Rashid A Mughal
Since times immemorial, wars were fought between
nations, countries and clans to gain supremacy, con
trol and power between weak and strong and rich and poor. One of the major reasons being to acquire the land and resources of others to amass wealth and increase power to become so strong that ultimately the weak and poor countries or nations succumb to the pressure and power of the strong. In some cases the purpose is to impose a particular form of system and/or an ideology on the opponent. If we analyze the causes of wars since the times of Greeks and Romans till today we find the above reasons behind almost all the major wars in history, starting from the destruction of Carthage. Rome had defeated Carthage in the First Punic War which was primarily a series of sea battles which was fought over many years with Rome emerging victorious. The land battles in this war were mainly fought in Sicily.
In the Second Punic War, Hannibal built up a base in Spain and from that base he launched an attack on Rome in Italy. This war was fought in Italy, Spain and North Africa. Despite some incredible victories by Hannibal: Trebia and Cannae, Rome was ultimately triumphant. After the Second Punic War, Carthage had to give up its army. It had already lost its fleets due to the First Punic War. The real reason for destruction of Carthage, therefore, seems to be to gain power and influence and of course wealth. What would today be like if Carthage had won and conquered Roman Islands? Inexplicably different. The changes to Western culture would be so drastic that we can’t really know what that alternative reality would have looked like. It’s quite possible that Carthage would have consolidated it’s Mediterranean thalassocracy, but the Phoenicians were always trades people, so they probably wouldn’t have attempted to achieve hegemony over Gaul or anything east of Mesopotamia. So most of Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Levant would be heavily influenced by Punic (mix of Phoenician and Berber) culture. It’s quite impossible to predict how this could have gone and how long this Carthaginian empire would have lasted. What changes would it have undergone? We can’t say for sure.
It can only be said that if Hannibal had somehow gained the opportunity to out manoeuvres the Romans in Italy and seized final parts of Roman territory, then he probably would have lived on as an influential political figure in the Punic Senate and would probably have brought some Roman culture back with him to Carthage. It’s hard to judge what Hannibal would have done with the city of Rome. In the scenario that Hannibal defeats all military opposition and takes this town, most of the cities south of it would probably willingly join his new coalition and renounce their allegiance to the Roman Republic. But would he have imposed the same strict punishment that the Romans did on Carthage? It’s quite possible that he would, just to curb the potential rise of Rome. But of course, revolts in such a populous and prosperous region of the world would be inevitable, especially when Latin culture still remained in Latium and Greek culture remained in the other large cities.
We’d also see some change in the way that the Mediterranean hegemonic dealt with its competitors and other empires. As previously stated, the Carthaginians preferred secure and profitable trade routes to a large tax-paying territorial empire and this would have affected the way they dealt with rivals. The Romans were usually very quick to deploy their military to solve problems, as their conflicts with the Macedonian Diadochi states suggest. They waged several pre-emptive wars on Gallic tribes planning to migrate and even used their military to ensure a steady supply of grain from the fertile Nile Valley. History of other continents would have been different as well since there would be no Western civilization to conquer and colonize Africa, America, Australia and parts of Asia. Everything would have been different. In Asia, the things were not different where Mongols eruption changed the whole region. The first question about the Mongol conquests is: Why did the Mongols erupt from Mongolia in the early 13th Century to begin their conquests of the rest of the world, creating the largest contiguous land empire in world history? There has been considerable speculation about the reasons for the Mongol eruption from Mongolia, and though there is no scholarly consensus on specific reasons, many have pointed to the causes of ecology, trade disruptions and the figure of Genghis Khan. In the period from 1180-1220, Mongolia experienced a drop in the mean annual temperature, which meant that the growing season for grass was cut short. Less grass meant a real danger to the Mongols’ animals, and, since the animals were truly the basis of the Mongols’ pastoral-nomadic life, this ecological threat may have prompted them to move out of Mongolia
A second reason often mentioned is the attempt by Mongolia’s neighbours in north and northwest China to reduce the amount of trade with the Mongols. Since the Mongols depended on trade for goods that they desperately needed — such as grain, craft and manufactured articles — cessation of trade, or at least the diminution of trade, could have been catastrophic for them. The attempts by the Jin dynasty, which controlled North China, and the Xia dynasty, which controlled Northwest China, to reduce the level of trade that the Mongols could expect, created a crisis for the Mongols. Unable to obtain goods that they so desperately needed, the Mongols’ response was to initiate raids, attacks and finally invasions against these two dynasties. A third explanation has to do with Gengis Khan himself, in particular his shamanic beliefs. It is said that Tenggeri, the sky god of the Mongols, gave Gengis Khan mission of bringing the rest of world under one sword that is, bringing the rest of world under the shamanic umbrella a mission that may have motivated him to begin his conquests. Whatever the explanations, they all gravitate around the figure of Gengis Khan himself. He went on to kill hundreds of thousands of people and ruled ruthlessly. His decedents followed suit and engaged in mass bloodshed to gain control of vast lands and wealth of other nations. Wars have been won and lost too. But they teach us a lesson always.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.
Rashid A Mughal