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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent narrative on Ancient war and politics
Adrian Goldsworthy has combined ancient sources and modern interpretations to give us a breathtaking account of the three wars which raged between Rome and its Mediterranean rival, Carthage over the course of a century. One of his strengths is his ability to describe the complex logistics and manoeuvres of the significant battles of this era. He also gives perceptive...
Published on 3 Jan 2007 by Hugh Claffey

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3.0 out of 5 stars there go the elephants...
I recently read the Leonard Cottrell book, and wanted a slightly more scholarly treatment of the Punic Wars. This isn't it. It's essentially just another reworking of the ancient historians, mainly Polybius. True, in the absence of corroborating evidence Goldsworthy occasionally reminds us to take some of their assertions with a pinch of salt; but he doesn't have any...
Published 8 months ago by gille liath


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent narrative on Ancient war and politics, 3 Jan 2007
By 
Hugh Claffey (Co. Kildare Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
Adrian Goldsworthy has combined ancient sources and modern interpretations to give us a breathtaking account of the three wars which raged between Rome and its Mediterranean rival, Carthage over the course of a century. One of his strengths is his ability to describe the complex logistics and manoeuvres of the significant battles of this era. He also gives perceptive accounts of the political machinations which brought about the policies, alliances and betrayals of the period.

The most successful and effective general of the entire tale, is Hannibal, one of the Barca family, and Goldsworthy gives him his due, describing the tactics by which he invaded Rome from Spain, and humiliated legion after Roman legion. However the narrative is clear that Hannibal's invasion was a gamble - he ditched his heavier equipment in order to speed the crossing of the Alps, and arrived in Rome without the ability or inclination to capture population centres. It is here that Goldsworthy's admiration of the sheer obduracy of the Romans shines through. Hannibal, with Italy at his feet, after destroying many legions, sent negotiators to treat with Rome. To his astonishment, the negotiators were sent away, unheard. The Romans simply would not be defeated, Hannibal was impotent to take the city, and though he roamed undefeated in the Italian peninsula for many years, his enemy would not give up.

There are detailed accounts of the rise and re-election of various Roman consuls and generals, the authoritarian nature of the elected elite, and the various factions which ruled Rome. I found it interesting that those plebs who did achieve elective office and military leadership, sometimes found that while their ascent was meteoric, their lack of privileged family backround could prove their undoing when events moved against them.

It has been said that history is written by the victors, and the book is significantly less descriptive and detailed when dealing with Carthaginian affairs. However I think the spirit of the Romans shines through, their ability to describe their own society, their sheer self-belief led to their creating and leaving detailed accounts of themselves and their society in a way which was unmatched among their neighbouring societies.

Overall this is an excellent survey of the events, and contains significant pointers for a deeper study of the various elements.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An informed, accessible introduction, 19 Sep 2004
By 
Paul Donovan (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
Adrian Goldsworthy provides an entertaining and accessible account of the Punic Wars, which those with no classical education should find an interesting read. Goldsworthy himself points out the fact that the British education system would have rendered this account unnecessary fifty years ago, but the decline of Latin as a school subject has left a generation (at least) unfamiliar with this long conflict.
Goldsworthy attempts to identify the facts of the battles as distinct from the conjecture, and is at pains to point out the limits of knowledge today (even with the benefits of archaeology to help lift some of the uncertainty). He also makes it clear that we must regard the sources as being tainted from the victor's perspective - for of course no Punic accounts of the conflicts survive. He uses general knowledge of the period to explain the context in which the wars were taking place, and how the changes in technology led to changes in the way in which war was being carried out.
This well-rounded account is supplemented with maps of the several of the battles, facilitating comprehension. However, there are no diagrams or pictures of other aspects of the time (a reproduction of a Trireme, for instance would have been a useful supplement to the lengthy descriptions of the text). This omission aside, the book is a good general read, going beyond a simple recitation of events, which serves to put the wars in an appropriate context.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost The Definitive Work, 1 April 2010
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
Almost, but not quite is how I would describe this Adrian Goldsworthy history of the three Punic Wars. Saying that, you won't get better at the moment.

The fact that at the time the wars started Carthage was actually far more powerful than Rome is something to think about. The sorry fact is that because Rome destroyed the city at the end of the Third Punic War means that any history of Carthage will always be very one sided. Even today we can get first hand accounts of the German or Japanese perspective in the Second World War, but Rome wiped Carthage off the map.

The three wars are covered elaborately, and you walk away feeling you have been well educated. For a similar 'lesson' get Goldsworthy's book on Julius C - excellent.

