Ever heard of Carthage? Probably not. And if you have, you probably don't know much about it. That's because of the Romans.
Once upon a time there was a group of people called the Phoenicians who lived on the western shore of the Middle East. They were a little group of people that nobody cared about. They settled a town called Jbeil (don't even try to pronounce that) and led meager lives fishing, sailing, fishing and settling small bits of land south of them. And fishing.
But suddenly, everything changed. They settled on a little island and built a little town called Tyre (this was not unusual for the Phoenicians because they really couldn't travel inland. It's kind of hard to get a boat to sail across land). On this island, every once in a while, a LOT of snails would wash up on the shore. The Phoenicians found that if they squeezed one of these snails, they would get a tiny drop of a dark purple dye. Several thousand snails later, they had enough to dye an ordinary shirt. This process was very labor intensive, but it was the only way to get any purple dye at the time. So the Phoenicians, with them crafty selves, sold the dye. Since it was the only purple dye known to the Mediterranean at the time, they sold it for TONS of money. It was so expensive that only royalty could buy it (hence the term "Royal Purple").
The Phoenicians got retardedly rich off of their dye. They used it to buy land, ships, people and even more land. Eventually they had set up shop as far away as the Iberian peninsula (Spain). They eventually realized that the people in Iberia really didn't like talking to Arabs and having to learn the Phoenician language. So the Phoenicians made a common language.
How did they do this? Easy. They took a bunch of symbols from Egyptian hieroglyphics, made a couple of 'em look a little different and attached a specific sound to each one. These symbols could mixed and matched to form chains of symbols which had to be pronounced a specific way. This newfangled way of "writing sounds" became common knowledge. The Greeks took it and made their alphabet from it, and the Romans made their alphabet from the Greek one. Thus, this bunch of hieroglyphs (which the Phoenicians called "Abjad") became the precursor to almost all modern alphabets (with some exeptions being the East Asians).
So if the ancient Mediterranean was a party, Phonecia would be pretty much everybody at once. The geek who sits in the corner, the guy that owns the place the party is in, the super cute guy all the girls are too nervous to talk to, the super cute girl all the guys keep hitting on and the guy who is so rich that he bought himself nearly every drink in the house and got totally hammered.
Needless to say, Tyre was the capitol of Phoenicia. There the Queen, King, princes and princesses lived and avoided the snail infested beaches. Once upon a time there was a Queen by the name of Dido. She had a brother who was jealous of her husband so, like the sensible man he was, her brother killed her husband. This made her fear for her own life, so she fled to the backwaters of nowhere (North Africa) where she knew her brother wouldn't go. Why? Because he was the new king! He wasn't going to leave that throne for a second.
There, in North Africa, Dido founded a little fishing village. It was named "Qart-Hadasht" (which means "New Town" or "New City"). Although nobody knew it, this town was located in the best possible place to set up a town in all of the Mediterranean. Eventually, this town grew into a monstrous city with guards and ports and walls. Oh god, The Walls.
The second layer:
Okay, okay. That isn't exactly what they looked like. I just want to get a main idea across. There was also a third layer, but you get the idea. Phoenicia had fallen on hard times. They were at war with practically everyone and not by their own choice. Eventually they lost every city they had except Tyre. Tyre proved to be indestructible, with failed siege after failed siege taking place. The Phoenicians had only one last bastion, and nobody could make them budge. Nobody dared mess with the Phoenicians anymore. Nobody, that is, except Alexander the Great.
So Qart-Hadasht was the only great Phoenician city left, but by this time it had become very different from Phoenicia and could barely be regarded as Phoenician. See, all of the Phoenician cities were occupied by Arabs and only Arabs. But Qart-Hadasht housed the original Arab settlers and their decendants, the Africans who were already there when the city was founded and white settlers from all around the Mediterranean. Racism was almost unheard of, because every race known to the Mediterranean at the time lived in Qart-Hadasht. The people of that city had refined the original Greek form of democracy and made sure it applied to absolutely everyone. Everyone was equal, happy and liked.
People were very jealous of Qart-Hadasht and wanted to become citizens. Unlike almost all civilizations at the time, the people of Qart-Hadasht welcomed the immigrants with open arms. Thus Qart-Hadasht grew even more and reached its zenith.
Around this time, some backwater town called Rome had gotten real friendly with its Italian neighbors and had assumed control over much of Italy. The Romans were also a democracy, but theirs had not been as well refined as the democracy of Qart-Hadasht. The Romans also didn't like any word they didn't create. Qart-Hadasht sure was a mouthful, so the Romans just called it "Carthago" (which evolved into the English word "Carthage").
