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Ruins of Roman-era Carthage

The term Carthage (Greek: Καρχηδών, Arabic: قرطاج also قرطاجة, Latin: Carthago) refers both to an ancient city in North Africa located in modern day Tunis and to the civilization that developed within the city's sphere of influence. The city of Carthage was located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis across from the center of modern Tunis in Tunisia.

Originally a settlement of Phoenician colonists, Carthage grew into a vast economic and political power throughout the Mediterranean Sea, accumulating wealth and influence through its economic (trading) prowess. Carthage was a superpower, contemporaneously with the Roman Republic of the 2nd and 3rd Century BC, and was its rival for dominance of the western Mediterranean. Eventually this rivalry led to a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars, each of which Carthage lost. These losses led to a decline in Carthage's political and economic strength, mostly due to the harsh penalties imposed on Carthage by Rome as conditions of the cessation of hostilities. The Third Punic War ended with the complete destruction of the city of Carthage and the annexation of the last remnants of Carthaginian territory by Rome. Although a distinct Carthaginian civilization ceased to exist, remnants of it contributed to later Mediterranean cultures.

The name Carthage is derived by way of Greek and Latin dialects from the Phoenician (QRT HDST or /qɑɾt ħɑdɑʃt/) meaning "new city." More than one Phoenician settlement originally bore this name, although only one city has the distinction of being the Carthage of the ancient world.

While the term Carthaginian is used by many modern writers, many ancient writings used the adjective Punic to describe anything to do with Carthaginian civilization, because of the Latin term Punicus (earlier Poenicus), itself borrowed from Greek Φοινίκη, "Phoenicia."


[edit] Question of Carthage

The historical study of Carthage is problematic. Due to the subjugation of the civilization by the Romans at the end of the Third Punic War, very few Carthaginian historical primary sources survive. There are a few ancient translations of Punic texts into Greek and Latin, as well as inscriptions on monuments and buildings discovered in North Africa.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> However, the majority of available primary source material about Carthaginian civilization was written by Greek and Roman historians, such as Livy, Polybius, Appian, Cornelius Nepos, Silius Italicus, Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and Herodotus.

These authors participated in cultures which were nearly always in competition, and often in conflict, with Carthage. The Greeks contested with Carthage for Sicily,<ref>Herodotus, V2. 165-167</ref> for instance, and the Romans fought the Punic Wars against Carthage.<ref>Polybius, World History: 1.7 - 1.60</ref> Inevitably the accounts of Carthage written by outsiders include significant bias.

Recent excavation of ancient Carthaginian sites has brought much more primary material to light. Some of these finds contradict or confirm aspects of the traditional picture of Carthage, but much of the material is still ambiguous.

[edit] Founding of Carthage

Carthage was founded in 814 BC by Phoenician settlers from the city of Tyre, bringing with them the city-god Melqart. According to tradition, the city was founded by Queen Dido (or Elissa or Elissar) who fled Tyre following the murder of her husband in an attempt by her younger brother of bolstering his own power. A number of foundation myths have survived through Greek and Roman literature, see Byrsa for one example.

In 509 BC a treaty was signed between Carthage and Rome indicating a division of influence and commercial activities. This is the first known source indicating that Carthage had gained control over Sicily and Sardinia.

By the beginning of the 5th century BC, Carthage had become the commercial center of the West Mediterranean region, a position it retained until overthrown by the Roman Republic. The city had conquered most of the old Phoenician colonies e.g. Hadrumetum, Utica and Kerkouane, subjugated the Libyan tribes, and taken control of the entire North African coast from modern Morocco to the borders of Egypt. Its influence had also extended into the Mediterranean, taking control over Sardinia, Malta, the Balearic Islands and the western half of Sicily. Important colonies had also been established on the Iberian peninsula.

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Antonine baths ruins, from the Roman period

[edit] Legends of the foundation of Carthage

[edit] Queen Elissar

Queen Elissar (also known as "Alissa", and by the Arabic name اليسار also اليسا and عليسا) was a princess of Tyre who founded Carthage. At its peak her metropolis came to be called the "shining city," ruling 300 other cities around the western Mediterranean and leading the Phoenician Punic world.

Elissar was the Princess of Tyre. Her brother, King Pygmalion of Tyre, murdered her husband the high priest. Elissar escaped the tyranny of her own country and founded Carthage and subsequently its later dominions. Details of her life are sketchy and confusing, but the following can be deduced from various sources. According to Justin, Princess Elissar was the daughter of King Matten of Tyre (also known as Muttoial or Belus II). When he died, the throne was jointly bequeathed to her and her brother, Pygmalion. She married her uncle Acherbas (also known as Sychaeus) High Priest of Melqart, a man with both authority and wealth comparable to the king. Pygmalion was a tyrant, lover of both gold and intrigue, and desired the authority and fortune enjoyed by Acherbas. Pygmalion assassinated Acherbas in the temple and managed to keep the misdeed concealed from his sister for a long time, deceiving her with lies about her husband's death. At the same time, the people of Tyre called for a single sovereign, causing dissent within the royal family.

