Ancient Worlds (2010) s01e05 Episode Script

The Republic of Virtue

They say that when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
But in the history of the ancient world what, exactly, did the Romans do? The story of Ancient Rome is a familiar one.
The dynamic Republic which was transformed into the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and which laid the foundations of Western civilisation.
But what was it about Ancient Rome that made is so different from the civilisations that had gone before.
One clue lies in the word "civilisation".
It comes from civis, which means "citizen", a Latin word, not Greek or Punic, Babylonian or Akkadian, or any of the mother-tongues of the great civilisations.
What Rome managed to achieve had never been done before.
It created a civilisation for export.
Civilisation is so much more than just culture.
Culture is eminently exportable, as the Hellenistic kings that came after Alexander the Great had shown.
If the Romans wanted culture, they knew they could go to the market place and buy it from some clever Greek.
Meanwhile they were free to focus on something far more complex than sculpture or philosophy.
Politics - civilisation's dark arts.
The senate, the law courts, and, when all else failed, the battlefield.
These were the places where Roman civilisation was forged.
Along the way they developed systems and institutions, from law to engineering, that were pragmatic, durable and free from the clutter of ideology or dogma.
Rome was no utopia on the Tiber.
There was no philosopher-king who had planned the civilisation that had been hammered out here.
It was a familiar story of crude improvisation and blind panic as the elite desperately clung on to power, and the masses boiled and seethed.
At the same time, external enemies menaced both.
But Rome's response to these crises was entirely unfamiliar.
Rome didn't merely conquer the world, it transformed the world into Rome.
They made their enemies an offer they couldn't refuse, the chance to become "Roman", and this turned out to be the key to the success of a civilisation that would spread from the banks of the Tiber to the frontiers of the ancient world.
So the story begins with a bunch of insignificant hill villages in the back of beyond and ends with a mighty Republican empire.
But things are never as simple as that, are they? After the Romans had conquered the world, the only people they had left to defeat were themselves.
In the first glimpses we get of Rome it's impossible to see the greatness that lay in its future.
In the Dark Ages that followed the collapse of Bronze Age civilisations, it was just another cluster of clannish villages, fighting for survival.
But at least the Romans had chosen a good spot for their city.
Situated in Latium in central Italy on a group of seven hills, it was the best crossing point of the River Tiber.
Like Sparta, geography made Rome into a land power, a nation of foot-sloggers, and its USP was its strategic position, one of central Italy's most important trade routes.
Then, as now, Rome was awash with foreigners.
Archaic central Italy was a fluid world.
People moved freely between cities and Rome became a real melting pot.
Rome soon began to develop the institutions and public spaces that we identify with urban civilisation.
Planned streets, temples and a forum.
These friezes show the early history of the city.
Now, uncovering the early history of any civilisation is difficult, but with Rome it's very complicated indeed because of its longevity and success.
Later Roman historians clearly embellished the early history of Rome to disguise its humble beginnings.
After all, any great city needed a great history.
You can tell a lot about a society from the stories they tell about themselves.
As creation myths go, the legend of Romulus and Remus is revelatory.
The Romans clearly liked to see themselves as a product of the school of hard knocks.
The twin brothers had been chucked into the Tiber to drown by their great uncle, and were washed up at the future site of Rome where a maternal-minded she-wolf took over their upbringing.
What could have been a heart warming story of adversity overcome had a sting in the tale.
Romulus and Remus fell out with one another and Romulus, in a fit of pique, murdered Remus, spilling his blood all over the foundations of his fledgling city.
For later Romans, who knew all about the civil wars that had wracked their city, that Rome had been born out of bloody fratricide would have seemed very fitting.
Rome's early history reflects two abiding obsessions.
The first was the threat from external forces and the second was internal dissension.
Weakness in the face of either could lead to only one thing, tyranny.
The Romans were instinctive king-haters.
Very early on, they threw out their hereditary monarchs, a historic moment recalled in another important creation myth, the Rape of Lucretia.
Instead of a kingdom, Rome presented itself to the world as a Republic, from the Latin meaning "public affairs".
And the component parts of this public affair were memorably summarised by the initials SPQR, which can still be seen all over Rome today.
Senatus Populusque Romanus.
The Senate and the Roman people, a simple resonant phrase, the source of all authority for the actions of the Roman Republic, but also one which masked all the unresolved tensions between the strong and the weak, the powerful and the powerless and the haves and the have-nots.
