Friday, October 14, 2016

Review of MacDonald, Hannibal

PUNIC WATCH: Hannibal's Heel. Why Carthage failed and Rome succeeded (J. E. Lendon, Weekly Standard).
It is a symptom of the deplorable state of intellectual life today that readers of this magazine can guess the lineaments of the story told in Hannibal the instant they read early in its pages that classical Carthage, the city on whose behalf the great captain of the title fought against Rome, was “diverse" and "multicultural."

To whatever degree bigoted contemporary observers regarded Carthage as brutal in its politics and religion, oppressive to its subjects, aggressive to its neighbors, and sly in its relations with foreign powers, a city boasting those two glittering qualities nearly divinized by our educators must have been, instead, kind and scrupulous in its dealings foreign and domestic, and victimized in its innocence by less politically correct nations. The countless newborn babies and small children the Carthaginians sacrificed to their gods—the remains of more than 20,000 have been found in Carthage alone— fade into no more than a single facet of the glorious cultural mosaic that was Carthage. And none of this needs to be proved, or even argued, by the author, who is also free to commit no few errors of fact: for a diverse and multicultural people are the good guys by definition, and a writer who sings their virtues is liberated from the dull grind of historical accuracy by the purity of her ideals.

Ouch. Earlier reviews of the book (Eve MacDonald, Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life) were noted here and here.