[edit] Queen Dido

In the Aeneid, Queen Dido the Greek name for Queen Elissar, is first introduced as an extremely respected character. In just seven years, since their exodus from Tyre, the Carthaginians have rebuilt a successful kingdom under her rule. Her subjects adore her and present her with a festival of praise. Her character is perceived as even more noble when she offers asylum to Aeneas and his men, who have recently escaped from Troy. However, when Aeneas is reminded by the messenger god, Mercury, that his mission is not to stay in Carthage with his new-found love, Dido, but to travel to Italy to found Rome, Dido’s character takes a turn for the worse. When Aeneas deserts her, Dido becomes vengeful and orders a pyre to be built so that she may burn the possessions he left behind. It is on this pyre that Dido has a vision of the future Carthaginian general, Hannibal, avenging her. With her final breath she stabs herself.

[edit] Phoenician Colonization

Carthage was one of a number of Phoenician settlements in the western Mediterranean. In the 10th century BC, the eastern Mediterranean shore was inhabited by various Semitic-speaking populations. The people inhabiting what is now Lebanon called their language Canaanite, but were referred to as Phoenicians by the Greeks. The Phoenician language was very close to ancient Hebrew, to such a degree that the latter is often used as an aide in translation of Phoenician inscriptions.

The Phoenician cities were highly dependent on trade, and included a number of major ports in the area. The Phoenicians' leading city was Tyre, which established a number of trading posts around the Mediterranean. Carthage and a number of other settlements later evolved into cities in their own right.

[edit] Extent Of Phoenician Settlement

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Map of the Phoenician and Punic world. As many as 300 settlements existed. Image from
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Map of Sicily designed by Marco Prins-Jona Lendering with all the Phoencian and Greek settlements.

In order to provide a resting place for merchant fleets, to maintain a Phoenician monopoly on an area's natural resource, or to conduct trade on its own, the Phoenicians established numerous colonial cities along the coasts of the Mediterranean. They were stimulated to found their cities by a need for revitalizing trade in order to pay the tribute extracted from Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos by the succession of empires that ruled them and by fear of complete Greek colonization of that part of the Mediterranean suitable for commerce. The Phoenicians lacked the population and need to establish self-sustaining cities abroad, and most cities had less than 1,000 inhabitants, but Carthage and a few other cities developed into huge metropolises.

Some 300 colonies were established in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Iberia, and to a much lesser extent, on the arid coast of Libya. The Phoenicians controlled Cyprus, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands, as well as minor possessions in Crete and Sicily; the latter settlements were in perpetual conflict with the Greeks. The Phoenicians managed to control all of Sicily for a limited time. The entire area later came under the leadership and protection of Carthage, which in turn dispatched its own colonists to found new cities or to reinforce those that declined with Tyre and Sidon.

The first colonies were made on the two paths to Iberia's mineral wealth - along the African coast and on Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands. The centre of the Phoenician world was Tyre, serving as economic and political hub. The power of this city waned following numerous sieges and its eventual destruction by Alexander the Great, and the role as leader passed to Sidon, and eventually to Carthage. Each colony paid tribute to either Tyre or Sidon, but neither had actual control of the colonies. This changed with the rise of Carthage, since the Carthageans appointed their own magistrates to rule the towns and Carthage retained much direct control over the colonies. This policy resulted in a number of Iberian towns siding with the Romans during the Punic Wars.

[edit] Life in Carthage

[edit] Language

Carthaginians spoke Punic, a dialect of Phoenician.

[edit] Topography

Carthage was built on a promontory with inlets to the sea to the north and south. The city's location made it master of the Mediterranean's maritime trade. All ships crossing the sea had to pass between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia, where Carthage was built, affording it great power and influence.

Two large, artificial harbors were built within the city, one for harboring the city's massive navy of 220 warships and the other for mercantile trade. A walled tower overlooked both harbors.

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The two punic ports of Carthage.

The city had massive walls, 23 miles in length, longer than the walls of comparable cities. Most of the walls were located on the shore, and thus could be less impressive as Carthaginian control of the sea made attack from that direction difficult. The 2 1/2-3 miles of wall on the isthmus to the west were truly gargantuan and in fact were never penetrated.

The city had a massive necropolis, religious area, market places, council house, towers, and a theatre, and was divided into four equally-sized residential areas with the same layout. Roughly in the middle of the city stood a high citadel called the Byrsa. It was one of the largest cities in Hellenistic times (by some estimates only Alexandria was larger) and was among the largest cities in pre-industrial history.

Layout of the city.

