3rd Punic War


The Third Punic War (149 BC to 146 BC) was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between the former Phoenician (Romans used this as an adjective meaning 'treacherous' after the Punic Wars) colony of Carthage, and the Republic of Rome. The Punic Wars were so named because of the Roman name for Carthaginians: Punici, or Poenici.

The war was a much smaller engagement than the two previous punic wars and primarily consisted of a single action, the Battle of Carthage, but resulted in the complete destruction of the city of Carthage, the annexation of all remaining Carthaginian territory by Rome, and the death or enslavement of the entire Carthaginian population. The Third Punic War ended Carthage's independent existence.


In the years between the Second and Third Punic War, Rome was engaged in the conquest of the Hellenistic empires to the east (see Macedonian Wars, Illyrian Wars, and the Roman-Syrian War) and ruthlessly suppressing the Iberian people in the west, although they had been essential to the Roman success in the Second Punic War. Carthage, stripped of allies and territory (Sicily, Sardinia, Hispania), was suffering under a huge indemnity of 200 silver talents to be paid every year for 50 years.

The Romans still harboured a bitter hatred for Carthage, which had nearly destroyed their empire in the Second Punic War. Sentiments ran so strong that the powerful statesman Cato usually finished his speeches on any subject in the Senate with the phrase ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam, which means "Furthermore, it is my opinion that Carthage must be destroyed". Meanwhile, Carthage had regained much of its prosperity through trade, further alarming Rome that a revived Carthage could again threaten them with war.

The peace treaty at the end of the Second Punic War required that all border disputes involving Carthage be arbitrated by the Roman Senate and required Carthage to get explicit Roman approval before arming its citizens, or hiring a mercenary force. As a result, in the fifty intervening years between the Second and Third Wars, Carthage had to take all border disputes with Rome's ally Numidia to the Senate, where they were decided almost exclusively in Numidian favour.

The course of war

In 151 BC, the Carthaginian debt to Rome was fully repaid, meaning that, in Punic eyes, the treaty was now expired, though not so according to the Romans, who instead viewed the treaty as a permanent declaration of Carthaginian subordination to Rome akin to the Roman treaties with its Italian allies. Numidia launched another border raid on Carthaginian soil, besieging a town, and Carthage launched a large military expedition (25,000 soldiers) to repel the Numidian invaders.

As a result, Carthage suffered a humiliating military defeat and was charged with another fifty year debt to Numidia. Immediately thereafter, however, Rome showed displeasure with Carthage’s decision to wage war against its neighbour without Roman consent, and told Carthage that in order to avoid a war it had to “satisfy the Roman People.” The Roman Senate then began gathering an army. After Utica defected to Rome in 149 BC, Rome declared war against Carthage. The Carthaginians made a series of attempts to negotiate with Rome, and received a promise that if three hundred children of well-born Carthaginians were sent as hostages to Rome the Carthaginians would keep the rights to their land and self-government. Even after this was done, however, the Romans landed an army at Utica where the consuls demanded that Carthage hand over all weapons and armour. After those had been handed over, Rome additionally demanded that the Carthaginians move at least ten miles inland, while Carthage itself was to be burned. When the Carthaginians learned of this they abandoned negotiations and the city was immediately besieged, beginning the Third Punic War. The Carthaginians endured the siege starting c.149 BC to the spring of 146 BC, when Scipio Aemilianus took the city by storm.


Many Carthaginians died from starvation during the latter part of the siege, while many others died in the final six days of fighting. When the war ended, the remaining 50,000 Carthaginians, a small part of the original pre-war population, were sold into slavery.

The city was systematically burned for somewhere between 10 and 17 days. Then the city walls, its buildings and its harbour were utterly destroyed and, according to an unsubstantiated[1] 20th-century historiographical tradition, the surrounding territory was supposedly sown with salt to ensure that nothing would grow there again.

The remaining Carthaginian territories were annexed by Rome and constituted the Roman province of Africa. The site of Carthage was later rebuilt as a Roman city.

In February of 1985, Ugo Vetere, the mayor of Rome, and Chedly Klibi, the mayor of Carthage, signed a symbolic treaty "officially" ending the war which had been supposedly extended by the lack of a peace treaty for more than 2200 years.


  1. Ridley, R.T., "To Be Taken with a Pinch of Salt: The Destruction of Carthage," Classical Philology vol. 81, no. 2 (1986).
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