Friday, July 21, 2017

Mastering The West: Rome and Carthage At War

So as part of my trip reading I got to read a book I had earmarked some weeks ago at my local used book store (and when I bought it, got 40% off!).    It is called Mastering The West:  Rome and Carthage At War  by Dexter Hoyos.



This was a period that I was only slightly familiar with:  yes, of course I have heard of the Punic Wars and I have read Livy and Polybius and Hannibal has passed into legend - but it was the actual histories themselves and not the larger picture of the Western Mediterranean at War

I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Hoyos' underlying thesis is that the Punic wars are what pushed Rome into its Empire; more interestingly, that it happened over the course of the wars (Rome was not seemingly at all interested after the first Punic War (264 - 241 B.C., but by the end of the Second Punic War - 218 to 201 B.C. - she was committed), and that in some ways the issue never seemed in doubt - not so much from the greatness of Rome at the time but rather the ineptness of Carthage and her commanders.  In short, Carthage had the ability at several junctures to bring defeat out of victory and become the Empire of the West but failed to take the chance.

All the old characters are here in greater detail that I have ever read of them:  Scipio Africanus and his uncles the two Scipios,  Quintas Fabius Maximus "The Delayer", Hannibal (who turns out to be a good general that through away multiple chances for real victory) and his brothers Mago and Hasdrubal, and a host of supporting characters Carthaginian, Sicilian, Celtiberian, Greek, and Roman.  And they are presented in the historical milieu that makes it all the more real (Hoyos is an excellent writer).  In his words we wander across Sicily, march our way up through what is now Spain and France and down into the Alps, and hear the crack of ships timbers as they break and the cries of soldiers.  

For anyone looking to understand the bridge between Rome's conquest of Italy and the drive to conquer the world, I highly recommend the book: well written, well documented, and extremely engaging.

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