Romans salting the earth after the 3rd Punic War. Fact or Myth?

I’ve read some sources stating that the Romans would never have wasted such a precious commodity as salt.

Did the Romans really salt the earth after the Battle of Carthage (c. 149-146 BC) to make it infertile/barren?
I look forward to your feedback

It’s neither fact (never happened) nor myth (in any technical sense). It is a legendary motif which was attached to Carthage in the 20th century.

See, for example, “The Destruction of Carthage: A Retractatio” by B. H. Warmington
in Classical Philology, 83:4 (Oct., 1988), 308–310.

So why do modern historians state is as a fact? eg. Peter Turchin’s “War Peace and War”(2007)

“Even in the harsh treatment meted out to the defeated Carthaginians (the other nation that Romans hated with a passion)when their beautiful and wealthy city was razed and its ground salted, the Romans left the agricultural population in the Carthaginian territory alone” (p. 152)

Basically, because one historian did so early on, falling for the folklore, and because people accepted the claim without investigation, it was repeated. Then, after a few decades, the claim was investigated and found not to be historical, and careful historian no longer repeat it. For someone to do so in 2007 is pretty poor scholarship.

Thanks Dr… Drake. Very helpful.

Okay, what’s the difference between folklore (which said historian fell for) and myth, which did not exist?

Seems like a waste of good salt.

Especially as, to Romans, it was a valuable commodity (valuable enough that it is the latin basis of our word ‘salary’)

Myth is a particular genre of folklore. In ordinary speech, it gets used a lot to mean “untrue fact,” but in Folklore Studies, it is not used that way. It is reserved for a particular type of narrative involving gods and heroes.

The OP’s use of “myth” isn’t wrong, since that’s a common use of the word in everyday English, but it’s not helpful in certain fields such as Roman history where some ahistorical data, such as what you’ll find in Livy, really is myth, whereas this example is not.

The Master Speaks.

Basically, there was plenty of salt available, but there is no contemporary evidence of it happening.

In English, the words dough and bread are used to mean money, but that doesn’t mean they’re especially valuable commodities. The same applies to the Romans and sal.

H. H


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