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Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,788 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
An epic history of a doomed civilization and a lost empire.

The devastating struggle to the death between the Carthaginians and the Romans was one of the defining dramas of the ancient world. In an epic series of land and sea battles, both sides came close to victory before the Carthaginians finally succumbed and their capital city, history, and culture were almost utter
Hardcover, 521 pages
Published July 21st 2011 by Viking (first published August 28th 2008)
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Ben Kane
May 22, 2012 Ben Kane rated it it was amazing
Until the publication of this excellent book, the preeminent text about Carthage was the 1995 volume Carthage: A History by the French historian Serge Lancel. This, an outstanding contribution to the patchy knowledge we have of Carthage, has just been eclipsed. One might think that part of the reason for this is that Carthage Must Be Destroyed did not need to be translated (inevitably, there were some places where Lancel's text became unwieldy). It's far from that: this is a better written, easi ...more
A very interesting view of a civilization which has, until just recently, been sparsely represented in non-Roman historical accounts.

This book takes a long look, starting with the history of the early Phoenicians and ending with the beginnings of Rome's empire, well after the final Punic war. Carthage's economic values, its religion (with a surprising incidence of human sacrifice, which is not wholly Roman propaganda), and the fragile structure of its society. There is also a natural focus on Ha
I highly recommend Miles’ book for his reconstruction of Carthage’s history while trying to minimize the Romans' filter. For one example of this filter, even our terminology for the civilization and culture, Punic, comes with its own baggage since Romans used the term in a pejorative and disparaging context.

Miles spends time on the background and history of Phoenicia, showing how the expansion to Carthage and other areas in the west were motivated by surv
Loring Wirbel
Apr 25, 2013 Loring Wirbel rated it really liked it
There's usually a strict segmentation between an archaeologist writing about artifact digs, and a revisionist historian reviewing antique histories written by the winners. The few writers who have tried to synthesize such styles (Peter Wells' 'Barbarians to Angels,' for example) often succeed only in part because they favor one method over another. Miles gets the balance right, by being appropriately skeptical of the historical sources on Carthage, while still recognizing the value of preservin ...more
Nov 08, 2013 Maitrey rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Reading this book hammered in that old chestnut over and over again: "History is always written by the victors". Although in defense of Richard Miles, he does a fair job of trying his best to overcome it. Miles is British archeologist and historian from Cambridge, but now plies his trade at the University of Sydney.

Carthage Must Be Destroyed follows a fairly linear structure from the founding of the city by Tyrians from the Levant (legend has it was founded in 814 BCE), to it's eventual destruct
Robert Case
Dec 14, 2015 Robert Case rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Students of ancient history
Recommended to Robert by: A friend and author
Shelves: history
With meticulous attention to detail, author Richard Miles has produced a fascinating account of the history of the Carthaginian people, their rise to power and prominence throughout the Mediterranean, and their eventual downfall at the hands of neighboring Rome. The Roman political machine insisted that Carthage be pillaged and destroyed. To that end, Roman legions systematically destroyed the cities, farms, and homes. They went so far as to salt the land. Yet the story of the Carthaginians reso ...more
John Nelson
Mar 17, 2013 John Nelson rated it really liked it
After Hannibal's devastating victory over the Romans at Cannae, the Roman Senator Cato the Elder took to ending every speech with the demand that "Carthage must be destroyed!" Carthage was one of the great civilizations of the ancient world, yet is known today primarily for its defeat and obliteration in the Punic Wars with Rome. This book provides a wealth of information about the founding of Carthage, its early history, and, of course, its end in the Punic wars. On the flip side, the author do ...more
Steven Peterson
Dec 04, 2011 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
In my high school Latin class, we read some of the Catalinian speeches, in which a Roman Senator excoriated Carthage--ending many of his speeches with the phrase "Carthage must be destroyed." This book examines the conflicts between Rome and Carthage over the years.

One thing that surprised me was the relative dearth of concrete information about Carthage. The author does a nice job of creating a credible account of Carthaginian history and life. The use of literature (such as the story of Hercu
Mark Shafranski
May 28, 2013 Mark Shafranski rated it really liked it
Finished reading Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles

Whenever I read a history of a fallen empire, I am always sad at the end. Read a history of the fall of the Roman Empire last year, and I kept rooting for the Romans to pull it together. They didn’t. I felt very sad reading about the fall of Carthage. So unnecessary.

