This bold phraseological article called Leo Tolstoy called this phraseologism. The classic eighteen years before the beginning of the First World War sharply remarked that the governments and military leaders of the countries of Europe are inexorably moving towards a terrible man-hating slaughter. He urged "the best people of Europe" to stop the belligerent ardor of those in power, who are trying in pride to launch a "criminal, useless and senseless war between civilized powers."

It is no coincidence that a world-class classic referred to these words with a two-thousand-year history.

Carthage as a rival of Rome

Where did the catchphrase “Carthage be destroyed” come from and what does it mean? The ancient half-million city, built in 814 BC. er located in the territory of modern Tunisia, was the capital of the eponymous Phoenician kingdom. The favorable geographical position - on the Mediterranean coast - contributed to the development of crafts and trade. Judge for yourself about his riches: on the map below, the possessions of Carthage are colored dark blue.

Carthage idiom must be destroyed: meaning

In 264 BC. er the Phoenicians had a powerful opponent in the Mediterranean. By this time, Rome, having conquered all of Italy, up to its borders with Gaul, had become a mighty power. His foreign policy implied an all-out war.

Briefly about the Punic Wars

It was precisely because of the conflict of geopolitical interests that Rome and Carthage clashed in the three Punic Wars later. Obviously, the expression “Carthage must be destroyed” could only be pronounced by a Roman. The initial stumbling block for the two ancient superpowers was the strategically important island of Sicily, located at the intersection of the main trade maritime routes.

As a result of this collision in 146 BC. er Phoenician Carthage was defeated, and its capital was really burned and ravaged. An interesting fact: the place where the city stood, the Romans even sprinkled with salt. According to ancient belief, it had to be done in order to suppress the welfare of these places, so that there would no longer be peace there.

Moreover, the idea that Carthage should be destroyed, the Romans during the war carried out more and more consistently. Perhaps the main reason for this was the Second Punic War, which they themselves called the "war with Hannibal." These battles ended with the victory of the Romans, but there were moments when the scales of fortune were leaning toward the Phoenicians.

War veteran becomes consul

In particular, Hannibal, a brilliant commander and tactician of Carthage, was surrounded and defeated by a superior Roman army in Carthage by Cannes. After this fiasco, Rome restored its legions for a long time.

It is characteristic that after three decades after the end of the Second Punic War the expression “Carthage must be destroyed” was pronounced. Who said these words? This expression, which became winged, was uttered by the famous Roman immortalized in sculpture, who managed to turn from a plebeian into a consul of the Empire. During the war with Hannibal, thanks to his courage and composure, he managed to rise from a simple soldier to a centurion. The career of the future politician and writer has developed due to the favor of the noble Romans from the Valerie Flakkov family.

His memory for life imprinted the horror of the defeat of the Romans at Cannes. The outcome of the battle, which turned into a 12-hour slaughter, was decided by the heavy Carthaginian cavalry. She crushed and routed the Roman cavalry, covered the army, and then hit it from the rear, creating a crush, tightness and disrupting the formation. However, Rome still managed to win the Second Punic War, having won in its subsequent battles.

Patriot of Rome

Three decades after the Second Punic War, Marc Portius Cato uttered the catch phrase in the Roman Senate: "Carthage must be destroyed."

And each of his speech, regarding any topic of public affairs of the Empire, he ended up with exactly the same phrase. What to say about this? The proverb comes to mind: "water wears away a stone." Soon this position of the consul was followed by the entire state policy. And the shortest of all the Punic Wars began - the third. She lasted 4 years.

Marc Porcius Caton, a famous man in Rome, was respected for the fact that, despite his high status, he remained ascetic, like a warrior, and principled like a centurion. At his request, several consuls were excluded from the Senate, and the riders' class was also deprived of its social status. His efforts were legally limited to spending the Roman aristocracy on luxury items.

Indeed, the phrase “Carthage must be destroyed” could have been said by a person who, regardless of status, remained a soldier of Rome in his heart for all his life.

Politician from God

Marc Portia Cato was a visionary pro-Roman politician. He clearly saw the main threats to statehood. The first of these was the Mediterranean rival power - Carthage, which has significant, comparable to the Roman potential. The second threat lurked inside Rome itself - the loss of controllability and development vector due to the over-enthusiasm of the patricians with luxury and debauchery. Strictly speaking, this subsequently became the main reason for the fall of Rome. All the speeches of Mark Cato in the Senate were directed against these challenges of statehood.

The phrase “Carthage must be destroyed” was repeated by him hundreds of times before it was fully realized.


Naturally, the modern reading of a phraseological unit differs from the original one. As an insistent call to overcome the challenge or to crush the obstacle, the phrase “Carthage must be destroyed” is perceived today. The meaning of a phraseological unit in the narrow sense is also interpreted as a constant return to the main issue when discussing any minor ones.