As we've already seen in our story of the ancient world, when societies give up on the simple hierarchies derived from royal dynasties, politics instantly becomes more complex and more unstable.
The Roman Republic was no exception.
Rome's political machine consisted of two consuls, or magistrates, elected by the Senate and the People, who held office together for a year at a time.
This deceptively simple system was designed to ensure that no single individual became too powerful, but from it the Romans span a tangled web of intrigue, power plays, backroom deals and back-stabbings.
Politics as usual, in other words.
The Roman Republican constitution was a slightly creaking, crackpot affair designed just to keep the show on the road.
The SPQR rulebook turned Roman politics into a kind of bicycle race.
Contenders hung back, jockeying for position, until someone suddenly made a break for the front.
And then it was every man for himself.
But although elite Romans were hard-wired to achieve power and glory, the genius of the Roman system was that it managed to avoid competitiveness turning into a free for all, thanks to another set of rules.
A moral code that expressed the noble Roman ethos - courage, clemency, wisdom, duty, modesty, gravitas.
And the moral authority underpinning the Republic of Virtue was enforced from beyond the grave.
For the budding Roman senator, the words and deeds of his ancestors provided the standard to which his behaviour should aspire and the measure by which his achievements would be judged.
These tombs date to the Republican period and the first thing you notice is that the Romans were buried as families.
So this is the Quintilii.
Here we have the Clodiae.
Looking at these two guys' ears they are definitely from the same family.
Perhaps the most important thing of all for the Roman aristocrat was to compete politically, not just for their own individual honour but also for the honour of their family, because the big senatorial families were like brands, and the brand with each generation needed to remain strong.
The long shadow cast by venerable ancestors was impossible to shake, especially as their memory was immortalised by wax-effigies which were paraded at regular intervals.
Whatever achievements a Roman aristocrat could point to, the dead were never satisfied.
But there was a problem with this in built huger for political office and individual glory - there simply weren't enough jobs to go around.
For instance, the most senior office, consul, there were only two of those a year and that meant that somebody was always going to miss out.
So there was an in-built tension between on the one hand the desire for individual glory and the other, the stability and coherence that the state needed.
And then there was that second initial in SPQR.
P for populus, the people.
CHEERING The masses, the plebeians, were no passive bystanders and were willing to fight for their share of the power.
In 495 BC, the Senate and the people had a falling out.
The plebeians withdrew to the Sacred Mount in the north of the city and declared a kind of general strike of farmers, craftsmen and critically, soldiers.
Faced with losing virtually its whole army, the Senate offered a compromise - the creation of a Popular Tribunate.
Each year, two plebeian tribunes were elected to protect the interests of the people in the Senate.
The plebs now had a stake in the success of their city and a source of their identity.
It's a spirit which still lies at the heart of the Roman working class psyche.
Un caffe, per favore.
Ah, Lenin e Totti.
One of the things about the Romans was their extreme attachment to the actual city of Rome, not since Athens had a city played such a central part in the fate of a state.
Alexander's murderous trail across the globe, the Phoenicians' merchant spirit, the wandering Persian court, all announced the essential mobility of power.
"L'etat, c'est moi.
" But for the Romans, Rome would remain an obsession throughout their long history.
This Roman obsession with their city can be pegged to one humiliating event.
In 390 BC, a horde of Celts from northern Italy marched southwards, crushed the Roman army and sacked Rome.
A small number of defenders managed to hold out up here on the Capitoline Hill and they only got away with it because of the sacred geese that were kept up here, who started honking when the Celts tried to get up the hill.
But even they had to surrender eventually and the Celts only left the city after the payment of a large sum of gold.
But the pragmatic Romans were always open to the lessons that adversity teaches.
The marauding Celts taught them that a dramatic shift in strategy was required if national security was to be achieved, and the key lay in its treatment of its neighbours.
In the past, when Rome had defeated its neighbours in war, it followed the time-honoured traditions of pillage, plunder and enslavement.
But now the Romans realised that the way forward was to absorb their vanquished neighbours rather than pillaging them.
From now on, defeated enemies in Latium would be turned into Romans and their territory turned into Rome.
Generally in the Hellenistic world, territory was there to be conquered but at the same time if circumstance dictated it could also be given up, easy come, easy go.
But with the Romans, it was very different.
All territory that Rome conquered immediately became Roman land, as Roman as the city of Rome itself.