But I did learn a lot:

Carthage was a colony of Tyre, a Phoenician island city off the coast of Lebanon.

The Phoenicians were tremendous mariners and to a certain extent seede
Dec 26, 2011 Dave rated it it was ok
The author is a great scholar and very knowledgeable about his subject. The book jacket indicates that he has even led archaeological digs in North Africa. Perhaps that is part of the problem. What I mean is that maybe those with a great love for archaeology should not write books like this one. The title promises grand, sweeping scope, and the author gives us none of it. He has an obvious love for the minute details. He employs his considerable talents in mining though religious inscriptions, d ...more
Jan 05, 2013 George rated it really liked it
Great history of a rarely discussed civilization in ancient history. Only real drawback is the tediuous comparision between the Greco-Roman gods and the Punic-Carthaginian gods and their interplay throughout ancient history. I found it hard to follow at times and tended to skim to the more concrete history of the battles for Sicily and the Punic Wars. I definitely reccomend this book to anyone who is interested in Carthaginian history and the commonly held perceptions of the 'dreaded' Carthagini ...more
B. Ross Ashley
Feb 11, 2013 B. Ross Ashley rated it really liked it
A good summation of what is known about QartHadasht/Carthage ... well-written, well-researched. It does tend to concentrate on the surface politico-military history, particularly during the climactic conflicts with Rome. I'd like to know more about what was going on in the City while Hannibal was waging war in Italy, for example, and more about the governmental evolution of the city's government. All in all it is good-to-excellent.
Oct 09, 2014 Domhnall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The exchange of luxury goods was at the heart of Bronze Age diplomacy between c3,300 BCE and c1,200 BCE. In order to engage in high level diplomacy, the powers of the Near East required access to the relevant materials and, while some were obtained locally, many could only come from a distance. The merchants making this possible acquired the status of representatives for their various rulers and the rulers of the coastal cities of Canaan (modern day Lebanon), known to the Greeks as the Phoenicia ...more
Balls Montgomery
Feb 03, 2012 Balls Montgomery rated it liked it
I hate reading about the losers of history i.e. those who left not an identifiable mark for my sky-blue eyes for a once-twice-thrice through but rather suckled ever so sweetly to ankles of a champion. People are fascinated by losers, countless books are about how great those boy-loving 300 Spartans were because they all died like assholes. How about Hannibal? Oh he's won a few battles! But he's really just the plucky underdog going against the maaaaaaaaaan, that man was named Roman Republic and ...more
Max Wilson
Jan 07, 2012 Max Wilson rated it really liked it
History is written by the victors. Just as the people of the book would come to wash away the brilliant tapastry of parable, myth, ritual and identity found throughout the west and north, so too has the great Pheonetian civilization in north Africa: Carthage, are so clensed. But as with all the distruction of our more robust cultural inherentice by the Judeo-Christian singularity, we hardly even know what we've lost. In this book, Miles scours historical and archaeological evidence to scrape tog ...more
Steve Cran
Jan 27, 2015 Steve Cran rated it it was amazing
Carthage, once the ruling naval power of the Mediterranean, only to be reduced to dust and ashes after three long protracted conflicts with the Romans. Richard Mills does an excellent job of outlining and writing about the history of Carthage starting from the beginning going all the way even past the end of the cities existence.

The Carthaginians were originally Phoenicians, who originated from the city of Tyre. Assyrian domination and wars in that area forced the Queen Dido to leave Tyre and lo
Jul 20, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient-times
There are plenty of books about the Roman empire, but far fewer about their enemies. And the arch-enemy of Rome, was, of course, Carthage. This book is an excellent overview of the history of Carthage, from its founding by Tyrian exiles, to its final destruction by Scipio, and its unexpected rebirth as a Roman city. The book offers an integrated history : trade relations, wars and treaties, military strategy, artistic influences, archeological evidence - it is all skillfully woven together. Noth ...more
Rob Roy
Jul 21, 2012 Rob Roy rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
This book claims to uncover what Carthage was. There are lots of facts, lots of supposition, but Carthage as a city and a culture never comes into focus. You learn more about Rome, than her rival. Even the Carthaginian leaders are poorly developed. If you want to know more about Carthage, I would suggest Adrian Goldsworthy's The Punic Wars. I got through this book, but only because I am an inveterate history nut. Save yourself the pain and skip it.
May 25, 2014 Martin rated it really liked it
Carthage played a central role in the burgeoning Roman Empire; its destruction signaled the arrival of the pre-eminent superpower in the Mediterranean, while Rome also benefitted greatly by inheriting its political structure in the colonies of the western Mediterranean. Author wants to reclaim the world of Carthage from the various meanings that have been overlaid its destruction, and from its misrepresentation in the millennia since due to scattered historical accounts, mostly by its enemies. T ...more
Not quite was I was hoping for. This book is mostly about Carthage's external commercial and military activities, with a strong focus on the First and Second Punic Wars. This is because the major sources for Carthage's history are later Greek and Roman writers who generally only cared about Carthage insofar as it interacted with Greek city-states and Rome.

