The day a forced mar­riage de­stroys a world power

iD magazine - - History -

Massinissa, king of Nu­midia, cries out with rage. He has just learned that his fi­ancée, So­phon­isba, has been mar­ried to his great­est com­peti­tor: Syphax, the king of West Nu­midia. What sounds like a scene out of an an­cient soap opera will fun­da­men­tally change the his­tory of Europe: Rome will be­come a mighty world power— and Carthage will fall. But first thing’s first: In 218 BC the Sec­ond Pu­nic War gets un­der way be­tween Rome and Carthage, the two most pow­er­ful states in the Mediter­ranean. It is a stale­mate sit­u­a­tion; one must fall in or­der for the other to grow into an em­pire. And at first it does not look good for Rome. The leg­endary com­man­der Han­ni­bal crosses the Alps with his troops and in­flicts painful de­feats on Rome. In North Africa, Syphax is fight­ing on Rome’s side— but he is beaten by a tal­ented rider and forced to make peace with Carthage. The vic­to­ri­ous com­man­der’s name is King Massinissa of Nu­midia. He is promised the beau­ti­ful So­phon­isba’s hand in mar­riage. From then on Massinissa fights on the side of Han­ni­bal against the Ro­mans and brings them to the brink of ut­ter de­feat. But then Carthage’s lead­ers make a fatal mis­take: They break their prom­ise. In or­der to get their former op­po­nent Syphax on their side, they per­mit him to marry So­phon­isba. Massinissa vows re­venge— he switches sides to fight for Rome. With his help Ro­man troops land in North Africa and be­siege Carthage; Han­ni­bal must halt his cam­paign and re­treat. This marks Rome’s rise to su­per­power sta­tus. Massinissa be­comes king of a uni­fied Nu­midia; Carthage is de­stroyed in the Third Pu­nic War.

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