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Carthage: The Roman Holocaust (2004)

When Rome was still in its infancy, Carthage was the dominant power of the Mediterranean. As Rome grew, Carthage remained its only great rival. It was that rivalry that drove Rome to utterly destroy Carthage, and massacre its people.


Joseph Maxwell


Richard Miles (as Dr. Richard Miles)




Credited cast:
Richard Miles Richard Miles ... Presenter (as Dr. Richard Miles)


When Rome was still in its infancy, Carthage was the dominant power of the Mediterranean. As Rome grew, Carthage remained its only great rival. It was that rivalry that drove Rome to utterly destroy Carthage, and massacre its people.

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Release Date:

8 May 2004 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Karhidona See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RDF Media See more »
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Technical Specs


(2 parts)


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User Reviews

A Carthaginian Peace.
13 June 2017 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Rome was still a small village, while Ancient Carthage dominated the Mediterranean from Spain to the Middle East, drawing sustenance from trade and Sicilian silver mines. The Carthaginians, living in north Africa, were pretty sharp too. They borrowed a writing system from the Phoenicians and it became our alphabet -- the only instance in history of an alphabet's being invented. But Rome grew and expanded into a kind of proto-empire, bringing Rome into conflict with Carthage. A militaristic Carthaginian, Hamalcar, met the challenge, as did his son, Hannibal. Hannibal is unarguably the most famous Carthaginian of all. I mean -- "Hannibal" Lector? I'm trying to keep this summary short, so please -- no nasty letters from historians, archaeologists, historical linguists, or ex wives.

Hannibal was in truth a fine land general. During one engagement in Spain he used 21 African elephants -- that's three tons of elephant -- against his enemies. The elephants were drunk because they'd been given wine. I swear I'm not making this up. African elephants being what they are, they sometimes turned on their own troops, so each elephant driver was given a long spike to be driven into the elephant's brain should the beast go berserk.

He was given to taking great chances that only sometimes paid off. His casualties in men and elephants were always high. He began his campaign against Rome when he was down to just one elephant, and he need to recruit more soldiers on his way. Still, he moved through Spain and France, then down to the gates of Rome itself in 261 BC+. But he was denied the battle he sought because the Romans weren't stupid. Troops were sent elsewhere to entice him away from the city, and Romans launched an attack on Carthage itself in Africa on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Hannibal was forced to defend his homeland, the first time he'd been back in thirty years.

Hannibal had spent most of his life in Spain and the Carthaginians distrusted him as an alien figure, even trying to arrange a peace with Rome behind his back. The intensity of the war died down and Hannibal was given a position as some kind of satrap. The Romans had been put to considerable inconvenience by Hannibal and hit men were hunting him down. He drank poison before they could find him but lived on in Roman memory and myth as a nightmarish figure. Carthage had lost the war and was made to pay dearly for it. These conflicts between Rome and Carthage are known as the Punic Wars.

That didn't settle the matter. Back in Rome, the militarists led by Cato wrung their hand over the destruction that Carthage had wrought on the Roman empire. Cato's cry was, "Carthage must be destroyed!" There was an anti-war faction too, led by Scipio, who felt that competition with Carthage was keeping Rome on its toes. And, forsooth, Carthage had come back from the dead. Buildings were now a tall as four stories. They paid off their debt to Rome forty years early and farmlands began to produce once again. Carthage had become wealthy and Cato hated it. They just wouldn't DIE. He wooed the public with speeches about those treacherous Carthaginians and their wealth and won them over. The Romans now demanded that the city of Carthage be abandoned, a demand that was rejected.

Then the Roman army under Scipio laid siege to the city. The Carthaginians responded by taking some Roman prisoners, pulling out their tongues with iron hooks, cutting off their genitals, skinning them alive, and throwing their still-breathing remains off the walls onto the Romans below. This was before the Geneva Accords.

The Romans were no slackers either. They managed to set fire to the city and killed everyone they could. The wife of Carthage's general, whose name I don't know how to spell, stood on top of the last refuge with her children, surrounded by flames, heaped her calumny upon her husband for escaping the city, screamed that he was a fairy, then killed her children, threw them into the fire and jumped in after them. It took the Roman army a year to level the charred remains of the city. And that was that.

The host, Richard Miles, is a young historian and archaeologist who earned his PhD in classics at Cambridge. He's earnest, knowledgeable, and physically fit. You can tell he's in shape because he runs up this long flight of marble stairs. The program is from BBC4 and was written and directed by Joseph Maxwell, who is not only highly skilled in his trade but bears a fine family name. The program was shot on location and makes Carthage look so clean and white that it makes you want to live there instead of a one-burro town in southern New Mexico.

Anyone who wants to see a painting called "Hannibal Crossing the Alps" by J. W. Turner should Google it. Under an incredibly monstrous and threatening sky, Hannibal is reduced to a tiny figure atop his last elephant, while his men sicken and die in the foreground.

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