The book “The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC” by Adrian Goldsworthy is a position telling the history of the struggle of the Roman Republic with Carthage. so-called Punic wars still occupy many historians and enthusiasts, and warfare – especially in the second war – is a base of information for military adepts.
I don’t think Adrian Goldsworthy needs more detail. He is one of the most eminent British historians dealing with ancient history and has many publications to his credit. The book “The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC” was originally published in 2000, but it has only recently appeared on the Polish market.
The position opens with the author’s preface and a sufficiently long introduction containing the author’s thoughts and information about the sources of our knowledge about the Punic Wars. Then we get a very interesting comparison of both opponents: Carthage and Rome, in political, economic, social and especially military terms. This allows the reader to better understand the differences between the two countries, e.g. in terms of building alliances and dependency systems and available resources. Then, in the next three parts, the author tells the reasons for the conflict and its course. There is no lack of a historian’s critical view of the sources and a rational definition of possible numbers on the battlefields or in terms of population.
For me personally, the description of the emergence of resentment among the Carthaginian elite – especially the Barkids – towards the Romans after the defeat of the First Punic War and the seizure of Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, as well as the construction of the Carthaginian empire in Spain, was extremely fascinating for me. The author additionally presented Hannibal’s march to Italy in great detail, which also allows us to understand what problems Hannibal had to face and how terrifying the news that Hannibal crossed the Alps in October 218 BCE must have caused.
The book was published by the REBIS publishing house. The edition is very elegant, in a hardcover. The font is clear and the selected printing paper has a pleasant texture, reminiscent of old books. The content is varied with black-and-white maps and battle plans. The disadvantages, unfortunately, include the placement of footnotes at the end of the book, which makes it difficult to follow additional information; especially since the author has done a lot of them.
Each of the three wars gets a solid summary and what the peace brought to each side. Importantly, the author does not focus only on a dry presentation of the facts known to us thanks to ancient writers or archaeologists. As I mentioned, his analysis is holistic and allows you to outline a really broad context of events and present the impact that the wars had on both countries and ultimately also on the entire Mediterranean area.
At the end of the book, there are footnotes, an index, and very useful: a calendar of events from the discussed period, a description of the offices and the republican system, and a simplified organization of the consular army.
In conclusion, in my opinion, the book is an outstanding example of what historical books should look like, intended for a wider audience. The author undertook a very arduous and difficult job of describing the three Punic Wars in an accessible way, based on sources, and at the same time not getting bogged down in unnecessary digressions and details. As the writer himself points out in the preface, there are many items on the market devoted to the Roman-Carthaginian rivalry; however, he wanted to create an accessible story that would bring together the entire course of the rivalry between the two countries.
Adrian Goldsworthy once again proved that he is an expert in his field. The book is absolutely recommendable.