Peace Treaties More than 2,000 Years in the Making

In the movie Patton, we see General George S. Patton visiting a battlefield from the Third Punic War. He describes the battle that was fought there 2,000 years earlier and proclaims, “I was there.”

General George Patton “remembers” fighting at the Battle of Carthage, 146 BC, in the movie Patton

There is no evidence to support Patton’s suggestion that he lived multiple lives, reincarnated countless times as a warrior to fight in war after war. There is, however, a sense in which he did fight in the Punic Wars. Although Patton was in Tunisia as part of the African campaign of World War II, the ancient war to which he referred was still raging — sort of.

Third Punic War: 149 B.C. – A.D. 1985

The Third Punic War was fought between Rome and Carthage beginning in 149 B.C. It was the last of the wars between the two great powers. Combat operations ended in 146 B.C. with Rome’s destruction of Carthage. As for the termination of the state of war between the two powers, well, that would take a bit longer.

A Carthaginian surrenders to a Roman officer

Since Rome’s military strategy was, essentially, the utter destruction of its adversary, holding a ceremony to officially end the war was a wee bit difficult. It would take another 2,131 years, in fact. It wasn’t until February 5, 1985, that the mayors of Rome and Carthage, Ugo Vetere and Chedli Klibi, signed a treaty, formally concluding the state of war that had existed between them for over two millennia.

With Rome and Carthage showing the world that peace is a possibility, despite the passage of more than 2,000 years, there were some who thought it was about time to bring an end to a rivalry even older than that.

Peloponnesian War: 431 B.C. – A.D. 1996

More than 2,500 years ago, the peace of the ancient world was torn asunder by the Peloponnesian War. Athens and Sparta, the two superpowers of the day, began fighting in 431 B.C.

For 27 years, the two key cities of ancient Greece fought a bloody war. To this day, historians debate who was the real victor. History shows that Sparta prevailed militarily after Athens squandered its navy in a pointless attack on Syracuse. Although Athens was vanquished in battle, it is the Athenian culture that lived on and gave birth to western civilization.

Destruction of Athenian army at Syracuse

Perhaps the debate could have been avoided if there had been a formal treaty to bring the war to an end. Instead, the surrender of Athens in 404 B.C. merely resulted in the cessation of hostilities. The state of war between the two powers continued.

At last, 2,399 years after the surrender of Athens, the Peloponnesian War came to an end. Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and Spartan Mayor Dimosthenis Matalas signed a peace declaration at a special ceremony on March 12, 1996. The agreement proclaimed, “Today we express our grief for the devastating war between the two key cities of ancient Greece and declare its end.”

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