed or sold into slavery. The fertile valleys of the Cape Bon peninsula were now in the hands of Scipio and the primary city who delivered food to Carthage was no more. Soon after, every city that had remained loyal to Carthage surrendered unconditionally to Rome. Carthage, without her food supply, was now totally alone. Soon after hearing of these disasters, Carthage was made aware that a Morrocan army that was coming to their aid had been defeated by a huge Numidian army led by the son's of Massinissa. Soon after they also were made aware that Macedonia had been defeated and surrendered to Rome. Suddenly their situation was becoming very desperate.

                                                                                                   Roman legions storming Carthage 

           As Carthage was witnessing the mole being stretched further and further across their harbor, they secretly undertook a project of huge resolve, undetected by Scipio. Thousands of skilled craftsmen undertook the building of 50 Carthage warships. Working diligently every hour of every day, they were able to complete the fleet just as the Romans had totally enclosed the commercial harbor. While they were working on the admirable undertaking, the women and children of Carthage secretly dug a deep canal along the inside of the wall from the military harbor to an area further out to sea from the commercial harbor. The sea was much deeper here and the Romans would not be able to create a mole at this area. The Carthaginians then tore down a small section of the wall and, much to the surprise of the Romans, sailed out with a fleet of war. The Roman ships, most of which were beached due to the fact that the sailors had joined in the creation of the mole, could have easily been overcome. However, for some reason, the Carthage navy simply sailed around the coast in a show of force and returned to the city. The next morning they again sailed out from the walls and offered the Romans battle. This time the Roman fleet was ready and the battle raged for the entire day until the Carthage fleet  retreated towards Carthage. As they tried to navigate the small canal, the proccess took time for ships to enter as they had to enter single file. The Romans saw this and came with their fleet at full force, ramming and sinking numerous Carthage ships. The few that made it back into the city never sailed again. The wall was repaired and the attempt by the Carthage navy had failed. Still the undertaking of this Carthage attempt must be held high of the achievements of any throughout history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

       Unspent Carthage Catapult Missile Deposits Crafted from Limestone by the Desperate Populace During the Last Stand Against Rome

          With the destruction of their army that was protecting their food supply and the subsequent defection of the remaining cities that were loyal to her after the fall of Nepherus, starvation and disease plagued Carthage. Scipio tightened the siege. With the wall upon the mole guarding from the sea, no food was able to enter the city. The population suffered and numerous deaths occurred everyday. Still Carthage would not surrender and remained defiant.

          With the spring of 146 B. C. approaching, Scipio decided that the Carthaginians, weak with hunger and disease, and also plagued with the lowest of moral, must be put to the sword before his term as consul expired. An assault was made upon the Carthage sea wall under cover of darkness just before sunrise and enough troops were able to scale the wall and get a foothold inside the city before Carthage could respond and drive them away. As Scipio and his troops secured this portion of the city, thousands upon thousands of Romans poured over the wall. Many of the panic-stricken citizens fled up the hill to the Byrsa, taking refuge in their temples. Others stayed in their homes, determined to fight to the death. Still others joined the Carthage army and launched a desperate assault upon the Roman forces now concentrated within their walls. But the Roman army, healthy, well-fed, and well-armed, easily pushed back this group of starving, sick, ill-equipped defenders. The Romans, with plunder and loot fermenting their desire for slaughter,  spared no one. Hasdrubal and the remaining troops that he had, probably around 15,000, took everything that would burn and made a huge wall that surrounded the base of the Byrsa and set it aflame, waiting behind with the citizens who had been able to make it to the Byrsa. In one of the temples he placed his wife, Ercole, and two young sons with 900 Roman troops who had deserted to Carthage during the war.  He knew that these men could never surrender to Scipio being deserters as they were and that they would fight to the death.

          Meanwhile, as Carthage's last line of defense burned throughout the day and into the night, Scipio wasted no time securing the rest of the city. As said before, Carthage housed the majority of  their populace in six story apartment buildings. These buildings were to be the cause of severe casualties for the Romans. Nearly every room of the thousands that were scattered throughout Carthage were defended by either Carthage troops or citizens. The Romans had to fight their way room to room on each floor. The Carthaginians fought with desperation, retreating with heavy losses to the very top of each building, and when their weapons were expired, they jumped to their deaths into the spreading fires below. The Romans had set fire to many buildings and the flames spread quickly throughout the city. Untold horrors occurred as the Romans butchered all in their way. Still others, hiding in their homes, burned to death. The screams and moans of thousands that carried throughout the city could be heard by the thousands who were for the time being safe behind the massive fire wall that protected the Byrsa. The fate that awaited their terrified souls would be the same, that they knew. They huddled within their temples during the night, praying to their gods for some sort on miracle that might somehow save them. When daylight came, with the majority of the rest of the city secured as only small pockets held out, Scipio launched his final attack against Carthage by assaulting all four sides of the Byrsa. The fire that the Carthaginians had set around the base the day before had burned its course.  As they Romans attacked with unrelentless fury, Hasdrubal and his troops did the best they could with what they had to hold their enemies back. But they were too few in number compared to what was before them. Even though they fought with total resolve, protecting their families behind them, they were simply overmatched at this stage in firepower. They slowly retreated higher and higher up the hill until they were among their temples. The hill that the Romans were slowly gaining did not come without a horrible price. Thousands fell as they pushed Carthage to their last stand.   Hasdrubal, realizing that all hope was gone, and hoping to secure the lives of the remaining citizens that were huddled in their temples, finally came forth and met Scipio, kneeling before him begging for the lives of the remaining souls. Suddenly he and Scipio heard a horrible shriek and turned to see Hasdrubal's wife, holding their two son's, standing upon the roof of the temple that housed the 900 Roman deserters.  Standing in her gown, pointing at her husband with her hair in disarray, she screamed, " that Carthaginian groveling at the feet of that Roman is not my husband or the father of my children, you will be punished by the gods of Carthage". She then took a dagger and stabbed her two sons and threw hem off the roof into the fire below before following them to her death. Scipio accepted Hasdrubal's plea and the surviving citizens, numbering only 50,000, slowly left their temples and were sold into slavery. Over 450,000 Carthaginians gallantly perished defending their liberty.

         

                                                                                                    The Last Day of Carthage  

          After the survivors were evacuated from Carthage, Scipio turned his troops loose to plunder. Anything was theirs for the taking except  the treasures that were in the temples. These he loaded on ships and sent to Rome as a gift of his victory. After the troops had plundered the entire city, the rest was set ablaze. The fire burned for 14 days and 14 nights until in burned no more. As Scipio watched the city burn he was said to have wept at the sight before him, commenting to his generals, " i  see the fate of Rome as she will one day look". He then had tons of salt poured upon Carthage to ensure that the land would never again be fertile and that no one would ever build another city upon the site. He then cursed what was left and asked the gods to punish anyone who attepmted to settle there. With this done, the Roman army then boarded their ships and set sail for Rome. Their horrible purpose finally done. Thus Carthage, the city of Dido, after thriving for 668 years, perished into the night. The prophecy of Hannibal which he murmered after seeing the head of Hasdrubal had arrived. " I can now see the fate of Carthage, Rome will be the mistress of the world".

                                                                                                     The Fall of Carthage 

                                     Carthage Remains

                                        Carthage Remains 

              Carthage Arrowheads from the Ruins of Carthage 

            Carthage Military Helmet from the Ruins of Carthage

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