I left off in this thread on the historical background of the main characters in my forthcoming book by asking you to savor a certain sense of mystery:
At the beginning of the so-called Hellenistic era (ie, the death of Alexander), Carthage was a superpower and Rome all but unknown. 177 years later, Rome was the superpower, and Carthage was completely razed. And our world would forever after be Roman. What happened in those 177 years?
Before I go on, please, remember that my book will not be a history lesson; it is a story of characters, from Hannibal and Scipio to modern people you know, who illustrate a theme that you, I hope, will recognize in your own life.
That said, in these posts I’m amusing myself with a bit of history. And so back to the mystery. It actually gets more mysterious for a while, because Carthage and Rome were … friends.
That might be overstating things, but they were a) extremely alike in some ways and b) entirely tolerant of each other for many centuries.
If you believe Roman legends, the two cities were founded almost at the same time–Carthage in 814 BCE by the beautiful and wily queen Dido, and Rome a few generations later by the descendants of Aeneas, a Trojan survivor and Dido’s erstwhile lover. Dido and Aeneas are pictured together above. (The lewd version is here.)
Rome and Carthage then evolved almost as twins: two polytheistic city-states that shook off tyrants and became proud republics, with popular assemblies, councils of elders, and two annually-elected presidents–the Romans called them consuls, the Carthaginians suffetes.
To the extent that they were also different, this actually helped them to get along. Rome was agrarian, provincial and essentially land-locked in central Italy. It had no navy at all! When it had to fight, it drafted all male citizens. Carthage, by contrast, was maritime, controlled a vast sea empire and made profits from trading. When it had to fight, it hired mercenaries to do the fighting on the citizens’ behalf.
So for centuries the Romans worried about their neighbors in Italy, and the Carthaginians about their profits and sea routes, and both sides were happy. They had treaties of friendship. There seemed to be no problem.
To be continued.