Perhaps inevitably most books on Carthage focus on the Punic Wars, and in particular on Hannibal and the Second Punics War. However Carthage existed for over six centuries, and fought many other wars, including some equally vital wars. This book looks at the centuries of warfare between Carthage and her other neighbours.
The vast majority of the wars covered here were fought on Sicily, where Carthage dominated the west of the island, Greek cities dominated the east, and the various groups of the original Sicilians in parts of the interior. Although there were long periods of peace between Carthage and the Greeks, when war did come it was often brutal, with vast costly battles and a series of cities depopulated and destroyed. The Carthaginians also fought a series of wars against their North African neighbours, but the loss of almost all Punic literature means that we have very little details of them. Our knowledge of the Sicilian Wars is greatly boosted by the work of Diodorus Siculus, one of the most important Ancient histories, and himself a native of Sicily.
It helps that most of Carthage’s major wars came before the start of the First Punic War, so the absence of those wars doesn’t create too many gaps in the narrative. The two exceptions came between the First and Second Punic Wars – the Truceless War fought against Carthage’s unpaid mercenaries and the conquest of large parts of Spain, but these two conflicts wars weren’t directly connected to most of the earlier wars, and there is a brief account of the First Punic War in Sicily, which ended Carthage’s presence on that island.
One of the key strengths of this book is that Carthage is at the heart of the story in her own right, instead of being examined in the terms of her relationship with Rome. The author is also an expert on the general history of Carthage, so we get a good view of the nature of politics in the city. The author is also very good at distinquishing between the various Punic commanders, an especially difficult task in a city where most aristocrats at least shared the same few names (Hannibal, Hamilcar, Hanno etc).
Perhaps the most important point to emerge from the book is that Carthage wasn’t that warlike, especially compared to the Greeks of Sicily, who appear to have shared mainland Greece’s tendancy to make war on each other at the drop of a hat. The Carthaginians weren’t responsible for many of their wars in Sicily, which were often imposed on them by the many ambitious tyrants of Syracuse.
This is a very useful look at the rest of Punic military history, away from the very well studied Punic Wars, and a welcome addition to my library!
1 – Sources of Knowledge
2 – Carthage: city and state
3 – Fleets and armies
4 – Early Wars: Malchus to ‘King’ Hamilcar
5 – The Revenge of Hannibal the Magonid
6 – Carthage against Dionysius and Syracuse
7 – Carthage against Timoleon
8 – Carthage against Agathocles
9 – The Sicilian stalemate: Pyrrhys and Hiero
10 – Carthage at War in Africa and Spain
Author: Dexter Hoyos
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military