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From The US Review of Books:

 The US Review of Books

The Death of Carthage
by Robin E. Levin
Trafford Publishing

reviewed by Russell Roberts

“In the sixteen years that I served in the Roman cavalry I never had the slightest animosity toward the enemy on the battlefield.”

In the ancient world there were no greater antagonists than Rome and Carthage. The two went at it hammer-and-tongs for years, leading to the three Punic Wars. It was during the second war that the immortal Hannibal nearly defeated Rome, leaving historians to ponder the course of world events had that actually happened. Ultimately Rome won out, however, and razed the city of Carthage to the ground in an act that some attribute partly to revenge and partly to fear.

Those days are brought vividly to life in a remarkable new book by Robin E. Levin entitled The Death of Carthage. The book is divided into three parts: Carthage Must Be Destroyed, narrated by a Roman soldier; Captivus, narrated by a Roman soldier taken prisoner; and The Death of Carthage, narrated by the prisoner’s son, who takes part in Carthage’s final destruction.             

This is no blood-soaked sword-and-sandal epic. Battle descriptions are kept to a minimum. Instead, utilizing first-person narration, Levin paints a complete picture of daily life during that time, and how it was to live during a period of almost perpetual war. In a refreshing change from the cliche, we fight for the glory of Rome’s mindset, characters are allowed to have thoughts and feelings that question war,  and the devastation of losing a child.                             Sprinkled throughout the book are revelations about Roman life, such as the fact that women were forbidden by law to cry in public. Superbly researched and deftly written, The Death of Carthage is a treat not just for the history-lover but for anyone who enjoys a terrific book.

From Kirkus Review


Levin, Robin E.

Trafford (308 pp.)

$17.32 hardcover, $14.59 paperback, $3.03 e-book

ISBN: 978-1426996085; December 6, 2011


Levin’s novel blends the history of the Second and Third Punic Wars with a richly detailed peek into ancient Roman


In the novel’s first of three sections, Levin textures scenes in which young Lucius Tullius Varro prepares for the Second

Punic War with details ranging from Roman dress customs to typical wartime psychology. In his training,

equestrian-class Lucius befriends the Consul’s patrician son, Publius Correlius Scipio. At the recommendation of young

Scipio, Lucius is accepted to the Consul’s cavalry; his chief regret is that he must leave his newly pregnant wife, Silvia.

In war, Lucius records information gathered by Roman scouts. In consideration of the extremes that the enemy would go

to extract this information from Lucius were he caught, he’s equipped with a flask of poison. When the time comes,

however, it’s the agile Celtiberian girl Ala who saves Lucius, installing herself as Lucius’ mistress-for-life. After

situating Ala near his home, he explains her to the heroically levelheaded Silvia. At times, the sweeping conveyance of

battle, even as it constitutes a fascinating description of events, eclipses Lucius as a character. In the second section,

Lucius’s cousin Enneus reports his capture from Consul Flaminius’ cavalry and his subsequent 21-year stint as a Greek

politician’s slave. Before the end of this section, we’ve witnessed the emancipation of Enneus and his rise to a

respectable degree of prosperity. The final section repeats several previous conversations nearly verbatim; while these

are shared through the perspective of Enneus’s son, Ectorius, his perspective does not seem to meaningfully color them

enough to justify their repetition. While it would benefit from further polishing, this novel comprises worthy historical

fiction. Naturally, readers already interested in the Roman-Carthaginian wars will find this account gratifying; however,

those less steeped in knowledge of the era may also find themselves rapidly engaged owing to the three accessible and

riveting narrators.

Intricately described, well-plotted historical fiction set in ancient Rome.

ForeWord Review of The Death of Carthage

The Death of Carthage

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Clarion Review (4 Stars)

“Your cousin may seem completely harmless to you, Ectorius, but I can assure you that after sixteen years in the Roman cavalry, serving during the entire second Punic war, he is supremely adept at homicide!”

So says the historical figure Senator Marcus Porcius Cato of Lucius Tullius Varro, the fictional hero of the first of three interrelated stories that make up Robin Levin’s The Death of Carthage. Levin’s book is much like the Lucius Tullius Varro character of whom the famous senator speaks: at first it seems to be just another by-the-numbers Roman historical novel, but the harder the reader looks, the deeper the narrative becomes.

The first part of the book is the conventional Roman soldier’s war story told in first person, but with two twists. First, Lucius is a cavalryman instead of the usual legionary foot soldier. Second, there are so many direct and lengthy quotes from the Roman historian Titus Livius that Levin should credit him as coauthor.

Famous senators and generals pontificate in soliloquies lifted directly from Livius’s classic history, Ab Urbe Condita. Levin shuffles these monologues into part one as if inserting index cards of quotes into a term paper. The twenty-two pieces from Livius—some several pages long—make up a sizable chunk of the first story. The author does give Livius his due by including citations, but the changes in voice from Levin to Livius are jarring.

That said, the first section is a decent battle story. The action follows Lucius as he fights in the secondary theater (Hispania) in the war against Carthage. Levin spares Lucius the trials and tribulations of Rome’s humiliating defeats by Hannibal, yet the young soldier suffers enough at the hands of the great general’s brothers.

The second story is much more engaging. Entitled “Captivus,” it is the story of Lucius’s cousin, Enneus, also a cavalryman, who is captured in battle and sold into slavery. If Lucius tells a tale of war, Enneus tells a tale of survival. Again, it is a first-person narrative, so the reader knows that just as Lucius will make it through the war, Enneus will endure his captivity. This is the shortest of the three stories, and it sets up the third and best of the trio: “Hector’s Odyssey.”

Levin’s writing matures as the novel progresses. In the third story, citations from Livius (and now Polybius) become shorter and less frequent, and even the famous characters (among them Cato) more often speak words given to them by Levin rather than Livius. Hector, the son of Enneus, born during his twenty-one-year-long captivity, is neither soldier nor slave but a translator. His linguistic and scriptural talents bring him into the inner circles of power in Rome—and earn him a box seat to the final act for which the novel is named: the absolute destruction of Carthage in the third and final Punic war.

This last story is easily the most vivid of the three narratives that make up The Death of Carthage. Hector, because of his origin, is not the typical Roman. He abhors slavery in an empire being built with captive labor. That puts him both at odds with, and in the position of being able to comment on, a society in flux. Levin has the young Hector meet the aging Lucius, bringing the story full circle and tying it all up quite nicely. It is this final third of the book that makes it an original and meaningful take on the standard Roman war novel.

Mark McLaughlin June 29, 2012
































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