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The novel is set in ancient Carthage just after the end of the first Punic War. Carthage has been defeated by the Romans and is nearly bankrupt. Being broke is always a problem, but it is made worse in Carthage’s case because they owe a huge amount in back pay to the mercenaries that they had been using to fight Rome. These battle hardened troops were camped outside the city...
"Salammbô" is the story of the siege of Carthage in 240–237 BCE by mercenaries who had not been paid for their help in fighting the Romans. It is also the story of the love of Mathô, one of the mercenaries, for Salammbô, the daughter of Hamilcar, chief magistrate of Carthage.