The ancient world had never seen anything quite like this.
The Romans had re-written the rule book.
They came, they saw, they conquered and then they assimilated.
Rome's wars with its neighbours also helped to forge and refine the signature weapon of Ancient Rome - the legion, that formidable conscript army with its Centurions and Eagles, its hob-nailed sandals and its gladius, the short stabbing sword that ripped through the opposition ranks in close quarter fighting.
As one by one the Samnites, the Etruscans and the city-states of Campania fell, the tactics, efficiency and dogged resilience of Rome's legionaries increased.
But best of all, their numbers increased too as defeated enemies became assimilated fellow-citizens, available for conscription into the ranks.
One of Rome's enemies complained that it was like fighting against a hydra.
A hydra was a mythical beast with many heads and each time you cut a head off, a brand new one grew back.
Well, he had a point because any allies that were given Latin rights were also expected to supply troops for the Roman army.
So each time Rome conquered a new bit of territory, the Roman army was replenished.
By the second century BC, over half the army was made up of non-Romans.
Rome was transformed from being just another city state in central Italy to an irresistible force.
The scale of Rome's conquests were massive.
It's been calculated that by the early years of the third century BC, Rome controlled more than 14,000 squares kilometres of territory.
That was two and a half times more than it had done 50 years previously.
And there were riches too.
In 293, a triumph was held to celebrate the final victory over the Samnites and amongst the spoils of war were over 1800 pounds of silver and over £2.
5 million of bronze.
The benefits to Rome were clear for all to see.
Ostentatious new temples were built at the Largo Argentina and the Field of Mars.
Through ruthless conquest and clever politics, a cluster of insignificant hill villages had become a city.
Now the task was to build a civilisation.
The brutal realities of war and conquest were followed by a very efficient system of incorporating subject populations, based on a series of legal rights, privileges and responsibilities.
Under Rome, civilisation as a tool of imperialism at last came of age.
The success of Rome was built on systems and infrastructures, not theories.
The Romans took the machinery of civilisation, stripped it down and reassembled it in new, more efficient forms that really delivered.
This was never more apparent than in the arena of the law.
Law was one of the great building blocks of Roman civilisation.
The Roman legal system was one of the most sophisticated and enlightened of the ancient world.
It was the mortar that held together its ever-expanding empire and gave its citizens, both great and small, the confidence that they'd have recourse to justice.
There had been laws before, from the Mesopotamians to the Greeks, but these were usually little more than pious platitudes about the protection of widows and orphans.
Rome took the principles of justice for all and embodied them in a fully-fledged legal system.
As early as the mid 5th century BC, the earliest Roman laws were published in the form of the "12 Tables", after a Plebeian Tribune called for laws to be written down, to prevent wealthy Senators from exploiting their position and seizing property.
It was from this that the legal principle that property is sacred developed.
In Roman society, it didn't matter who you were or where you were from, you had rights and opportunities, even if you were a slave.
Rome, like every other ancient civilisation, had huge numbers of slaves, but the difference with the Romans was that it wasn't a question of once a slave, always a slave.
"Stop, oh, traveller, "and turn left to the tomb.
" I presume it's that tomb over there.
"There lies the remains of a good and merciful man, a lover of the poor.
" "Gaius Ateilius Evhodus, "freed man of Serrano, "seller of pearls on the Via Sacra.
" This is a wonderful and touching example of the opportunities the Roman Empire offered to all sorts of different kinds of people, not only to foreigners, but also to people who had once been slaves, who'd won their freedom and since then had prospered.
In this fluid social world, everything was possible.
The National Archaeological Museum in Naples has a curious memorial, which offers an insight into how citizens' rights, once gained, could be handed down the generations.
This inscription records that Numerius Popidius Celsinus paid for the reconstruction of part of the Temple of Isis at Pompeii after it had been destroyed in an earthquake.
As a reward, he was allowed to join the town council.
Now there are thousands of inscriptions like this, but this one is rather strange because Celsinus was only six years old.
Now the reason why his name appears on the inscription was because his father was a freed man and as a freed man he wasn't allowed to join the town council, but his son, as a Roman citizen from birth, could.
So money lay at the heart of social mobility in the Roman Empire.
But Rome's masterstroke was the way in which it translated the benefits of its civilisation into bricks and mortar.
Public works, the like of which the world had never seen before.
These weren't just showcase pieces, like temples and palaces, they were massive infrastructure projects, like the famous road network, which turned Rome into a joined-up world.
