Dec 23, 2011

Rome & Carthage

(old post from my lost blog at, sep 2009 - this topic still fascinates me!)

Rome & Carthage: The Arrogance of "Democratic" Supremacy

In 149 BC, The Roman Senate took advantage of a minor disagreement with Carthage to wage a war (the last Punic war ~150BC). Unsurprisingly, at the end of which, the Romans triumphed against Carthage. Carthage sent a delegation surrendering the city and giving up all their weapons to Rome. But the Roman Senate decided specifically that "Carthage was to be razed to the ground, no stone was to be left upon another, the soil was to be ploughed and strewn with salt." Needless to say, all of its people were either slaughtered or sold to slavery.

Which begs the question, WHY!?

The decision was not that of momentous anger by a tyrant individual, for that Rome was a Republic. The decision was debated and decided by the ~200 representatives of Roman people.

The decision was not that of military, for that even the famous Roman General that carried it out, Scipio Africanus, was against it. He followed the orders anyhow.

So, WHY!?

One cannot but think these days at the real value of democracy, try to understand the pros and cons beyond the usual clichés and banner-style statements like "democracy is the solution". And to do so, there is nothing like learning the History of Rome, through which one can re-live Democracy on fast forward. There are many bright spots, and some deep bleak ones.

Rome has started as a Kingdome and turned successfully into an expanding Democratic Republic for 400 shining years. But then, and just like magic, it turned into an Empire, and finally presented historians to this day with a mysterious fall after another 400 years.

I am not an expert in this field, but I have gone through Rome's history recently, and I find some aspects extremely interesting to share and contemplate upon. One of these events is Rome's verdict on Carthage, described above.

And this brings back us to the question, WHY!?

The answer is, because the Romans were the strongest nation at the time. They simply could do it, and so, they did it. "War Mongering" is the term.

This brings a second question: how come a group of highly educated Roman elected-senates come up with such an unjust and inhumane decision?

Simply, (and it took me a very long time to realize this answer) democracy does not guarantee making the right decision. Democracy guarantees agreement: that most of the attendants will agree on the decision. In another way, that the disagreeing portion will never be large enough to overrule the decision by power (or so is the theory).

Democracy is a lot like human-desire. It requires a high degree of discipline and dedication to actually be guided correctly. Democracy requires that we be active and objective all the time so that it won't be misused. Democracy cannot function with a passive population.

Democracy is not ethical by itself. The ethics of democracy are that of its people. Democracy does not tell us right from wrong. But it can tell us what we ought to be doing about it. Things are not right or wrong just because 51% of people said so. Morality is independent of statistics.

Seems intuitive… but in the same time, it is very easy to forget this and fall in the same mistakes again and again…

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