Third Punic War Battles > Siege of Carthage

Siege of Carthage

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration


The Siege of Carthage (149-146 BCE) was the climactic confrontation of the Third Punic War between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian city-state. This protracted and brutal siege culminated in the complete destruction of Carthage and marked the end of the Punic Wars. The Third Punic War was instigated by the Roman Republic due to lingering fears and animosities following the Second Punic War.

Rome sought to eliminate Carthage as a potential threat once and for all. Despite losing the Second Punic War, Carthage had managed to recover economically and militarily, prompting renewed Roman fears. In 149 BCE, Rome declared war on Carthage. The initial Roman forces, led by consuls Manius Manilius and Lucius Marcius Censorinus, landed in North Africa and laid siege to the city. Carthage, anticipating the Roman aggression, fortified the city and prepared for a prolonged defense. The Carthaginian general Hasdrubal the Boetharch played a crucial role in organizing the city's defenses.

The Romans initially struggled to breach the city's defenses. Early assaults on the walls and attempts to storm the city were repelled by the determined Carthaginian defenders. The Romans established a blockade to cut off Carthage from receiving supplies and reinforcements by land and sea. However, the Carthaginians managed to hold out due to their robust fortifications and resourcefulness.

In 147 BCE, the Roman Senate appointed Scipio Aemilianus, also known as Scipio Africanus the Younger, to take command of the siege. His leadership marked a turning point in the Roman efforts. Scipio restructured the Roman forces, improving discipline and morale. He implemented strict measures to prevent any laxity among the troops. Scipio ordered the construction of a massive trench and wall around the city to enhance the blockade. This engineering feat further isolated Carthage and prevented any escape or outside assistance.

Battle of Nepheris

Securing the Hinterlands: One of Scipio's strategic moves was to eliminate Carthaginian support bases outside the city. He targeted Nepheris, a stronghold supplying Carthage. The Roman forces, led by Scipio and his subordinate Laelius, successfully captured Nepheris after a fierce battle. This victory cut off a crucial supply line to Carthage and demoralized the defenders.

By early 146 BCE, Scipio was ready to launch the final assault on Carthage. He prepared his troops for a coordinated attack on the city’s defenses. The Romans managed to breach the walls of Carthage after intense fighting. They encountered fierce resistance as they fought their way into the city. The battle devolved into brutal street-to-street fighting. The Romans systematically advanced through the city, facing desperate Carthaginian resistance at every turn.

The city was set ablaze during the final stages of the assault. Carthaginian defenders, including Hasdrubal, continued to fight, but the outcome was inevitable. Hasdrubal eventually surrendered to Scipio, but the city was largely destroyed, and its population either killed or enslaved and Carthage was razed to the ground. The Romans systematically demolished the city, ensuring that it could never rise again as a rival power. The territory of Carthage was annexed and became the Roman province of Africa. Scipio Aemilianus was celebrated in Rome for his victory. The destruction of Carthage marked a significant expansion of Roman power and influence in the Mediterranean. The fall of Carthage is often cited as a pivotal moment in Roman history. It demonstrated Rome's ruthlessness in dealing with perceived threats and solidified its dominance over the western Mediterranean.


The Siege of Carthage was a testament to Roman military strategy, engineering, and relentless determination. The leadership of Scipio Aemilianus and the systematic approach to the siege led to one of the most famous and devastating victories in Roman history, bringing an end to the Punic Wars and eliminating Carthage as a power in the ancient world.

In the words of Polybius:

"Scipio, when he looked upon the city as it was utterly perishing and in the last throes of its complete destruction, is said to have shed tears and wept openly for his enemies. After being wrapped in thought for long, and realizing that all cities, nations, and authorities must, like men, meet their doom; that this happened to Ilium, once a prosperous city, to the empires of Assyria, Media, and Persia, the greatest of their time, and to Macedonia itself, the brilliance of which was so recent, either deliberately or the verses escaping him, he said:

A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish,

And Priam and his people shall be slain.

- Polybius

And when Polybius speaking with freedom to him, for he was his teacher, asked him what he meant by the words, they say that without any attempt at concealment he named his own country, for which he feared when he reflected on the fate of all things human. Polybius actually heard him and recalls it in his history.

Modern Myths

Since the 19th century, various historians have claimed that the Romans plowed over the city and sowed salt into the soil after destroying it, but this is not supported by ancient sources.

Coordinates: 36.8531°N 10.3231°E

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