The first of these carriageways was this, the Appian Way, built in 312 BC to connect Rome with Campania, the "blessed countryside.
" "The queen of long roads", as it was known, spanned 560 kilometres, eventually reaching Brundisium in the south.
A superhighway for trade and troops, whichever circumstances required.
Running alongside the roads were the aqueducts, those great monuments to the Roman values of public works and utility, which brought that most basic requirement for life, clean drinking water, to the people.
The great and the good were justly proud of their aqueducts.
A leading senator, Sextus Julius Frontinus, wrote, "I ask you! "Just compare with the vast monuments of this vital aqueduct network, those useless Pyramids, "or the good for nothing tourist attractions of the Greeks!" As Rome's empire grew over the centuries, the aqueduct became the ultimate symbol of Roman civilisation.
From North Africa to Gaul, Roman engineers made their mark on the landscape and improved the quality of life.
And they were built to last.
Deep beneath Rome, an underground aqueduct still serves the needs of SPQR.
My guide is caver Vittorio Colombo.
So, Vittorio, this is actually a Roman aqueduct? Yes, indeed.
Ancient Rome had 11 aqueducts and this is the only one that is still in operation after 2,000 years, bringing one cubic metre of water every second.
This is the only one that is completely underground and that's why it is still in operation because the Barbarians didn't destroy it.
In 19 BC, this was built? Exactly.
So, the time of Augustus? Yes.
It was built in order to provide water to the thermal bath, the first big, public thermal bath in Rome.
It was exactly what made Rome great, because quality of life was for everybody and was public.
Water from the Vergine aqueduct is today used to supply some of Rome's best loved fountains.
The Romans' insatiable appetite for such public works was born out of two things.
Their extreme competitive ethos and an over-riding sense of something called "Civilitas".
It's a word which defined them as Romans.
Civilitas meant far more than just politeness.
It also meant being a good citizen of Rome.
But as Rome's conquests mounted, so did the pressure, both internal and external, on this delicate status quo.
In the ancient world, successful civilisations stayed successful by expansion, through conquest, alliance or absorption.
Rome was no exception.
With Italy under its control, it looked for the next frontier to cross.
Sicily was the obvious place to look.
A fair, fat, fertile triangle of territory, separated from the Italian mainland by just three kilometres of the Messina Straits.
Sicily was not only agriculturally rich, but its sea ports were key stopping off points on the lucrative trading routes linking Greece, Italy and North Africa.
So it made sense both militarily and politically for Rome to expand into Sicily.
But there was a problem The Western half of the island was controlled by the greatest superpower of the age, Carthage.
If Rome wanted to compete there, it was going to have to move up into the premier league.
Sicily had long been ethnically divided between Phoenician and indigenous cities in the west and Greek city states in the east.
From the fifth century BC onwards, Carthage regularly had to send armies to protect its allies here, particularly from Syracuse, the most powerful and warlike of the Greek city states.
The reasons once again would be primarily economic.
The old Phoenician colonies on the western coast of Sicily were essential staging posts on the lucrative Tyrrhenian trade routes, which Carthage had long controlled.
They needed to be held whatever the cost and the cost would be high.
Business in the ancient world was heavily militarised.
Trading monopolies were fought for and trade routes fiercely defended.
The Carthaginians had built an empire on their network of fortress-like trading posts, manned by mercenary armies.
No greedy Greek or upstart Roman would be permitted to muscle in.
We often tend to think as the Carthaginians as being a bit dull compared to the glittering cultural achievements of the Greeks and the Roman imperial juggernaut.
A nation of shop keepers hawking their wares across the Mediterranean, but that is to entirely miss the point.
Brava, brava.
The city of Carthage, on the coast of modern day Tunisia, had its own ideas about civilisation and the way its world should be run.
With historic roots that led directly back to the great trading cities of Phoenicia, Carthage, was a sea-based power and its attitudes were shaped by the fluidity and mobility of that element.
The Romans were armed lawyers, whose instinct was to get and to hold territory, turning the world into Rome.
The Carthaginians were armed merchants.
Their instinct was to build and maintain trade networks, turning the world into a market, controlled by Carthage.
Rome and Carthage offered real alternatives as imperial systems.
Rome was more like an all-inclusive club with heavy obligations, but also generous rewards.
Carthage, well it was more like a loyalty card with defined economic benefits, but little else required of its members.
