The word “genocide” has Greek and Latin roots. The term “genos” is Greek for “race”, “tribe” or “nation,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica website. The Latin term “cide” means “killing,” Some of the earliest recorded genocides occurred in ancient Greece. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, genocide has two elements: the intent to kill a group of people and the consequential destruction of the respective group.
Destruction of Corinth & Capture of Carthage
Carthage was a Phoenician colony that expanded by trading goods and became a superpower that rivaled Rome. It controlled trading colonies in the Greek cities of Italy and wanted to control the Greek cities of Sicily, according to William C. Morey, Ph.D., in "Outlines of Roman History." The Punic Wars began in 264 B.C. when a Roman ship entered the waters of Sicily to help the city of Messana, which was under attack by Carthage-supported Syracuse soldiers.
After First and Second Punic Wars, the conflict spread into parts of ancient Greece, and lead to the third, and last Punic War. The Greek cities were in strife with Rome, and the Romans under Lucius Mummius seized Corinth. In 146 B.C., the Romans captured the Greeks in the city of Corinth, sold them as slaves and burned Corinth to the ground. After establishing a peace agreement with Rome, the Greek Carthaginians took up arms in self defense against the kingdom of Numidia, a Roman ally. In response, the Romans invaded the lands that Carthage occupied. The Romans killed many of the Carthaginians and sold thousands into slavery.
Athenian Massacre at Melos
The massacre at Melos occurred during the Peloponnesian War in 416 B.C., when Athens battled Sparta. During the war, Athens turned its attention to the island of Melos because the people claimed their ancestors were Spartans, according to the Ancient History Encyclopedia. The people of Melos were neutral in the war, but the Athenians demanded their surrender. The people of Melos refused to surrender until the Athenians began seizing the city-state. When the city surrendered, Athens killed all the men who were of military age and sold the women and children as slaves.
Genocide for Religious Offenses
The Amphictyonic league of states, a military alliance in charge of the oracle of Apollo in Delphi, promised to “uproot” any city that committed offenses against the oracle or the sanctuary, according to the book “The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies." Historical artifacts tell about the destruction of Kirrha for hostility against the oracle in 591 B.C., as well as the flooding and devastation of Babylon in 689 B.C., a consequence, by some accounts, of having cult images that they took from the Assyrians.
Genocide at Thyrea
Athens had many rivals, but saw neighboring Aeginetans as a particularly hostile enemy. In 431 B.C., after Athenians drove the Aeginetan people out of their home on the island of Aegina, a large group of Aeginetans sought refuge in Thyrea, according to “The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies." Determined to get revenge for past hostility and unprovoked attacks, the Athenians captured the Aeginetans in Thyrea, burned down the city and took the prisoners to Athens in 424 B.C. The Athenians executed all of the captured Aeginetans for their past hostilities.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Genocide
- Ancient History Encyclopedia: Genocide in the Ancient World
- Ancient History Encyclopedia: Punic Wars
- ForumRomanum.org: Outlines of Roman History: Chapter XIV, The First Punic War (BC 264-241)
- ForumRomanum.org: Outlines of Roman History: Chapter XVII, Reduction of the Roman Conquests
- The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies; Donald Bloxham and A. Dirk Moses
- Persee Scientific Journals: The First Sacred War
Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.