End of the Third Punic War

the continence of scipio  ©simon de vos

The Third Punic War ended in victory for the Romans and defeat for the Carthaginians.  Throughout the siege, Hasdrubal attempted to negotiate with the Romans. The Roman General Scipio offered to end the War, but only if Carthage disarmed completely, provided hostages, and all citizens left the city to move inland and stopped participating in trade and commerce.  The Romans even offered Hasdrubal the chance to leave the city with his family, ten of his friends, and their families, but Hasdrubal did not accept the terms. One account, Polybius, wrote that Hasdrubal wore a purple cloak over his armour during negotiations, and slapped his leg to insist he would die with his city. 

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900 Roman soldiers deserted to join the Carthaginian army, and were present during the siege of Carthage

The key event that broke the stalemate of the Siege and brought the War to an end was the Romans cutting off Carthage’s access to the sea.  This prevented supplies from reaching the city and enabled the Roman army, led by Scipio Aemilianus (later known as Scipio Africanus the younger), to take over the city street by street. The Carthaginian soldiers were exhausted from the siege, whereas the Roman soldiers used a relay system to make sure none of the troops became too tired. Over three or four days, Romans moved slowly towards the central citadel, Byrsa, which filled with refugees and displaced people as citizens fled the fighting. 

For another six days Scipio’s troops were prevented from breaching the walls of Byrsa, and during this time they burned large parts of the city. Finally, the Carthaginians inside Byrsa surrendered by displaying an olive branch. Scipio agreed that the 50,000 Carthaginian survivors who had sheltered in Byrsa to survive and be sold into slavery, but declared that all Roman deserters who had fought for Carthage would be killed. The city had previously had a population between 200,000 - 400,000.

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After the surrender, Hasdrubal attempted to beg for Scipio’s mercy.  The Carthaginians were disgusted and called Hasdrubal a coward. Hasdrubal’s wife allegedly stood on the roof of the temple as it burned and called him a coward, before throwing herself in the fire.

The whole city of Carthage was burned down, treasures were taken by the Romans, and the Carthaginian fleet was set on fire as a dedication to the gods. When the news reached Rome, the people were ecstatic. The senate sent a delegation to organise Carthaginian territory into a new Roman Province of Africa.

In Polybius’ book Histories, he states that ‘the destruction of the Carthaginians was immediate and total’. Some historians have argued that destroying the Carthaginian people and culture was Rome’s main objective in pursuing the conflict.