Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trasimene and Relativism

It was on this day in 217 BC that the Roman army of Flaminius was ambushed and wiped out at the battle of Lake Trasimene by the Carthaginian forces of the great general Hannibal. For the strict monarchists, there is no dog in the fight. Carthage and Rome were both, at the time, republics (though both were founded as monarchies). However, as everyone knows I am a Roman partisan and so this is a sad event to recall for me while taking nothing away from Hannibal who was a very talented and audacious military man.

The lesson I take from battles of the Punic Wars like Trasimene (in which Carthage won) is how different the world might well be if it had been Carthage that had rose to dominate the western world instead of Rome. Relativism is all the rage today, be it cultural or moral, but those are sympathies that I do not share. Yet, even modern Christians can look at Carthage and Rome and shrug their shoulders since both were pagan. Not me. They were both pagan, true enough, but that does not mean they were both the same. Although the odd fringe existed as in any religion, the paganism of ancient Rome was pretty tame when compared to the paganism of Carthage where they were sacrificing little children in the most horrid way possible. No two people, nations or cultures are the same nor are they equal and the fact that all may have value does not mean that any one is as good or bad as another. For myself, I am quite grateful that the Romans learned a lesson from their defeat at Trasimene and went on to eventually win the war for supremacy against Carthage rather than the reverse.


  1. I recently imagined a scenario where Carthage would have beaten Rome.
    So essentially the Carthaginian Empire would replace the Roman ne, though I imagine it would not have spread so far North into Europe, and seeing as the Sahara desert lies to the South, it would have been a considerably narrow Empire.
    Christianity would have started as it did, and likely Peter would have gone to Carthage instead of Rome, and if all turned out like we know in our world, Carthage would be the seat of the Papacy.
    Islam would then likely have spread into Europe instead of North Arica, although since the Carthaginian Empire would be smaller than the Roman Empire, perhaps it could be better defended, so instead Islam spreads more towards the Indian sub-continent and Asia. Likely much of Northern Europe would have remained Pagan.

    Now that you mention this child-sacrificing thing, I'm not sure how that would affect the story. Perhaps Christianity would have found it more difficult to take root, if at all. OR perhaps it could crash down like the Roman coliseum fights did, what with feeding people to lions and all that (though hat was a social event, not a religious one).

    Interesting to think about.

  2. I'm enjoying this blog a great deal. I know it doesn't exactly fit the typical content of posts on the site (no monarchs involved) but I'd like to read your post on Carthage, perhaps Carthave vis a vis Rome. I'm aware of some horrors involved in Carthagenian paganism like child sacrifice that abhorred Romans too but I'd like to know more why they were such awful option in comparison to Romans. Alternatively if you have some reading to suggest on the topic I'd appreciate recommendations.

    Thanks :)

    1. Well, I suppose if you set aside the whole 'burning their children alive in massive numbers' they were not too different from the Romans. Personally, I think that, and the values that would condone such a moral code, is bad enough to regard them as the worse option compared to Rome. There were more than a few similarities but they were also much more monopolistic in their economy, their government was really a plutocracy, though some have argued that they were more democratic than Rome, that's not something which would necessarily impress me as a good thing.


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