The second novel by Creator/GustaveFlaubert, author of the infamous ''Literature/MadameBovary''. Rarely, if ever, have two successive novels been so different.

Whereas ''Madame Bovary'' charted the agonisingly mediocre tragedy of a bored housewife and her hapless husband in early 19th-century France, Salammbo is a richly exotic war epic set in ancient Carthage. The scale is vast, the imagery opulent and intense, and the battle scenes brutal enough to make [[ThreeHundred Leonidas and his boys]] look like...well...[[HistoricalInJoke a bunch of fairies.]]

After an exhausting war with Rome, the city of Carthage finds itself incapable of paying its vast mercenary army. Increasingly desperate attempts to fob them off spark a full-on rebellion, and eventually a destructive total war between the [[DumbMuscle powerful but self-destructively disorganised mercenaries]] and a Carthage [[VestigialEmpire at but a shadow of its former strength.]]

In the midst of all this, the mercenary leader Matho falls obsessively in love with the beautiful Salammbo, daughter of Carthage's most fearsome general. His maniacal desire for her drives him to unprecedented lengths to obtain her, unleashing a conflict like no other upon the Carthaginian empire.

While just as popular as Flaubert's works in most of the world, ''Salammbo'' [[AmericansHateTingle has never really caught on in the Anglosphere]]. (In fact, the only exposure most Americans have had to the name is through the film ''Film/CitizenKane'' - an opera based on the book is the one Kane's wife badly performs during the course of the movie.) Nevertheless, it is a one-of-a-kind novel and well worth a read.
!!This book provides examples of:
* ArmyOfThievesAndWhores: The Mercenaries, whose ranks are eventually expanded with tribes from all over Africa.
* BadBoss: Hamilcar Barca is this to his domestic staff. He notably has his chief steward ''drowned in manure'' after hearing about the Mercenaries' trashing of his house, even though he couldn't have done anything to stop them.
* BadassBookworm: Spendius can speak every language in the mercenary army, snipe a man with a longbow from an enormous distance, infiltrate Carthage not once, but twice, and operate (and build) siege engines like a pro.
* BlackAndGreyMorality / EvilVsEvil
* BodyHorror: The ravages of Hanno's leprosy are chronicled in truly sickening detail. [[spoiler: Matho's final fate is also pretty horrifying.]]
* ContemptibleCover: Publishers tend to like putting topless BellyDancer types on the front.
* CrapsaccharineWorld: Carthage is a grand city, filled with beautiful public buildings, magnificent temples and gorgeous artefacts, all described in loving detail...and the site of a hideous all-out war with unbelievable cruelty on both sides.
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: Possibly one of the best-done examples ever, because it doesn't contain a word of allegory, moralising or the slightest nod from the narrator - who, for all that the reader knows, might as well have been from the time period. Nobody bats an eyelid at the most horrible cruelties or the most fantastical beliefs.
* FatBastard: Hanno is not a nice person at all.
* FatIdiot: He's also not much of a military leader.
* FutureBadass: Hannibal Barca, although such is the deliberate absence of any LemonyNarrator that you'd have to have heard of him to realise it.
* FromNobodyToNightmare: Matho used to just be an ordinary soldier in the mercenary army (even lower than most, set to carry the other's luggage and firewood) before he saw Salammbo and basically seized control of it by sheer force of willpower. Spendius was a slave for years, but pretty much the first things he did upon being freed were grab the DragonInChief spot and incite the war.
* {{Gorn}}: Tons of it. A faithful adaptation of the book would almost certainly be unfilmable even now. In fact, it might not even make it into a graphic novel. Even more shocking when you remember that this was published in ''1862.'' Notable instances include: [[spoiler: extreme animal cruelty, including cutting the trunks off elephants, boiling fish alive and covering pigs in burning pitch; numerous crucifixions, including one of a man with advanced leprosy whose limbs are then [[BodyHorror torn off by his own bodyweight]]; mass child sacrifice via roasting alive; friends forced to fight and kill each other, and a man being flayed to death by an angry mob who have been ordered to do so [[DeathOfAThousandCuts scratch by scratch]]. [[SerialEscalation This list does not include the 'fight scenes'.]]]]
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade
* HumanSacrifice
** InfantImmortality: Aha, aha, no.
* InnocentFanserviceGirl: Salammbo.
* KillEmAll: Very few named characters are left by the end.
* KillItWithFire: The statue of Moloch is hollow with a great pyre inside, and children are shoveled into it by the dozen.
* LeeroyJenkins: The Mercenaries are almost a whole army of them, which loses them a lot of battles.
* MoralityPet: [[FutureBadass Hannibal]] is one to Hamilcar, although ''horrifically'' subverted. To save his life, [[spoiler: Hamilcar sends a slave's child to be roasted alive as a human sacrifice in his place.]]
* LemonyNarrator: A resounding aversion.
* PyrrhicVictory: Several.
* SerialEscalation: The scale, and bodycount, of the war just keeps going up and up.
* SlobsVersusSnobs
* SubmissiveBadass: Matho, to a tee. Despite being an unstoppably powerful fighter, he was pretty much a human pack-horse before he JumpedAtTheCall. Even as the leader of the Mercenaries, he almost always does exactly what Spendius tells him to.
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman: "They are not men but oxen!"