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Caravanfan's avatar

How might the world been different had Rome lost the Second Punic War?

Asked by Caravanfan (7266points) 1 month ago

Short history lesson: Carthage was a city-state in modern Tunisia and was the chief military and economic rival of Rome. They fought a series of 3 wars over 3 generations which ultimately left with Carthage being sacked and tens of thousands of people killed.

But, in the Second Punic War, Hannibal, one of the great military geniuses of the ancient world had a series of stunning victories against Rome. Rome easily could have surrendered-their losses were that bad-but they didn’t. Ultimately, they came out victorious, and a generation later destroyed Carthage.

But what would have happened had Rome surrendered, and did not go on to be the world power that it did? Rome is the root for our language, much of our culture, our religions, our systems of government, original infrastructure…the list goes on and on.

Can you envision a world where the Roman Empire did not exist? How would that world look?

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23 Answers

Zaku's avatar

Quite a bit different. No way to know exactly in what ways. I can invent alternate histories, but they’re inventions.

Really ending Rome might have taken more than war. Romans were pretty persistent. But assuming their culture and its later empire was really stopped…

The popularity of a lot of Roman ideas and mindsets might be a lot less. Romans were pretty exceptional in their ruthless conquest, asserting that their law and culture was the only valid one, and so on. European history and culture might have been a lot less violent and exploitative.

And the conquest mindset might not then have infected Christianity as much either.

So, yeah, probably a lot different, but impossible to predict how.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Zaku Oh, absolutely it would have taken much more than that war. And it did. The Romans eventually counterattacked on the African continent, forcing a recall of Hannibal and the defeat the subjugation of the Carthage. But this is just a mental exercise that what if they didn’t?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Italians would be called the Moops.
I took a history class at Seinfeld University

ragingloli's avatar

Well, without that roman emperor making christianity the state religion after having a bad dream, christianity would not have taken off.

Caravanfan's avatar

Constantine. Yes.

stanleybmanly's avatar

To my mind, it’s impossible that Carthage could actually win any of the 3 wars, and the 2nd war pretty much demonstrated the reality around this. The defeats such as Trasimene and particularly Cannae would mean that the war was over for any other nation then on the planet. In fact, after Cannae , Hannibal marched unimpeded on Rome, and was perplexed on his arrival before the city that its inhabitants refused to sue for terms. At bottom, Rome always prevailed in the end because it was the Roman SYSTEM which weathered all challenges. The superb order and discipline defining that system extended to and was exemplified in its armies. Hannibal, to put it bluntly, lacked the manpower and resources to raze, loot and hold the city itself, worse he lacked the organizational sophistication back home to levy and despatch the necessary reserves and reinforcements.

Caravanfan's avatar

@stanleybmanly I agree, that’s exactly what happened. I’m thinking what IF Hannibal had the resources to subdue Rome and keep it a regional power. How would the world be different?

Demosthenes's avatar

Presumably Latin may have died out in Italy as Punic took over and spread with the extent of the Carthaginian empire (would it have covered the same expanse as the Roman and lasted as long?). The Romance languages may never have existed; instead there would be Semitic “Punic languages” spoken across southern Europe, perhaps similar to Maltese.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Well there certainly would be no English for us to speak, and none of the other European languages. In fact the changes must be so drastic that we would probably recognize very little of what we now take for granted. As stated above, Christianity would have been a non starter; but even more pronounced would be the nonexistence of the ubiquity of the Jews. The law, concrete, the list is staggering.

Caravanfan's avatar

@stanleybmanly Can you explain “concrete”? how would that be affected?

stanleybmanly's avatar

The Romans discovered or invented concrete sometime in the first century AD.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Contrary to popular perception, not all European languages are rooted in Latin, English included (though modern English does have a fair amount of influence from Latin-derived languages). So we’d still have an English language, just not quite what we have now.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Darth_Algar It’s so hard to know, which is what makes it so interesting. The Britons were Romanized during the Roman domination of the island. Then after the Romans packed off and left, the Saxons began to invade and “King Arthur” repelled them. But what language did the mythical King Arthur speak? If the Romans had never been there, how would his language be different? And the invading Germanic Saxons spoke a form of German, but they had been dominated by Rome as well.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Well Arthur didn’t really exist, so I don’t really consider him relevant here. But at any rate, if he did, in fact, exist he would have spoken some Celtic language. The English language is a West Germanic language, which only arrived in Britain later. One thing to keep in mind is that the Romans generally did not displace the language or culture of the areas they conquered. So long as the people paid their taxes and didn’t cause too much of a fuss Roman was content to leave them to practice their own ways.

And “dominated” might be overstating it a bit. While Rome did, indeed, occupy some regions of Germania, for the most part they were never able to bring it to heel. And though they won a few victories afterward, Rome pretty much gave up on trying to conquer Germania after the disastrous Battle of the Teutoberg Forest (in which up to 20,000, out of a force of around 22,000, Roman legionarii were either killed or captured and enslaved).

ragingloli's avatar

And they had special trouble with that small village in Gallia.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Darth_Algar Well, the Romans certainly displaced some languages: Celtic languages were once spoken across France and Spain, as well as several non-Indo-European languages. All were displaced by Latin/Romance except for Basque. In Britain the situation was a little different; Latin never really had primacy outside of the Roman rulers, so it didn’t have the same effect on the native Celtic languages. It was only with the coming of the Anglo-Saxons that the native Celtic languages were displaced and pushed to the margins of the island (where they survive today as Welsh and Cornish). Latin roots entered English after the Norman Conquest.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Demosthenes “Well, the Romans certainly displaced some languages: Celtic languages were once spoken across France and Spain, as well as several non-Indo-European languages. All were displaced by Latin/Romance except for Basque.”

Though that had more to do with the spread of Catholicism and the institution of Latin as the language of education, than with the Roman empire.

stanleybmanly's avatar

But Catholicism in particular is a Roman export.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Yes, but it’s not exactly a product of the Roman Republic, nor of the early Roman Empire. By the time Catholicism begin to spread the Roman Empire, as such, was already fracturing.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Darth_Algar Yes, but when Constantine adopted Christianity, all of a sudden it was legalized through the world.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Right, but note my distinction between the Roman Republic/early Empire and later Empire. Even at that the Romance languages, such as French and Spanish, didn’t come about from Latin being forced upon the population by Rome, but rather by Latin later becoming the preferred language of the ruling, educated and land-owning classes.

Caravanfan's avatar

Yes, you’re correct, of course.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Latin dominated the classical world for exactly the same reason English currently rules ours. It was like Roman money and our dollar the coinage essential for global commerce and the single tongue necessary and recognized for doing business. It was no more a matter of choice for the rich than it was for their slaves. The snooty language for the upper crust in the age of the Empire was classical Greek.

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