The motif of once great towns, cities or empires that
have since crumbled is prominent throughout the Waste Land.
The significance of the destruction of these high points of cultural, spiritual
and artistic civilisation is obvious and Eliot refers to past greatness as a
way of indicating to us how low the modern world has sunk. Here are a few
Phoenicia was an ancient state that
occupied the land now covered by Israel,
Lebanon and Syria. It
flourished between 1500 B.C. and 300 B.C. and it is thought to have invented
the phonetic alphabet that is the forerunner to almost all modern Western
alphabets. As a result of their great trading power, the Phoenicians spread
this alphabet throughout the Mediterranean region. The Phoenicians were
conquered by the Persians in about 500 BC and thereafter their culture and
influence fell into decline with many Phoenicians leaving to the Phoenician
colony of Carthage.
According to Roman legend, Carthage
was founded in about 800 BC by Queen Dido when she fled from Phoenicia after
her brother, King Pygmalion, murdered her husband. The city was established on
the northern tip of Africa in the area that is now known as Tunisia and it went on to become a powerful
trading city, sometimes called the Shining
City, that threatened Roman dominance of the Mediterranean.
Following a series of wars between Rome and Carthage called the Punic
Wars that lasted for 120 years from 264 B.C to 146 B.C. the Roman army
eventually defeated the Carthaginians and destroyed the city. There is a legend
that the Romans salted the earth around the site to ensure that nothing would
ever grow there again, although this is unlikely to actually be true. The
battle of Mylae was a naval battle in the first Punic
war which the Romans eventually won.
A city in Ancient Greece,
founded by Alexander the Great and residence of the great Greek playwright Homer. From 1919 to 1922 Greek and
Turkish forces were fighting for control of the city following the defeat of
the Ottoman Empire in World War One. The city
was eventually destroyed in a great fire in 1922 shortly after the Turkish army
regained control of it.