Quora Question: Did Cato the Elder Believe that the Destruction Was the Most Important Thing For Rome?

It would be hard to say whether Cato the Elder thought that the destruction of Carthage was more important than anything else for Rome, but it was certainly a top priority for him.

Cato was in his 80s at the time of the Third Punic War which began in 149 B.C. He was a veteran of the Second Punic war and had an abiding hatred for Carthage. He believed that the city should have been destroyed after the Battle of Zama, but Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus decided to grant the city peace on Roman terms.

As Cato rose in power and influence he carried on a vendetta against Scipio, and eventually forced him into exile by bringing a legal case against him accusing him of accepting bribes from Antiochus III. The case was totally spurious but Scipio was in ill health and retired to his estate in Liternum where he died a year or two later.

This left the long-lived Cato as the most influential politician in Rome, and for years he agitated for the destruction of Carthage. Every time he gave a speech in the Senate or in the forum, no matter what the subject, he always ended it with the words “Cetera censeo Cartaginem esse delendum.”-And furthermore I feel that Carthage must be destroyed.

One of the terms of the treaty that ended the Second Punic War was that Carthage could not go to war with their neighbors without Roman permission. In 150 B.C. the Numidian King Masinissa invaded and occupied part of Carthaginian territory claiming it was Numidian ancestral land. The Carthaginians assembled a force of over 50,000 and went to war with Masinissa. The battle was indecisive, but Masinissa then laid siege to the Carthaginian camp and in the ensuing siege many of the Carthaginian soldiers died from disease and starvation. Even after they surrendered many of the soldiers were killed by the forces of Galussa , Masinissa’ son. Carthage, having lost so many of its soldiers was now in a very weakened position and the Romans, urged for so many years by Cato, saw that this would be the perfect time to destroy the city.

If interested in the Second and Third Punic Wars, read my historical fiction novels The Death of Carthage, In the Wake of Hannibal, and The Last Carthaginian. They are available on Amazon and Kindle.

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