Almost fifty years before, Carthage at lost the Second Punic War at the battle of Zama. Their war elephants had been spooked and had run into them. Hannibal, exhausted after years of fighting, almost won anyway, but the troops were rallied, and all was lost. But Carthage began to rebuild its armies, and Rome, frightened of it regaining its empire, ordered Hannibal delivered up to them. He fled to Antiochus III of Syria, who was preparing for his own war with Rome. He lost.
Hannibal fled to different people, commanding armies and having adventures. But at last the Romans had him cornered, and the king he was with at the time said he would give him up. He took a ring, in which he had for a long time carried poison, and killed himself. Saying:
Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man's death.
Without Hannibal, Carthage was still determined to fight, and to fight to the death. They set fire to a Roman fleet by releasing fire ships. They held their walls despite anything Rome could do. The siege of Carthage lasted for years. At last Romans poured in, thousands of Carthaginians died in the final six days of ruthless, bitter, desperate fighting. Many of those who survived were sold into slavery. The city was burned systematically for seventeen days by the army. According to some, the city was then sown with salt.
The long war was over at last, and Rome was soul mistress of the Mediterranean, and a growing power. Within a hundred and fifty years it would become and empire. It had realized in the Punic Wars that it alone could rule if it was to have everything it wanted. The war was over, Hannibal was dead. But the man who would rebuild Carthage was Julius Caesar.
Andrew C. Abbott