There were cultural differences too and one in particular would become a weapon in Rome's propaganda war against Carthage - child sacrifice.
I worked here in the Tophet in Carthage in the 1990s and by complete accident, we found 50 of these urns.
When we opened one of them up, we found tiny finger rings that could only fit on children, and other small bits of jewellery, as well as charred, very small human bones.
I had to sleep in a room with those urns for three weeks after that.
I've got to admit, I didn't sleep very well.
The archaeological evidence is hotly-contested.
On one side, you have those that see the Tophet as a child cemetery.
On the other, those that see it as a sacrificial area.
But I think both sides can agree on one thing, it's time to move on from seeing the Carthaginians as callous baby killers.
The Tophet was a place where pious people came to offer up to their gods, the thing that was most precious to them - their children.
Carthage and Rome first came to blows in Sicily - the jewel in the crown of the Carthaginian Empire.
The conflict between the two regional superpowers was a world war that would rage, on and off, for more than a century - the longest in the history of the ancient world.
And Rome would emerge from the conflict transformed from a Republic into an Empire.
The first Punic War, as Rome's war with Carthage would be known, dragged on for over 20 years.
Sicily was the main battlefield, but neither side achieved a decisive victory on land.
The island's rugged terrain hampered the Roman legions' attempts to steamroller the mercenary armies of Carthage.
The Carthaginian stronghold of Eryx, rising 750 metres above the plains of western Sicily, shows just how tough it must have been for the Roman forces.
The fields below the fortress are littered with the debris from Roman siege engines.
Archaeologists Nicola Savalli and Pierfrancesco Vecchio have unearthed hundreds of catapult balls.
Just underneath the surface, 20 centimetres or something, a lot of these catapult balls.
So this is the remains of the heavy artillery? Yeah, yeah.
What sort of damage would something like this do to a city wall? They have to use this one, like to make the first break.
So in other words you'd need quite a lot of these before you managed to loosen or weaken the walls? Yeah.
And just behind you, I notice there are a lot of tiny ones - what are these for? Yeah, the little artillery.
The frombolieri, as we say in Italian.
Slingshot? Yeah, the slingshot.
Part of the Carthaginian army was made by the Spanish frombolieri.
From the Balearic islands? Yeah.
The Spanish ones were the best for launching these kind of missiles.
Imagine that in my head.
So that would kill a man? Yeah.
For sure.
So it was a real war of attrition between the two sides? Yeah, that's it.
For ten years.
The stalemate would be broken at sea - though few would have predicted the eventual winner in this specialist arena.
The Carthaginians reigned supreme at sea - it was the source of their wealth, and the fabric of their empire, and they policed it with the most formidable war fleet in the Mediterranean.
Behind that fleet lay ship-building expertise that went back centuries.
Now this is a Carthaginian warship and even though it is a small one, about 120 tons, it still took 68 oarsmen to power this through the water.
But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this boat is that archaeologists found Punic lettering written onto the planks, and this was perhaps to help non-specialists to assemble it, so in many respects, this is like a flat-pack warship.
But Carthaginian ingenuity proved to be their undoing.
The Romans may have been landlubbing farmers, but they recognised a good idea when they saw it.
When they captured an intact Carthaginian warship, the flat-pack numbering system gave them the blueprint for their own fleet, and they copied the design, plank by plank.
However, it's one thing to own a fleet, it's quite another to know how to use it.
In their first naval encounter, commanded by the Roman Consul, Scipio, aptly nicknamed Asina, "the ass", the Romans came here with a small fleet of 17 ships and captured the main port of the Lipari Islands, here.
However they soon found themselves hemmed in by a much larger Carthaginian fleet, and Scipio panicked and fled for land.
The Roman fleet was burnt to a cinder - an inauspicious, but hardly unexpected start to Roman naval history.
But the dogged Romans weren't going to be daunted by a mere naval disaster.
They had more ships to play with, and some nautical ingenuity of their own.
The basic rules of naval warfare in this period were to get as close as you could to the enemy ship, and to ram it and eventually, hopefully, sink it.
But that takes both skill and experience.
And the Romans had neither at the start of the first Punic War.
So they needed to find another way of evening out the odds.
What they designed was this - it's known as the Corvus, or "crow", which is essentially a giant gang plank held up in the air by a series of pulleys with a large spike on its underside.
