Carthago delenda est

Cato the Censor (234–149 BC), the most persistent advocate in the Senate for the total destruction of Carthage, and associated with repeated use, in or out of its proper context, of the phrase Delenda est Carthago
Ruins in Carthage
The location of Carthage in North Africa

Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam ("Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed"), often abbreviated to Carthāgō dēlenda est ("Carthage must be destroyed") or Ceterum censeo, is a Latin oratorical phrase pronounced by Cato the Censor, a politician of the Roman Republic. The phrase originates from debates held in the Roman Senate prior to the Third Punic War (149–146 BC) between Rome and Carthage, where Cato is said to have used it as the conclusion to all his speeches in order to push for the war.

Grammatical analysis

The phrase employs delenda, the feminine singular gerundive form of the verb dēlēre ("to destroy").[1] The gerundive (or future passive participle) delenda is a verbal adjective that may be translated as "to be destroyed". When combined with a form of the verb esse ("to be"), it adds an element of compulsion or necessity, yielding "is to be destroyed", or, as it is more commonly rendered, "must be destroyed". The gerundive delenda functions as a predicative adjective in this construction,[2] which is known as the passive periphrastic.

The short form of the phrase, Carthago delenda est, is an independent clause. Consequently, the feminine singular subject noun Carthago appears in the nominative case.[3] The verb est[i] functions as a copula—linking the subject noun Carthago to the predicative verbal adjective delenda—and further imports a deontic modality to the clause as a whole.[4] Because delenda is a predicative adjective in relation to the subject noun Carthago, it takes the same number (singular), gender (feminine) and case (nominative) as Carthago.[5]

The fuller forms Ceterum censeo delendam esse Carthaginem and Ceterum autem censeo delendam esse Carthaginem use the so-called accusative and infinitive construction for the indirect statement. In each of these forms, the verb censeo ("I opine") sets up the indirect statement delendam esse Carthaginem ("[that] Carthage is to be destroyed").[6] Carthaginem, the subject of the indirect statement, is in the accusative case; while the verb esse is in its present infinitive form. Delendam is a predicate adjective in relation to the subject noun Carthaginem and thus takes the same number (singular); gender (feminine); and case (accusative) as Carthaginem.[7]

Historical background

Although Rome was successful in the first two Punic Wars,[8] as it vied for dominance with the seafaring Punic city-state of Carthage in North Africa (modern day Tunisia), it suffered a number of humiliations and damaging reverses in the course of these engagements, especially at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. Rome nonetheless managed to win the Second Punic War thanks to Scipio Africanus in 201 BC. After its defeat Carthage ceased to be a threat to Rome, and was reduced to a small territory, equivalent to what is now northeastern Tunisia.

However, in 152 BC Cato the Censor visited Carthage as a member of a senatorial embassy sent to arbitrate a conflict between the Punic city and Massinissa, the king of Numidia. Cato, a veteran of the Second Punic War, was shocked by Carthage's wealth, which he considered dangerous for Rome. He then restlessly called for its destruction, ending all his speeches with the phrase, even when the debate was on a completely different matter.[9] The senate refused to follow him though, especially Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum—the son-in-law of Scipio Africanus and the most influential senator. Corculum opposed the war in order to preserve Roman unity, arguing that the fear of a common enemy was necessary to keep the people in check.[10] Like Cato, he ended all his speeches with the same phrase, saying "Carthage must be saved" (Carthago servanda est).[11][12][13]

Cato finally won the debate after Carthage had attacked Massinissa, giving a casus belli to Rome, since the peace treaty of 201 BC prevented her from declaring war without Rome's assent.[14][15] In 146 BC, Carthage was razed by Scipio Aemilianus—Africanus' grandson—and its entire remaining population was sold into slavery. Africa then became a Roman province. The notion that Roman forces then sowed the city with salt is a 19th-century invention.[16][17][18]

Historical literary sources

No ancient source gives the phrase exactly as it is usually quoted in modern times (Carthago delenda est). Its current form was made by English and French scholars at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, while German scholars have used the longer "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse".[19] Ancient authors quote the phrase as follow:

Modern usage

The phrase is sometimes fully adapted in modern usage, as a learned reference to total warfare.[23] In 1673, the English minister Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury revived the phrase in the form "Delenda est Carthago" in a speech before Parliament during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, comparing England to Rome and the Dutch Republic to Carthage.[citation needed] In the 1890s, the London newspaper Saturday Review published several articles that expressed an anti-German sentiment, summed up in the quote Germania est delenda (Germany needs to be destroyed).[citation needed] In 1899, the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy retained the phrase's modern form "Carthago delenda est" for the title of a pacifist essay condemning war and militarism published in the liberal London newspaper The Westminster Gazette. [24] Jean Hérold-Paquis, a broadcaster on the German-controlled Radio Paris in occupied France between 1940 and 1944 had "England, like Carthage, shall be destroyed!" as his catchphrase.[citation needed] The phrase was used as the title for Alan Wilkins' 2007 play on the Third Punic War, and for a book about Carthaginian history by Richard Miles.

In its shortened form, a "ceterum censeo" refers to an often reiterated statement, usually a core belief of the one issuing it.

In Isaac Asimov's novel Robots and Empire Dr. Mandamus uses a note with the phrase in order to convince Kelden Amadiro to see him about his plan of destroying Earth, which they both consider the ultimate enemy of the Spacer worlds. In this case, the phrase is written as "Ceterum censeo, delenda est Carthago" and Mandamus translates it as "In my opinion, Carthage must be destroyed". A modified version of the phrase is used in the novel Peace on Earth by Stanisław Lem ("Ceterum censeo humanitatem preservandam esse"—"Furthermore, I consider that mankind must be saved").[25]

In Poul Anderson's short story Delenda Est time travelers meddling in the events of the Second Punic War create an Alternate History in which Western European civilization came to be based on a Celtic-Carthaginian cultural synthesis (rather than Greco-Roman, as in actual history).

The paraphrase of the words of Cato the Elder was often used by the Polish member of the European Parliament of the 8th term, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, at the end of his speeches. It was as follows: "And besides, I believe that the European Union shall be destroyed."[26]

The post-hardcore band Million Dead named a song ‘Carthage est delenda’ which appeared on their 2005 album Harmony No Harmony.

See also