I would've liked more information about Carthage's internal political structure, culture, religion, art, etc. To be fair, there aren't many s
Aug 08, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The Second Punic War, between the Roman Republic and Carthage, had everything. From a human historical viewpoint, that is quite a claim. Elaborate political scuffles to initiate the conflict; the humbling of the ‘known world’s’ greatest power, with its crushing defeats, notably at Cannae and at Lake Trasimene; the odd Roman tradition of granting the two consuls in the field alternate days of authority; the battle of wills between Publius Cornelius Scipio and Hannibal Barca, two of history’s grea ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Ed rated it it was amazing
There should be a special place in booklover's heaven for Richard Miles and other academics who write history, science or criticism that is based on wide and deep learning and is also accessible to the general reader (if such a being exists anymore) while not simplifying his subject too much.

Miles is an archeologist who seems to know the ancient documents concerning Carthage very well. There are no primary sources, only discussions of the Punic states by Roman authors, often based on anti-Carth
Mar 19, 2015 Libby rated it liked it
This book represents an amazing amount of research and effort. Miles set himself the task of delineating Carthage as it must have been to its inhabitants, uncolored by the prejudices and animosities of its enemies. Now, THERE is a task for giants. Almost all of the written history which survives from ancient times is written by Greeks or Romans. They truly despised Carthage the city, and the mercantile culture that dominated there. Greek and Roman accounts of Phoenicians reveal bitter antagonism ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Skardas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
History repeating itself
Justin Tapp
May 21, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it
Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
The previous book I read covering the history of the Greeks and Romans (Thoneman and Price's The Birth of Europe--my review) over this period left out much about Carthage and the Punic Wars. Much of the history about Carthage itself was lost after the Roman army wiped it off the map. Surviving works by Greeks exist, including some copies or long quotations of Carthaginian sources. Carthage had a narrow base of names-- it see
Vincent Li
Jan 17, 2015 Vincent Li rated it really liked it
The book aims to do something interesting, that is to be written from the perspective of Carthage rather than Rome. There's some inherent difficulties with this undertaking (that the book acknowledges) that is that most of Carthage's history is written by either Rome or sources that have an ax to grind against Carthage. The main strengths of the book are that it includes in addition to ancient sources, modern archaeological evidence and modern scholarship. The main weaknesses, are that much of t ...more
Mar 06, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
I'm not normally an ancient history buff, but maybe I'll become one now. I nabbed this book at deep discount at a local bookstores going-out-of-biz sale, and I was hooked from page one. Carthage is normally known only as Rome's enemy during the Punic wars, but all those histories were written by the victors & and their Greek allies. But based on recent archeological digs and other research, this author produced a more balanced look at who the Carthaginians (and the Phoenicians) were, their c ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
TCL call number- 939.73 MILES R

Joe's rating: 3 Stars
This book struggled with what it is trying to be. At points Miles takes you back and vividly explains life in the Punic era, but then he switches gears and goes into a deep scholarly analysis of recent archeological evidence. And throughout the book Miles keeps making his arguments and reiterating them very thoroughly. So at times I felt as though I was reading a military thriller and then the next page I would be reading a PhD dissertation. Al
May 06, 2016 Toto rated it really liked it
The strength of this work lies in interpretation rather than first hand historical research. Not that that is a bad thing; in the great Penguin tradition this is a perfectly readable general account of Carthage and its role in Roman psyche.

Where Miles succeeds best is the crisp narrative summary of the military struggles of Carthage all the while pointing out the limitations of historical evidence for its foundation, its social customs, and economic prominence; where it falls short is the expla
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