How the West Was Won
We live in a Roman world. The Western Roman Empire disappeared 1,500 years ago, and the last remnant of the Eastern Empire winked out 40 years before Columbus stumbled upon the New World. But the language, law, architecture, and culture of Rome still suffuse our languages, laws, architecture, and culture. Its history is indispensable to understanding our own as heirs to the Western civilization that was created by Greece and Rome and that now dominates the world.
But all that did not have to be. Few things in history do. In the third and second centuries b.c.e., Rome fought three epic wars with Carthage, a city-state in what is today Tunisia. The first two wars (264–241 b.c.e. and 218–201 b.c.e.) were existential struggles, in which the advantage went back and forth several times before an exhausted Carthage had no choice but to sue an almost equally exhausted Rome for peace. Had Carthage won either war, the history of the West and thus the world would have been unimaginably different.
About the Author
John Steele Gordon’s article “Growth: The Only Way Out of This Mess,” appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.