The Romans were the first people in a long time who did not fear Carthage. The Romans rapidly grew in power and gave a giant middle finger to Carthage by helping a Sicilian town that the Carthaginians were already on their way to help. The Carthaginian fleet got to said town and the Romans said "Weell lookee here! We got us an armed force real close to us. Let's go to war!" Thus the First Punic War started. The Carthaginians were totally unprepared for what was to come.
The Romans found a crashed Carthaginian ship, copied the design and swiftly beat the Carthaginians. Carthage lost all of its holdings in Sicily and Sardinia. This made the Romans think of themselves as all hoity toity, but Carthage bounced back. To make up for the loss of land, a Carthaginian named Hamilcar Barca decided to conquer all of Iberia that he could get his hands on. He took his army and got about 7/8 the way to conquering all of Iberia when he was amushed by some Celtiberians and was forced to ride his horse into a raging river. Did I mention he was tied to the horse during this?
But he had raised his sons, one of which was named Hannibal, to be military leaders. At the time "Hannibal Barca" meant absolutely nothing at all. That would change. Fast.
Hannibal, when he was a little kid, was told by his father to swear that he would always hate Rome and, if it was in his power, to never give them a moments rest. Hannibal saw how the Romans had made up a lie to use as a basis for war against Carthage. He had seen how the Romans cheated their way to victory. this made him hate Rome all the more.
Hannibal rounded up an army and headed towards Rome. The Romans expected a counter attack from Carthage, but this could easily be countered by sinking all of the Carthaginian ships carrying troops before they ever got to Italy. Hannibal did something unthinkable and marched north through Iberia, east through Gaul (modern day France) and south across the alps into the heart if Italy. You know that song "I would walk five hundred miles"? Hannibal did. He walked way more than five hundred miles, while keeping his army in check and brushing aside everyone, EVERYONE, who got in his way. But Hannibal didn't fall down once he reached Rome's door. He kicked the door down and set fire to and destroyed everything he found inside. Everything Roman, anyway.
He marched through Italy, burning, destroying and killing anything Roman. He had never lost a battle. Ever. The Romans outnumbered him several times and he still beat the everloving snot out of 'em.
There was a big open field in between some hills and a river. This place was called Cannae and this place was where the Roman general Varro had chosen to do battle with Hannibal. The Romans now knew that NOBODY messed with Hannibal. He had a perfect record of victories against the Romans and they weren't messing around anymore. The Romans amassed the largest single army that Rome ever made in its entire history (even after the battle) and sent it out to crush Hannibal.
How big was it? There were about 86,000 men in that army. Eighty six thousand. That is a lot.
The Roman "super", nay, "uber" army was sent to squash Hannibal like the pest they thought of him as. Hannibal had about 55,000 men in his army. How did he get that many? He had never been defeated once. Rome didn't have a general with anywhere near the brilliance that Hannibal had. Who would you rather serve? The undefeated hero, or the lying and cheating losers? I thought so.
I'm sure Hannibal thought "Whew, I thought they were going to actually try this time."
Hannibal proceeded to SLAUGHTER the Roman army. Only approximately 5,000 Romans who were in the army escaped. Almost all of southern Italy then suddenly found itself loyal to Carthage. Funny how that works.
Hannibal then rode around Italy for a little while, won a few more victories then rushed back to Carthage. Why? Well, the Romans had stayed pretty cocky throughout the whole invasion. They were cocky because they were secretly planning to invade Africa! A general by the name of Scipio Africanus was in command of the army that was sent to attack Carthage. Hannibal quickly came home with most of his army. But while he was away, Rome regained control over southern Italy. Hannibal fought Scipio at the Battle of Zama.
It seems that Hannibal had also gotten cocky, but who is to tell? Hannibal seems to have not even tried at the battle of Zama. In fact, once he thought the fate of the battle was sealed, he rode away on his horse and left his men to die by Roman hands. Carthage then was forced to accept defeat or risk being destroyed by the unopposed Roman army now in Africa. Hannibal only ever lost one battle in his life, but it was the single most important battle of his lifetime.
Then Carthage's neighbor, Numidia, decided to just start taking Carthaginian lands. Carthage was not allowed to declare war without Rome's say-so. And when Carthage begged to be let defend themselves, Rome told Carthage to suck it.
Later, much later, Carthage revolted against the Romans. Rome gave it a passing thought and said "screw it, burn the place to the ground!" and that is exactly what they did.