When they got close enough to the Carthaginian ship, they'd cut the pulley and the whole gang plank would come thudding down on the Carthaginian deck, and then the Roman marines would charge across, and you'd end up essentially with a land battle.
Ingenious and very effective.
And the Corvus actually worked.
Just off the Sicilian coast here at Mylae, a very over-confident Carthaginian fleet was lured into a trap by the Romans, and almost completely destroyed.
It must have been a terrible humiliation to be defeated by these Johnny-come-latelies.
More pain was to follow for the Carthaginians.
Just off Cape Ecnomus, the largest naval battle of the ancient world took place.
It proved to be a pivotal moment in round one of Rome versus Carthage.
The Roman hydra defeated the Carthaginian shark, and before long, Sicily would be the off-shore treasure island of the new Republican Empire.
But the greatest consequence of the first Punic War was that the Romans went from being a nation of landlubbers, who didn't know one end of a trireme from another, to calling the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum - "Our Sea".
But if the Romans surprised the Carthaginians by defeating them at sea the first time around, it was Carthaginians who sprang all the surprises when the two sides went to war again 23 years later.
That was thanks to one extraordinary man whose successes on the battlefield would turn Roman animosity towards Carthage into a bone-deep, unrelenting, pathological hatred.
The second Punic War was no re-run of the first.
Such was the Roman domination of the Mediterranean that there were virtually no naval battles, but in Hannibal Barca, the Romans would fight against one of the greatest generals of the ancient world.
From his base in southern Spain, and financed by the Carthaginian silver mines there, Hannibal decided to take the war into the Romans' own back yard, in Italy.
But to do that, he would first have to cross the Alps.
It's only actually when you're here you get a sense of the greatness of Hannibal's achievement in crossing this mighty mountain range.
To make matters worse, winter was fast closing in when Hannibal and his troops finally reached the Alps.
With snow falling around them, man and beast struggled to keep their footing on the narrow, slippery, precipitous pathways.
And the elephants, in particular, although the stars of the battlefield, were hardly ideal climbing companions.
In fact, only one of these mighty beasts actually made it to Italy.
With or without elephants, in Italy, Hannibal ran the Roman legions ragged, culminating in the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC.
The Roman losses were stupendous - one general, over 80 members of the Senate, virtually the whole of their senior command and virtually all of their best legions.
Cannae was a total bloody disaster.
Hannibal didn't just outmanoeuvre Rome on the battlefield.
He made advances on the political front that threatened the very fabric of Roman unity.
Cannae appeared to change everything, with several Italian cities reassessing their relationship with Rome.
One such place was Capua, the richest and most populous city in Campania.
Hannibal got them onside by promising that once he'd conquered Italy, that Capua, rather than Rome, would be capital.
Humiliated on the battlefield, and with ancient allies threatening to desert the banner of SPQR, Rome seemed destined for a repeat of the disaster of 175 years before, when the Celts sacked its sacred capital.
However, in one of history's great mysteries, the Carthaginian general did not march into the city and finish the Romans off for good.
In not going for the jugular, Hannibal was merely following the rules of warfare of the day.
The idea wasn't to annihilate your enemy, merely to force them to the negotiating table.
And if Hannibal thought the Romans were finished, then he was very much mistaken.
Rome had no reverse gear.
INTERCOM ANNOUNCEMEN The thing about the Romans was they always had the ability to come back, each time harder than the last.
In Scipio Africanus, they had a general who was more than a match for Hannibal's talents.
He defeated the Carthaginian general on his home turf, at the Battle of Zama.
The Carthaginians had somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and the Romans would make them pay dearly.
There could be no question of the usual Roman strategy of assimilation.
Hannibal had traumatised Rome so deeply that all it could think of was how to further hurt and humiliate its defeated enemy.
Rome wanted to squeeze Carthage until the pips squeaked.
They imposed a war indemnity of 10,000 talents of silver - ten times more than the indemnity they had to pay at the end of the first Punic War.
Carthage was also forbidden from waging war without Rome's permission.
The idea was to turn Carthage into a Roman client state, but once again the Romans had completely underestimated Carthage's entrepreneurial vigour.
Stripped of its military power, Carthage got its retaliation in by staging a remarkable economic revival, but this merely served to stoke Roman paranoia.
One senator, Cato, ended each and every speech he made with the implacable statement, "Delenda est Carthago", "Carthage must be destroyed!" The Carthaginians were clearly expecting trouble.
Behind me, over there amongst the trees, they built an ingenious naval complex.