He also uses several historical sources to get a better idea of what did happen, as obviously because the Romans won so overwhelming there is a lot of 'propaganda' showing the Romans in a better light, and Goldsworthy leads us through this. Did they 'salt' the earth after razing the city? Well, it's doubtful they actually razed the city RIGHT to the ground in the first place.

For me this only feels short of five stars in two areas.

The first in during the descriptions of the Second Punic War he splits the war into Land and Sea campaigns, so you read about the naval battles first THEN the land battles in a seperate section. It may have seemed easier but to the reader this can mean thumbing back to the naval section when a casual reference is made to a sea battle during the land war chapters. I'd have just preferred going in order from one to the other.

The only other issue is that in this book he just seems to have trimmed the 'niggly' details. Let's face it, some of the atrocious things and the shocking moments are what keep us coming back to history, but in this book Goldsworthy just seems to have left things out or described in a short sentence something that might have needed some elaboration.

It is the book that I will judge any history of the Punic Wars by, but I felt at the end of it that it could have offered that little more.

I still would not hesitate to buy it again, though. Excellent stuff again Mr G!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book, 23 Mar 2009
This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
The Fall of Carthage is a very good book by Adrian Goldsworthy dealing with the three Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome. It is well written although to begin with it doesn't really flow as well as it does later. The book itself deals with the only really major threat to the rise of Rome after they had established mastery of the Italian Peninsula but also shows how the contest although at times a hard fought and close run contest was always likely to turn Rome's way due not only to the respective strengths of their militaries but also the fact that the Roman way of war was uniquely different to anything Carthage or for that matter any of the Mediterranean states had faced before. All in all a very good book which gets better as you get into it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book but it's only one, 27 July 2014
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
Another great book from Adrian Goldsworthy. It describes the warfare of the period (roman, Carthaginian, Hellenistic) and gives the political situation before the wars as well as providing a brief look at Carthaginian and roman institutions.

It later goes on describing the war events, analyses the different approaches to war by Rome and Carthage and how their different cultures influenced the way they fought the war

Adrian Goldsworthy also provides analyses on how and why battles were won and lost.

And it does all this with a very simple and well written narrative.

I am a big ancient history fan and I have really enjoy this book and I would recommended to anyone interested on this period.

However one needs to remember that it's a book who covers the 3 Punic wars + interwar periods so if you already know a significant amount about the Punic wars but want to go into further detail then this is probably not the book you are looking for. Otherwise this is a great book worthy to read by anyone interested in roman or ancient history. You will be pleased.

PS: this is my 1st Punic war book so I am unable to evaluate how much detail has been ommited to keep the 3 wars in one medium size book
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb narrative of the Punic Wars, 2 Feb 2011
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I enjoyed reading this book perhaps more than any other book on the Roman Republic and the ancient world. I pondered at first whether it was simply the epic story of the clash between Rome and Carthage that I enjoyed, or if it was down to Mr Goldsworthy's excellent portrayal of events; I have decided that it is probably both.

This war offers a story like no other in my opinion. The scale of the conflict is staggering, even by today's standards; some of the casualty figures seen in the Second Punic War were scarce repeated in history, even during the carnage of the 1914-18 war. And quite how Rome managed to turn the tide of a war that was effectively lost after a catastrophic defeat in 216 BC likewise beggars belief.

These early times of the Roman Republic are fascinating for all readers, not least those with an historical interest; and, as Goldsworthy notes, it is a shame that teachings of the ancient world are not included on the school national curriculum.

Perhaps Goldsworthy's biggest success with this book is that he presents the Punic Wars to the average reader, meaning that this work is not targeting a small scholarly audience. Though while on this point I should perhaps mention that the book does not discuss the differing opinions of various historians, which are crucial for academic readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction and overview of the Punic Wars?, 25 Jun 2014
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JPS - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
This book, while perhaps not perfect and containing some questionable statements, is probably the best introduction, overview and starting point for someone wanting to get to grips with the Punic Wars. It is also an excellent introduction to Rome’s dominance of the Mediterranean and of Roman imperialism, more generally, with these elements, and the “Roman way” of waging war, being the author’s real speciality.

