|The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, J. M. W. Turner, oil on canvas, 1817, © Tate Photography (source)|
The light of an evening sky shall rise upon the sky of
Carthage and on the ruins of that decayed city, I shall sit but not
lament. Oh no! for I have been brought to the shore by a
scallop boat and happiness do I feel to see the sky in such an
ectasy. Carthage you’ve died but I am the phoenix that out of
burnt feathers can see light again. Oh that light. An evening bright and restful sky.
A bit of history:
The Roman Empire, resolved to subjugate its eternal rival, Carthage initiated in 149 BC what would be the Battle of Carthage. The Carthaginians, vulnerable by virtue of their desire for peace, coerced to choose either war or their submission, consented to surrender their children and then laid their arms. Rome, in its thirst for power, sacked and destroyed the Punic city nonetheless.
Turner compared the rise and fall of ancient empires to the contemporary situation and the threat that had represented Napoleon on England. Lesson of history.
To see the « pendant » (counterpart) of this painting « Dido building Carthage », 1815 head over to the National Gallery site.