Third Punic War: 5 Crucial Events That Lead to Carthage Destruction
Third Punic War: 5 Crucial Events That Lead to Carthage Destruction

Third Punic War: 5 Crucial Events That Lead to Carthage Destruction

Patrick Lynch - June 5, 2017

Third Punic War: 5 Crucial Events That Lead to Carthage Destruction
Scipio Aemilianus. mmdtkw

4 – The Battle of Nepheris 147 BC

Before the timely arrival of Scipio, there was a danger that the Third Punic War could become an extremely long and drawn out affair. As well as offering stiff resistance in the countryside, the Carthaginians were showing no signs of succumbing to hunger thanks to their steady supply chain. However, Scipio’s commitment to blockading the city completely changed the course of the war. He ordered the creation of a siege wall around the city and a giant structure was built to block access to Carthage’s mercantile harbor.

Nonetheless, the Carthaginians refused to concede defeat and bravely fought to protect their very existence. The Battle of Port Carthage in 147 BC was the last notable Carthaginian victory over the Romans. They found an escape route to the sea that the Roman navy had not yet blocked and sent a fleet of 50 triremes and other smaller vessels to face the enemy ships. The Romans suffered heavy casualties, but the Carthaginians were forced to return to port. Although it was an impressive act of defiance, it wasn’t enough to break the Roman blockade, and a decisive defeat wasn’t far away.

Scipio decided to face the enemy army at Nepheris, the scene of a Roman defeat only a year or so before. Once again, he used the power of the blockade to cut off the supplies to the enemy defenders, led by Diogenes of Carthage. The Carthaginian camp was surrounded so they had to face the Romans in an open battle. Although the size of the Roman army is unknown, it was certainly larger than the 7,000-10,000 Carthaginians. Also, the Romans had the enemy surrounded on all sides. Diogenes and his army suffered a heavy defeat, and only a couple of thousand Carthaginians avoided death or imprisonment.

The defeat at Nepheris was practically the final nail in the Carthaginian coffin as their army was too small to sustain many more losses. The blockade was weakening their remaining members and morale was at an all-time low. Up until that point, the people within the city retained hope as long as the army of Diogenes was out in the field providing resistance. The 22-day siege ultimately broke the Carthaginian spirit, and Scipio was able to take the rest of the area surrounding the city without much resistance. The end was near.

Third Punic War: 5 Crucial Events That Lead to Carthage Destruction
A Carthaginian surrenders. Ancient History Encyclopedia

5 – Total Destruction of Carthage 146 BC

Scipio knew that victory was within his grasp so, in early 146 BC, he launched an all-out attack with the goal of achieving total victory. In spring, he ordered an attack on Byrsa and Cothon harbor, and soon, the Romans broke through the Carthaginian defenses and made their way towards the city. They took the wall around Cothon and took its neighboring forum. Scipio brought in 4,000 more troops and spent the night in the Temple of Apollo. Once again, the ill-discipline of the army came to the fore as its men disobeyed orders by breaking the gold statue and plundering the loot.

Even with defeat a certainty, the Carthaginians refused to surrender so when the Romans finally entered the city; the result was six days of brutal fighting. The Carthaginians turned every house and building into a stronghold, and every inhabitant had a weapon. The Romans had to continually change soldiers to ensure they did not become exhausted although Scipio fought for most of the time with little sleep. Eventually, the Romans took control as the inhabitants fought themselves to exhaustion. All but 50,000 Carthaginians died, and they were sold into slavery.

However, the war was not quite over. 900 people, most of them Roman deserters, hid in the Temple of Eshmun in the citadel of Byrsa despite the fact it was on fire. Hasdrubal was among the men in the citadel, and although they tried to negotiate their surrender, Scipio said that Rome could not forgive them or Hasdrubal. Apparently, the Carthaginian commander’s wife emerged, insulted her husband and jumped into the flames with her two children. The rest of the deserters followed suit; an act that caused Scipio to weep. He lamented the fate of Carthage and said that the same thing might happen to Rome one day.

The city was razed although the notion that the Romans spread salt into the land to prevent growth is a myth. A curse was placed on anyone who attempted to enter the area, and North Africa became a province of Rome. Cities such as Utica that was loyal to Rome received privileges such as freedom from taxation. Scipio received a triumph in Rome and enjoyed further success in the Numantine War (143-133 BC). Carthage remained uninhabited until Caesar re-founded it almost 100 years later and Octavian encouraged further growth while he was emperor.