[edit] Commerce

The empire of Carthage depended heavily on its trade with Tartessos and other cities of the Iberian peninsula, from which it obtained vast quantities of silver, lead, and, even more importantly, tin ore, which was essential to the manufacture of bronze objects by the civilizations of antiquity. Its trade relations with the Iberians and the naval might that enforced Carthage's monopoly on trade with tin-rich Britain and the Canary Islands(?) allowed it to be the sole significant broker of tin and maker of bronze. Maintaining this monopoly was one of the major sources of power and prosperity for Carthage, and a Carthaginian merchant would rather crash his ship upon the rocky shores of Britain than reveal to any rival how it could be safely approached. In addition to being the sole significant distributor of tin, its central location in the Mediterranean and control of the waters between Sicily and Tunisia allowed it to control the eastern nations' supply of tin. Carthage was also the Mediterranean's largest producer of silver, mined in Iberia and the North African coast, and, after the tin monopoly, this was one of its most profitable trades. One mine in Spain provided Hannibal with 300 (Roman) pounds of silver a day (Pliny Nat His 33,96).

Carthage's economy began as an extension of that of its parent city, Tyre. Its massive merchant fleet traversed the trade routes mapped out by Tyre, and Carthage inherited from Tyre the art of making the extremely valuable dye Tyrian Purple. It was one of the most highly-valued commodities in the ancient Mediterranean, being worth fifteen to twenty times its weight in gold. High Roman officials could only afford togas with a small stripe of it. Carthage also produced a less-valuable crimson pigment from the cochineal.

Carthage produced finely embroidered and dyed textiles of cotton, linen, wool, and silk, artistic and functional pottery, faience, incense, and perfumes. It worked with glass, wood, alabaster, ivory, bronze, brass, lead, gold, silver, and precious stones to create a wide array of goods, including mirrors, highly-admired furniture and cabinetry, beds, bedding, and pillows, jewelry, arms, implements, and household items. It traded in salted Atlantic fish and fish sauce, and brokered the manufactured, agricultural, and natural products of most every Mediterranean people.

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Punic pendant in the form of a bearded head, 4th-3rd century, BC

In addition to manufacturing, Carthage practiced highly advanced and productive agriculture, using iron plows, irrigation, and crop rotation. Mago wrote a famous treatise on agriculture which the Romans ordered translated after Carthage was captured. After the Second Punic War, Hannibal promoted agriculture to help restore Carthage's economy and pay the war indemnity to Rome (800,000 (Roman) lbs of silver (Pliny 33,51)), and he was largely successful.

Carthage produced wine, which was highly prized in Rome, Etrusca, and Greece. Rome was a major consumer of raisin wine, a Carthaginian specialty. Fruits, nuts, grain, grapes, dates, and olives were grown, and olive oil was exported in competition with Greece. Carthage also raised fine horses, similar to today's Arabian horses, which were greatly prized and exported.

Carthage's merchant ships, which surpassed even those of the cities of the Levant, visited every major port of the Mediterranean, Britain, the coast of Africa, and the Canary Islands. These ships were able to carry over 100 tons of goods. The commercial fleet of Carthage was comparable in size and tonnage to the fleets of major European powers in the 18th century.

Merchants at first favored the ports of the east: Egypt, the Levant, Greece, Cyprus, and Asia Minor. But after Carthage's control of Sicily brought it into conflict with Greek colonists, it established commercial relations in the western Mediterranean, including trade with the Etruscans.

Carthage also sent caravans into the interior of Africa and Persia. It traded its manufactured and agricultural goods to the coastal and interior peoples of Africa for salt, gold, timber, ivory, ebony, apes, peacocks, skins, and hides. Its merchants invented the practice of sale by auction and used it to trade with the African tribes. In other ports, they tried to establish permanent warehouses or sell their goods in open-air markets. They obtained amber from Scandinavia and tin from the Canary Islands. From the Celtiberians, Gauls, and Celts, they obtained amber, tin, silver, and furs. Sardinia and Corsica produced gold and silver for Carthage, and Phoenician settlements on islands such as Malta and the Balearic Islands produced commodities that would be sent back to Carthage for large-scale distribution. Carthage supplied poorer civilizations with simple things, such as pottery, metallic products, and ornamentations, often displacing the local manufacturing, but brought its best works to wealthier ones such as the Greeks and Etruscans. Carthage traded in almost every commodity wanted by the ancient world, including spices from Arabia, Africa, and India and slaves.

These trade ships went all the way down the Atlantic coast of Africa to Senegal and Nigeria. One account has a Carthaginian trading vessel exploring Nigeria, including identification of distinguishing geographic features such as a coastal volcano and an encounter with gorillas (See Hanno the Navigator). Irregular trade exchanges occurred as far west as Madeira and the Canary Islands, and as far south as southern Africa. Carthage also traded with India by traveling through the Red Sea and the perhaps-mythical lands of Ophir (India/Arabia?) and Punt, which may be present-day Somalia.

