One of the simple pleasures of the War Room has been a place to retreat to and read. I can happily ignore whatever jobs need to be done around the house and just lose myself in a book. I've been reading on my phone lately, using the Kindle app, and while that certainly has it's place - it's no substitute for a lump of dead tree between two covers.
I have gotten into a terrible habit of starting books and not finishing them, but I'm determined to finish this one which has been holding my attention. It's an over view of the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome and I think it helps that it doesn't go into too much detail. This is a general book for a reader that has little is any prior knowledge of the period and it's certainly filled in quite a few gaps for me. My knowledge of Republican Rome was pretty much limited to some lectures and Tom Holland's "Rubicon".
Anyway, getting to the meat of the matter.
The Fall of Carthage is a single volume history of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. It's paper back and I don't think it cost me much more than a tenner. It begins with a quick introduction to Rome in the time of the Republic and what little we know about Carthage along with some information on the conduct of warfare, both land and sea, during the period. The author then deals with each war (there were three) in turn, sometimes splitting each section up by theatre and sometimes treating the naval and the land campaigns seperately.
Things that have struck me so far (I haven't started the section on the third Punic War yet).
- Our sources are so limited, basically one Roman writer (Livy) and one Greek (Polybius) and that's most of our knowledge of the period. Goldsworthy is to be commended to the regularity with which he admits his frustration with the limited information at his disposal.
- The Romans were dogged. My father always taught me that character trumpts intelligence nine times out of ten, but the Romans were defeated time and time again and simply would not quit. There's a lot to dislike about Republican Rome, but there's something admirable about their strength of purpose, their patriotism and their refusal to admit defeat.
- Perhaps it was a childhood being brought up on pictures books, but I had always imagined that the Romans were rather good at siege warfare. The vast majority of sieges in the Punic Wars appear to be resolved by treachery, blockade or escalade. None of the jolly siege machines that I remember so vividly seem to make an appearance.
- The lack of sources means that in many ways there are few characters. Hannibal is a mytery and most of the Romans are smothered under layers of stereotypical hagiography that there is no real sense of the actors as men rather than ciphers. This is something a change for me, as I'm so used to being able to read about Napoleonic generals who were funny or mean or chivalrous or liked hard boiled eggs.
On the whole, recommended and a book that has definitely given me a better grounding in the field. I might even manage to get back to that copy of Lazenby's "Hannibals War" that Donogh gave me all those moons ago.