Thanks to lost paperwork, diplomatic technicalities, or just plain forgetting they had declared war in the first place, many countries remained in a state of war long after the actual fighting had stopped.
1. Roman Republic vs. Carthaginian Republic – 2,134 years
Cato the Elder before the Roman Senate. © Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis After two Punic wars Rome decided they needed one more pass at Carthage. So in 149 BC, after rousing speeches in the Senate with Cato the Censor declaring unequivocally, “Carthage must be destroyed,” the Roman army set out once again to try to demolish the North African city state. While Rome was eventually victorious, the Carthaginians never actually surrendered, and the citizens fought the invaders long after they had breached the city walls.
In 1985, the mayors of modern Rome and Carthage decided to sign a ceremonial peace treaty as a sign of friendship, signing it among the ruins of the city the Romans had razed to the ground.
2. Taiwan vs. the Netherlands – 359 years
The Dutch arrived on the island we now call Taiwan in 1623. Originally it was a simple trading fort, but within a year the Dutch government had decided to try to Christianize the native tribes. Some converted and submitted to European rule peacefully, but others needed a little encouragement, which the Dutch generously provided by setting fire to their villages. By 1651, the Taromak tribe had had enough and took up arms against their oppressors; in response the Dutch declared war. The Dutch were eventually defeated by a Chinese army under the command of a man named Koxinga but no official peace was ever declared.
In 2010, Menno Goedhart, a representative for a Dutch trading company who had done much original research into the war after first learning about it in 2004, sought out the tribe’s current leader for an official end to the conflict. Goedhart, who was already an honorary member of the tribe, went to the village’s spirit hut and asked forgiveness and understanding from the ancestors. Goedhart, who is known locally as “Mr. Taiwan,” retired in Xinhua Township shortly thereafter.
3. Scilly Islands vs. the Netherlands – 335 years
The Isles of Scilly are a small archipelago off the southwest corner of Britain. During the English Civil War they were a royalist stronghold after much of England had fallen to the republicans. In 1651, the Dutch, who were apparently really up for wars against small islands that year, allied themselves with Cromwell’s troops and declared war on Scilly. The royalists surrendered to the republicans shortly thereafter and the Dutch apparently forgot they had declared war at all.
In 1985, a Scilly historian wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London for definitive proof that the war was just a legend, and the Isles of Scilly were not still at war with the country. After some research, it was determined that the war was real, and still ongoing. The next year the Dutch ambassador to the United Kingdom came to the islands to sign an official peace treaty.
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Photo: CC by UK Ministry of Defense
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