Strabo on Carthage

Study Questions

1. What geographic area does Strabo say came under control of Carthage (i.e., the Phoenicians)?


2. How did Carthage's last war with Rome (the 3rd Punic War) illustrate the power of Carthage?


3. What happened to Carthage at the end of this war?


4. Who was Masanasses?

5. Describe the life of the Nomades.

15 Carthage was founded by Dido, who brought a host of people from Tyre. The colonisation proved to be so fortunate an enterprise for the Phoenicians, both this at Carthage and that which extended as far as Iberia I mean the part of Iberia outside the Pillars as well as the rest of it that even to this day the best part of continental Europe and also the adjacent islands are occupied by Phoenicians; and they also gained possession of all that part of Libya which men can live in without living a nomadic life. From this dominion they not only raised their city to be a rival of Rome, but also waged three great wars against the Romans. Their power might become clearly evident from the last war, in which they were defeated by Scipio Aemilianus and their city was utterly wiped out. For when they began the wage this war they had three hundred cities in Libya and seven hundred thousand people in their city; and when they were being besieged and were forced to resort to surrender, they gave up two hundred thousand full suits of armour and three thousand330 catapults, on the assumption that they would not be engaged in war again; but when they resolved to renew the war, they suddenly organised the manufacture of arms, and each day produced one hundred and forty finished shields, three hundred swords, five hundred spears, and one thousand missiles for the catapults; and the women-servants furnished their hair for the catapults. Furthermore, although from fifty years back they had possessed only twelve ships, in accordance with the treaty made at the second war, they then, although they had already fled together for refuge into the Byrsa, built one hundred and twenty decked ships in two months; and since the mouth of the Cothon was being guarded, they dug another mouth through and their fleet sallied forth unexpectedly; for old timber had been stored away in readiness, and a large number of skilled workmen, maintained at public expense, had been lying in wait for this occasion. But though Carthage was so resourceful, still it was captured and rased to the ground. As for the country, the Romans proclaimed one part of it a Province, I mean the part which had been subject to the Carthaginians, and appointed as sovereign of the other part Masanasses, as also his descendants, the house of Micipsas;331 for Masanasses was held in very high respect among the Romans because of his valour and friendship; and indeed it was he who transformed the Nomads into citizens and farmers, and taught them to be soldiers instead of brigands. For a peculiar thing had happened p189in the case of these people, although they lived in a country blest by nature, except for the fact that it abounded in wild animals, they would forbear to destroy these and thus work the land in security, and would turn against one another, abandoning the land to the wild animals. In this way it came to pass that they kept leading a wandering and migratory life, no less so than peoples who are driven by poverty and by wretched soil or climate to resort to this kind of life; so that the Masaesylians have obtained this as their special designation, for they are called nomades.332 Such people of necessity must lead a frugal life, being more often root-eaters than meat-eaters, and using milk and cheese for food. Be that as it may, Carthage for a long time remained desolate, about the same length of time as Corinth,333 but it was restored again at about the same time as Corinth by the deified Caesar, who sent thither as colonists such Romans as preferred to go there and some soldiers; and now it is as prosperous a city as any other in Libya.

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Geography


published in Vol. VIII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

the text of which is in the public domain.