Was There Opposition in Rome to the Destruction of Carthage?

The destruction of Carthage was not without opposition in Rome.

Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder ended every speech in the Senate or in the Forum with the words “Cetera censeo Cartagine esse delendum!”- And furthermore I think that Carthage must be destroyed.”

Publius Cornelius Nasica Corculum, the Pontifex Maximus, on the other hand, said “Carthage must be saved. It is my view that Carthage should be maintained as a rival to Rome to ensure that we Romans maintain our vigilance and as a check upon our arrogance!” He predicted that without a possible serious rival, Rome would devolve into factions and internal strife, something that did happen during the following century.

If I had been influential in Rome, I would have pointed out that Carthage was a wealth generating entity, vigorously trading with everyone in the known world, and since Rome essentially dominated Carthage they could tax the city and gain a portion of that wealth. The Carthaginians of that time were certainly not a threat to Rome militarily, and, in fact, they were avid to avoid a war with Rome, going so far as to send 300 noble youths as hostages to Rome and completely disarming themselves upon Roman orders. Rome would have benefited by making a new treaty that included tribute. Carthage would certainly have complied rather than go to war with Rome.

Writing about Rome’s destruction of Carthage, the historian Adrian Goldsworthy, in his book, The Fall of Carthage, states “There is no doubt that the Third Punic War was deliberately provoked by the Romans, who had made a conscious decision to destroy their old enemy. Roman negotiators shamelessly exploited the Carthaginians’ willingness to grant concessions in their desire to avoid war with Rome, stealthily increasing their demands to force a conflict on a weakened enemy. It was a far worse display than any of the recorded examples of “Punic treachery.”

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