At the front was a normal commercial harbour, but behind was a military port with enough room for 170 warships.
It was all cleverly camouflaged away from prying Roman eyes.
But subterfuge on this scale couldn't last for long.
When the Romans learned of the harbour's existence, there could be only one conclusion - "Delenda est Carthago".
Rome paved the way for the destruction of Carthage with a series of demands, each more onerous than the last.
It culminated in the outrageous command that the Carthaginians abandon their city, and found a new settlement ten miles away from the sea.
The Carthaginians had lived here by the sea for 700 years as a great naval nation and they were not prepared to let that change.
Carthage mobilised to resist the onslaught.
Public spaces were turned into armouries.
But nothing could save Carthage.
It took three years of brutal siege, but in the end, the city fell to Scipio Aemilianus in the fateful year 146 BC.
Carthage had come back twice from defeat.
This time, the Romans made sure it would stay defeated.
They offered what has become known as a "Carthaginian Peace" - unconditional surrender followed by utter destruction, an ancient Hiroshima that would raze the city of Carthage to the ground.
In order to flush out the defenders, Scipio set fire to the city.
Such was the intensity of the heat that you can still see the scorch marks on the walls here.
There were so many corpses clogging the streets that Scipio had to employ cleaning squads to drag the bodies out of the way.
Eventually, it all became too much, and after an heroic resistance, 50,000 Carthaginians left the city for the last time, and went into a life of miserable slavery.
The remaining diehards were killed in the flames.
Scipio then put a curse on the city and on anyone who decided to rebuild it.
Carthage was not the only great city to be destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC.
That same year, the wealthy Greek port of Corinth was captured, looted and burned, after its citizens revolted.
The destruction of Carthage and Corinth, two of the greatest cities of the ancient world, stood as brutal reminders of the bloody consequences of resisting Rome, whilst at the same time providing an apocalyptic fanfare for Rome's coming of age as a world power.
The Romans were now the masters of their universe.
The whole Italian peninsula had been Romanised - the fertile triangle of Sicily had been won.
The political and military power of the Greeks had been neutralised.
The Carthaginians had been crushed.
In the western Mediterranean, Rome ruled over everyone that mattered - except itself.
Members of the Senate might have fondly imagined that things would go back to the way they had always been, but this vast new empire, with its huge wealth, meant that things would never be the same again.
Maybe the Romans should have consulted the Greeks, who could have told them cautionary tales of what happens to the stability of societies when the spoils of war come home by the wagon-load.
In Rome, things followed a well-worn path - the fat cats got the lion's share, the rest were left with scraps.
Senators used their new-found wealth to kick their fellow citizens off their family farms in order to create huge estates.
The naked politics behind the pious myth of SPQR was cruelly exposed.
But there were two idealistic senators who were determined to fight for that myth - Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus.
The issue they chose to adopt was the most controversial of its day - land reform.
And the Gracchi were prepared to bend the rules to get what they wanted.
Ignoring the senate, they passed land reform legislation through the Popular Assembly.
The enraged Senate responded by tearing up the rule-book altogether.
Tiberius was beaten to death.
His brother Gaius was later stabbed to death.
The bodies of both were thrown in the Tiber.
The murder of the Gracchi was the original sin of the Roman Republic, its fall from grace.
These dangerous lessons weren't lost on the rising generation of Rome's leaders.
The Gracchan revolution had failed, but its legacy was a powerful one.
The Gracchi had shown was that it was possible to circumvent the Senate, and its power and authority would never be the same again.
So the Gracchan revolution provided the curtain-raiser for the blood-soaked finale of the Roman Republic.
This was the shape of things to come.
The history of the late Roman Republic was dominated by powerful generals like Pompey and Caesar.
Both were the political heirs of this man - Sulla, one of the most controversial figures of Roman history.
He set the pattern that they followed, and within a generation, the Republic had become little more than a military dictatorship.
Sulla grasped an essential truth about Rome - political power now derived from the army.
With no state provision for paying its soldiers, Rome depended on its successful generals to do so with the spoils of war.
These essentially private armies would come to increasingly bedevil the Republic as their Generals used force to pursue their own political agendas.
The age of the military hard man, unfettered by any respect for the constitution of the Republic, had finally arrived.
Sulla showed just what could be achieved with an army of loyal veterans at your back.
Fearing that his political enemies were plotting against him, he marched on Rome.
