What Happened to the Carthaginian Empire after The Battle of Zama?

After Hannibal’s defeat at Zama, Carthage was forced into a treaty on Roman terms. Scipio Africanus imposed an indemnity of ten thousand talents to be paid off over a fifty-year period. They lost all of their overseas territory and were confined to what is now Tunisia and perhaps part of what is now Libya. They were allowed only five warships; all others were burned in the harbor. They were not permitted to have any war elephants. They were not permitted to wage war without Roman permission. In any case, they had lost their sources of mercenaries which had allowed Carthage to wage war during the First and Second Punic Wars. They were allowed self-governance and their own laws.

To the west was the Kingdom of Numidia, granted to Masinissa by Scipio Africanus. Approximately every ten years, Masinissa would invade Carthaginian territory claiming land that he said was Numidian ancestral territory. This led to disputes between Carthage and Numidia which were usually settled by the Romans in favor of Masinissa.

Carthage remained a powerful mercantile society and during the fifty years after the Second Punic War they were increasingly prosperous. They paid off their indemnity after fifty years. Around 152 B.C. a delegation of Romans including the elder statesman Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder visited Carthage and Cato was appalled to see how prosperous the city was. He took to ending every speech in the Senate or the Forum with the words “Cetera censio Cartagine esse delendam!”-”And furthermore I advise that Carthage must be destroyed.”

In 150 B.C. Masinissa invaded Carthaginian territory once again. This time the Carthaginians did not consult Rome and went to war against Masinissa. They were soundly defeated and lost some 50,000 men. This gave Cato the pretext he needed to persuade the Roman Senate to declare war on Carthage and destroy the city once and for all.

Carthage had no desire to go to war with Rome. Rome demanded three hundred high born youthful hostages and Carthage gave them to them. Rome demanded that they totally disarm themselves and Carthage surrendered all of their arms. It was only when Rome demanded that they abandon their city and build a new one at least ten miles from the sea, that the Carthaginians decided to resist.

Rome brought an army of 80,000 legionaries to Africa. Due to the ineptitude and corruption of the Roman Consuls during the first two years, Carthage was able to hold out despite its weakened state. After two years the Romans elected Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio Minor) as Consul and he successfully besieged and conquered the city, destroyed it and sold the 50,000 survivors into slavery.

The Romans did not destroy Tunis or Utica and Phoenician continued to be spoken in the region for several more centuries, but what had been Carthage became a province of Rome. Carthage was rebuilt by the Romans during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

The historian Adrian Goldsworthy has this to say about the Roman conquest of Carthage in the Third Punic War: “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’.”

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.