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Carthage Compared with Rome

Now the Carthaginian constitution seems to me
Rome fresher than Carthage;
originally to have been well contrived in these most distinctively important particulars. For they had kings,1 and the Gerusia had the powers of an aristocracy, and the multitude were supreme in such things as affected them; and on the whole the adjustment of its several parts was very like that of Rome and Sparta. But about the period of its entering on the Hannibalian war the political state of Carthage was on the decline,2 that of Rome improving. For whereas there is in every body, or polity, or business a natural stage of growth, zenith, and decay; and whereas everything in them is at its best at the zenith; we may thereby judge of the difference between these two constitutions as they existed at that period. For exactly so far as the strength and prosperity of Carthage preceded that of Rome in point of time, by so much was Carthage then past its prime, while Rome was exactly at its zenith, as far as its political constitution was concerned. In Carthage therefore the influence of the people in the policy of the state had already risen to be supreme, while at Rome the Senate was at the height of its power: and so, as in the one measures were deliberated upon by the many, in the other by the best men, the policy of the Romans in all public undertakings proved the stronger; on which account, though they met with capital disasters, by force of prudent counsels they finally conquered the Carthaginians in the war.

1 The Carthaginian Suffetes are always called βασιλεῖς by the Greek writers: see 3, 33, note; Herod. 7, 165; Diod Sic. 14, 53. Aristotle [Pol. 2, 11], in contrasting the Spartan and Carthaginian constitutions, mentions with approval that, unlike the Spartan kings, those at Carthage were elected, and were not confined to a particular family.

2 See Bosworth Smith, Carthage and the Carthaginians, p. 26 ff.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 33.46
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 2.1273a
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.53
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.165
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