The terrified Senate voted to make him dictator.
Now armed with legal authority, Sulla, dictator legibus faciendis, unleashed a reign of terror.
Sulla's reign of terror was the stuff of nightmares.
Lists of those condemned as enemies of the Roman Republic were put up here in the Roman Forum.
Slaves who had been freed by Sulla would then turn up at their houses and lead them away, never to be seen again.
Or sometimes some bits of them were seen again - their decapitated heads put up on spikes, as a warning to others.
This system, Sulla's toxic legacy to Rome, became known as the proscriptions.
He used it to kill up to 9,000 people - 1,500 of them members of the equestrian, or aristocratic class.
Their property was confiscated and divvied up among Sulla's supporters.
But perhaps the most sinister thing about Sulla is that having terrorised Rome and decimated the Senate, he then resigned the dictatorship, restored the powers of the Senate, and retired to his estate, to a life of debauchery.
Within a year he was dead, but he left behind the blueprint for the dismemberment of the Republic.
Sulla was never going to be able to revive the authority of the Senate because his earlier actions had fatally undermined it.
It was bit like a burglar breaking into a house and robbing it of all its contents, and then putting new locks on the doors.
It was only a matter of time before the house was robbed again.
The burglars who came after are the ones we know so well.
Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar - these would be the Republic's undertakers.
The jockeying for power of these ruthless, ambitious warlords is complex and tangled, but its motivation is brutally simple - it can be summed up by a rhetorical question attributed to Pompey.
"If Sulla could, why can't I?" Pompey was the living embodiment of how all the conquests of Rome had destabilised the delicate political balance of the Republic.
All the Senate could do was stand around and flex its increasingly flaccid muscles.
We know so much about the machinations of this period because of the huge body of letters and speeches left by one of Rome's most brilliant intellectuals, Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Cicero was the archetypal politician-lawyer, a brilliant orator in court and in the Senate.
But Cicero was also, fatefully for him, an idealist - a true believer in the pious myth of SPQR, and it's this that gives his speeches in this period their poignancy - because the days of SPQR were long over.
But that wasn't the way that Cicero saw it - a man whose brilliance was matched by his insecurities.
He told everybody that was prepared to listen that it had been a coalition between the Senate, Equestrians and people which had saved the Republic, and increasingly he saw this alliance as the future for the salvation of Rome.
But Rome was now far more than just a Republic, it also had a huge empire.
The complex system that was SPQR was as out-of-date as Cicero's calls for a coalition of "good men".
The problem was that the Roman Republic simply wasn't designed to manage the great empire it had now acquired.
What was needed was consistency and long-term planning, not a bunch of squabbling politicians who were only in office for one year.
Julius Caesar was the one who saw most clearly what Rome needed - a benign autocrat, aided and abetted by a tame Senate.
Having famously crossed the Rubicon, taken Rome by force, and defeated his greatest rival Pompey, Caesar set about introducing a series of reforms, including land reform modelled on the ideas of the Gracchi.
But the greatest political problem that Caesar faced was how to accommodate himself, a king in all but name, into a Republican power structure.
The man who had an answer for everything didn't know what to do about himself.
But others had decided what to do about him.
A group of Senators felt that the loss of power and authority were too great a price to pay for the peace which Caesar offered.
And on the Ides of March, they cut him down outside the Senate house.
It's said that his body fell at the feet of a statue of his old enemy, Pompey.
The sequel following the assassination of Julius Caesar is a dramatic saga of intrigue, romance and war.
Long in the telling, its political implications are short - after the civil war and the defeat of Caesar's murderers, after the inevitable falling-out between his successors Mark Antony and his young nephew and adopted son, Octavian, after the absurd, touching romance of Antony and Cleopatra, after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in Greece and their operatic double-suicide.
After all that, Octavian Caesar was quite simply the last man standing.
But there was still the question about what to do with the Republic, a ramshackle political system no longer fit for purpose, and ruling over this massive empire.
Kingship was out of the question after what had happened to Julius Caesar, but there was another solution - autocracy hidden behind the thin veneer of a restored Republic.
But to convince the Roman people to give up many of their political freedoms in exchange for peace was going to take every ounce of Octavian's political genius.
With the help of a change of name, the Emperor Augustus, formerly known as Octavian, would transform Rome from a Republic into the greatest Empire the world had ever known.
It would dominate the Western world for another 500 years, only to be challenged by a new religious cult - Christianity.