Perhaps the main merit of this book is to clearly identify why Rome won the first two epic and lengthy wars according to Goldsworthy. As the author shows, Roman commanders and their legions and allies were not necessarily and inherently better than their Carthaginian opponents either on sea or even on land. What really made the difference was Roman relentlessness and the extraordinary level of commitment to fighting wars to the finish backed by a much larger manpower pool that they were willing to use until they had achieved a total and unquestionable victory. This included the ability to suffer appalling losses in both wars, and still refuse to make peace. This attitude that was very much at odds with that of any Hellenistic State, or any other state for that matter, in the Mediterranean, Carthage included.

The author also put emphasis on the fact that the Carthaginians not only expected Rome to admit that it was defeated, something that did not happen, but also on several occasions did not take full advantage of their victories and did not prosecute the war as aggressively as the Romans. This was evidenced during the First Punic War, with the author following Lazenby in showing that Carthage essentially reacted to Rome’s aggressiveness and never seem to have taken the initiative. This was particularly the case after their naval victory at Drepanum when they neither carried the war to Italy, as the Romans had invaded Africa a few years before, nor did they even seek to reconquer lost positions in Sicily, for instance Panormus (modern Palermo). Something similar happened during the Second Punic War during which Hannibal received almost no military reinforcements or support from Carthage during his very long presence in Southern Italy, with a single exception.

A related point is the almost total absence of the Carthaginian navy during the Second Punic War, something that the author explains by the lack of bases in both Sicily and Sardinia, since both had been lost to the Romans. While there were Carthaginian attempts to take them back, the general impression given in the book is that these were somewhat half-hearted and not fully prosecuted.

While the narrative of events is well told, and the main land and sea engagements are well-described, even if largely reliant on previous authors (Lazenby in particular, whose separate books on both the First and the Second Punic War are more detailed) it is because of these higher level strategic points that this book stands out, and it is because of this that it is more than simply an introduction and overview of the main events.

There are however a few “glitches”, although they may be relatively minor and peripheral to the main narrative. One of the most obvious ones is the author’s tendency to present the Roman victories against the Kings of Macedon and the Seleucids as almost “easy”, which was simply not the case. In particular, the Romans almost lost the battle of Magnesia and only triumphed because the Seleucid King did not properly exploit his successful cavalry charge which had broken one of the Roman legions facing him. Another related point is to present the Roman armies as being made up of “non-professional” citizen militia while curiously portraying the Hellenistic forces as made up of “professionals.” In both cases, this is rather misleading, given that the Roman forces on the 190s included a large proportion of veterans of the Second Punic War while the Hellenistic phalanxes were made up of soldier-farmers, in other words, they were also “citizen militias” (with the exception of the Royal Guards and, in the case of the Seleucids, the Argyraspides).

One last point is the narrative of the Third Punic War, which I found remarkable in several respects. As mentioned by the author, while the outcome of the war was never really in doubt, the Carthaginians did this time display outstanding determination since they were, quite literally, fighting for their survival and that of their city, homes and families. The rather desperate, dramatic and often successful efforts to stave off the inevitable outcome contrasts with what the author’s presents as the poor discipline of the Roman forces that their commanders, the younger Scipio included, seemed somewhat surprisingly either unable or unwilling to curtail.

I could not help wondering to what extent this last point, according to which the quality of Roman armies somewhat deteriorated once the generation that had fought during the Second Punic War was replaced, may have been somewhat exaggerated by the author and even questionable.

A close look at the Third Macedonian War that saw the demise of the Macedonian Kingdom or at the endemic conflicts and the major difficulties that Rome encountered in Spain shows that the Romans did not have it all their way. The author seems to have chosen to explain this by their lower performance. It seems to have also been because their adversaries were far from being “easy targets”, contrary to the impression that the author tends to give at times. What does seem clear, however, is that to the extent that the Romans kept up their relentless attitude towards war, any adversary that did not have both the same level of commitment and a pool of manpower as large as that of the Romans was bound to lose against them in the long run, even if imposing the “Pax Romana” could take almost a couple of centuries, as it did in Spain. Four solid stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 3 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I have a very happy chappy, who enjoyed reading this book whilst i enjoyed the beach holiday...no moans no groans of boredom..
Thank you seller for prompt delivery..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of Carthage, 23 July 2013
By 
Russ G. Mills - See all my reviews
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Another classic by Adrian Goldsworthy, well researched and a very good read for all enthusiasts of ancient history, specially the methodical Roman way of doing things and coming up trumps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of Carthage, 18 April 2011
This review is from: The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) (Paperback)
I enjoyed this history - very readable yet informative.

After an initial introduction the book is split into three parts ie the three punic wars. The section on naval warfare in the 1st Punic war was the reason I purchased the book and although only 30 pages long I was not disappointed.
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