Carthago delenda est
"Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam", or "Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" (English: "Furthermore, (moreover) I consider that Carthage must be destroyed"), often abbreviated to "Carthago delenda est" (English: "Carthage must be destroyed"), is a Latin oratorical phrase pronounced by Cato the Censor, a famous 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.
The phrase employs delenda, the feminine singular gerundive form of the verb dēlēre ("to destroy"). 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, 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. 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. 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.
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"). 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.
Although Rome was successful in the first two Punic Wars, 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 famous phrase, even when the debate was on a completely different matter. 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. Like Cato, he ended all his speeches with the same phrase, saying "Carthage must be saved" (Carthago servanda est).
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. 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 legend that the city was sown with salt derives from a mistake that Bertrand Hallward made in the first edition of the Cambridge Ancient History.
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". Ancient authors quote the phrase as follow:
- Plutarch, in his biography of Cato in the Parallel Lives, written in Greek: "δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ Καρχηδόνα μὴ εἶναι."
- Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History: "[Cato] clamaret omni senatu Carthaginem delendam."
- Aurelius Victor in his De Viris Illustribus: "Carthaginem delendam censuit."
- Florus, in his Epitome of Livy: "Cato inexpiabili odio delendam esse Carthaginem… pronunciabat."
The phrase is sometimes fully adapted in modern usage, as a learned reference to total warfare. In 1673 the English minister Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury revived the phrase in the form "Delenda est Carthago" in a famous speech before Parliament during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, comparing England to Rome and the Dutch Republic to Carthage. 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). The pro-German radio station Radio Paris in occupied France between 1940 and 1944 had "England, like Carthage, shall be destroyed!" as its slogan. 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 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").
In Poul Anderson's short story Delenda Est time travellers meddling in the events of the Second Punic War create an Alternate History in which Western European civilisation came to be based on a Celtic-Carthaginian cultural synthesis (rather than Greco-Roman, as in actual history).
- Est is the third-person singular present active indicative form of the verb esse; here, the person (third) and number (singular) of the verb are controlled by the subject noun, Carthago.
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary, ed. Marchant & Charles.
- Betts, Gavin, Teach Yourself Latin, Sevenoaks, 1992, p.125, ISBN 978-0340867037
- Latin Case. Department of Classics - The Ohio State University. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. (noting that "[t]he nominative case is the case for the subject of the sentence.")
- To be clear, the semantic import of "Carthage is to be destroyed" is not "Carthage is scheduled for future destruction," but rather that "Carthage must be destroyed." The former is a flaccid recital of a future eventuality; the latter is a normative statement of what needs to happen, of moral desert. That is the deontic modality. See, e.g., Risselada, Rodie. Imperatives and Other Directive Expressions in Latin: A Study in the Pragmatics of a Dead Language. Brill Academic Publishers, 1993. p. 179. Print. (noting that the periphrastic gerundival construction "has a general deontic value.")
- Allen, J. H., Greenough, J. B., et al. Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges, PART FIRST — WORDS AND FORMS, ADJECTIVES. Perseus Digital Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. (noting that "[adjectives] agree with their nouns in gender, number, and case.")
- Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges, Part Second — Syntax, Indirect Discourse. Perseus Digital Library; accessed 13 Feb. 2016. (noting that "Verbs . . . of knowing, thinking, telling, and perceiving, govern the Indirect Discourse.")
- Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges, Part First — Words and Forms, Adjectives. Perseus Digital Library, accessed 13 Feb. 2016.
- "Third Punic War". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-10-13.
- Astin, Cato, pp. 267–288.
- Diodorus, xxxiv–xxxv. 33.
- Plutarch, Cato the Elder, 27.
- O'Gorman, "Cato the Elder", p. 111.
- John Jacobs, "From Sallust to Silius Italicus, Metvs Hostilis and the Fall of Rome in the Punica", in Miller & Woodman (eds.), Latin Historiography, p. 123.
- Adcock, "Delenda Est Carthago", pp. 125, 126.
- Vogel-Weidemann, "Carthago Delenda Est", p. 87.
- Ridley, "Pinch of Salt", p. 144.
- Vogel-Weidemann, "Carthago Delenda Est", pp. 79, 89 (note 4).
- Pliny, xv. 20.
- Aurelius Victor, 47. 8.
- Florus, Epitome, i. 31.
- ""Delenda est" shouldn't be destroyed". Archived from the original on June 25, 2006. Retrieved January 29, 2007.
- Stanislaw Lem (2002). Peace on Earth. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 178. ISBN 015602814X.
- Aurelius Victor, De Viris Illustribus Romae.
- Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica (Library of History).
- Florus, Epitome.
- Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder), Historia Naturalis (Natural History).
- Plutarch, Parallel lives.
- F. E. Adcock, "'Delenda Est Carthago'", in The Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1946), pp. 117–128.
- Alan E. Astin, Cato the Censor, Oxford University Press, 1978.
- John F. Miller & A. F. Woodman (editors), Latin Historiography and Poetry in the Early Empire, Leiden/Boston, Brill, 2010.
- Ellen O'Gorman, "Cato the elder and the destruction of Carthage", in Helios 31 (2004), pp. 96–123.
- R. T. Ridley, "To be Taken with a Pinch of Salt: The Destruction of Carthage", in Classical Philology, Vol. 81, No. 2 (Apr., 1986), pp. 140–146.
- Silvia Thürlemann, "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam", Gymnasium 81 (1974), pp. 465–476.
- Ursula Vogel-Weidemann, "Carthago Delenda Est: Aita and Prophasis", in Acta Classica XXXII (1989), pp. 79–95.