#amreading: The Next in Self’s Imperial Saga Reading List

In the book self just read, SPQR, Mary Beard told of how, in a shockingly short period of time (less than a year?), Imperial Rome destroyed two cities that had stood for hundreds and hundreds of years. Not just destroyed, but razed to the ground, killing all the survivors (Not women, though — those were enslaved) and forbidding anyone from building over the ruins. The cities were Carthage and Corinth.

(Since these two were centers of culture in the ancient world, no one knows exactly how much ancient history was effaced, but the loss must have been substantial.)

Which brings to mind an anecdote from Mary Beard: some Carthaginian potentate was accustomed to playing the Romans, always delaying the response to Roman demands, or ignoring them completely, with slight consequence. One day, a Roman general appeared at the head of (xxx) legions. He presented the Roman demand to the Carthaginian. The Carthaginian received the demand and said he would think on it. The Roman drew a circle around the Carthaginian’s feet (with his sword) and said that before the other man stepped outside of that circle, he must have an answer. The answer came almost immediately.

In Rubicon, by Tom Holland, self learns what happened to the former Carthaginian territories, specifically the ones in Spain:

  • The mines that Rome had annexed from Carthage . . .  had been handed over to the publicani, who proceeded to exploit them . . . A single network of tunnels might spread for more than a hundred square miles, and provide upwards of forty thousand slaves with a living death. Over the pockmarked landscape there would invariably hang a pall of smog, belched out from the smelting furnaces through giant chimneys, and so heavy with chemicals that it burned the naked skin and turned it white. Birds would die if they flew through the fumes. As Roman power spread, the gas-clouds were never far behind . . . for every ton of silver extracted over ten thousand tons of rock had to be quarried. — pp. 42 -43, Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, by Tom Holland

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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