After the 2 Punic wars between Rome and Carthage, which lasted from 264 BC to 241 BC and from 218 BC to 202 BC, Carthage was defeated. The city was now under Roman rule.

After the second Punic war, Carthage slowly build up its economic strength again 1. Rome, having seen Carthage rise again after the first Punic war, was wary of Carthage becoming a military power once again. Senator Marcus Porcius Cato The Elder 2voiced this fear by ending his all of his senatorial speeches, no matter what the subject, with the legendary

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam

This is quite an impressive statement. To understand why, we have to look at Latin pronunciation. In the Latin of those days, every c is pronounced as a k. So, if you pronounce the quote, it sounds like a raven choking on it's own bile, especially if a man like Cato, known for his harsh voice, pronounced them.

But, what does it mean? Most of the translations you see are inaccurate, not respecting the rather convoluted grammatical structure. Let's start with the first word, ceterum. Here, it's used as an adverb, and means something along the lines of "for the rest", "moreover", or "what's more". Next, we see censeo. This is simply the first person singularis activum indicativus praesens of the verb censere, meaning "being of the opinion" or "thinking". In brief, it means "I think". Carthaginem is Carthage, and it being an accusativus is a sign it's the object of the sentence. Now, we come to the "esse delendam". This is the gerundivum of delere, to destroy, and means "has to be destroyed" 4-6. Puzzling the whole mess together, we arrive at:

For the rest, it is my opinion that Carthage has to be destroyed

Accept no substitute! If you see anyone translate this wrong, just bitch slap him with the explanation how to translate this, causing him to curl up to a tiny ball of misery.

Anyhow, apparently, the Roman senators got fed up with Cato's whining, and started the Third Punic war in 149 BC. In 146 BC, after three years of war, they killed just about every living thing in the city, selling the survivors into slavery. They thoroughly demolished the city, and sowed salt, so nothing will ever grow there again. Brutal bunch, those Romans.


  5. 6 years of high school Latin. Ugh.