Archeological finds show evidence of all kinds of exchanges, from the vast quantities of tin needed for a bronze-based metals civilization to all manner of textiles, ceramics and fine metalwork. Before and in between the wars Carthaginian merchants were in every port in the Mediterranean, buying and selling, establishing warehouses where they could, or just bargaining in open-air markets after getting off their ship.

The Etruscan language has not yet been deciphered, but archaeological excavations of Etruscan cities show that the Etruscan civilization was for several centuries a customer and a vendor to Carthage, long before the rise of Rome. The Etruscan city-states were, at times, both commercial partners of Carthage and military allies.

[edit] Government

Carthage, like every other Phoenician city, was first governed by Suffets. These were the same men of distinction identified in the Bible as Judges (Hebrew: Shofet). Later, it became an oligarchy. Punic inscriptions show that its heads of state were called SPΘM /ʃuftˤim/, meaning "judges." SPΘ /ʃufitˤ/ might originally have been the title of the city's governor, installed by the mother city of Tyre. Later, two judges were elected annually from among the most wealthy and influential families. This practice descended from the plutocratic oligarchies that limited the Suffet's power in the first Phoenician cities. These aristocratic families were represented in a supreme council that had a wide range of powers. However, it is not known whether the judges were elected by this council or by an assembly of the people. Judges appear to have exercised judicial and executive power, but not military. Although the city's administration was firmly controlled by oligarchs, democratic elements were to be found as well: Carthage had elected legislators, trade unions and town meetings. Polybius, in his History book 6, said that the Carthaginian public held more sway over the government than the people of Rome held over theirs. There was a system of checks and balances, as well as public accountability.

The Carthaginians appointed professional generals and admirals, who were separate from the civil government. The Tribes voted and appointed an agent to represent them in a governing council. There was also a council of elders with fairly strong powers but only as an advisory role to the younger council. There was also an assembly of nobles.

In Carthage's early history a body known as the Hundred and Four were created. The Hundred and Four were judges who oversaw the actions of Generals. The sentence many generals received from the Hundred and Four was crucifixion.

Eratosthenes, head of the Greek library of Alexandria, noted that the Greeks had been wrong to describe all non-Greeks as barbarians, since the Carthaginians as well as the Romans had a constitution. Aristotle also knew and wrote about the Carthaginian constitution in his Politics (Book II, Chapter 11).

During the period between the end of the First Punic War and the end of the Second Punic War, Carthage was ruled mainly by members of the Barcid family, who were given control of the Carthaginian military and all the Carthaginian territories outside of Africa.

[edit] Carthaginian military

Due to Carthage's situation as a colonial descendant of a sea-faring nation, whose links to other Phoenician colonies and other trading partners was sea based, and due to the relative paucity of resources and opponents in Africa to the south, the Carthaginian military was unusual in that it developed as its primary defence force, a navy, rather than an army.

[edit] Carthaginian Navy

The navy of Carthage was the city's primary security, and it was the preeminent force patrolling the Mediterranean in Carthage's golden age. This was due to its central location, control of the pathway between Sicily and Tunisia, through which all ships must travel in order to cross the Mediterranean, and the skill with which its ships were designed and built.

Originally based on Tyrian designs with two or three levels of rowers that were perfected by generations of Phoenician seamanship, it also included quadriremes and quinquiremes, warships with four and five ranks of rowers on no more than 3 levels (see galleys). Archaeological investigations confirm the presence of ship-sheds on the island in the circular harbour reported by ancient sources.

A large part of the sailors on the fleet were recruited from the lower class citizenry, the navy offering a profession and financial security. This helped to contribute to the city's political stability, since the unemployed, debt ridden poor in other cities were frequently inclined to support revolutionary leaders in the hope of improving their own lot.<ref>Adrian Goldsworthy - The Fall of Carthage</ref>

It included some 300 to 350 warships that continuously patrolled the expanse of the Mediterranean. It was once remarked that the Mediterranean was a Phoenician lake and no man dared to wash his hands in it without Carthaginian permission.<ref>PVN Myers - A General History for High Schools and Colleges</ref> But the Carthaginian hegemony was never so great.

Polybius wrote in the sixth book of his History that the Carthaginians were, "more exercised in maritime affairs than any other people."<ref>Polybius - History Book 6</ref> The Romans, unable to defeat them through conventional maritime tactics, were forced to simply board the ships and fight in hand to hand combat.

[edit] Carthaginian Army

Main article: Carthaginian Army

In contrast to Carthage's large merchant and military navy, there was no standing army of Carthaginian citizens for much of its history. A citizen militia was raised when required, but for most of the time Carthage hired mercenary armies when needed. Nevertheless, Carthage did manage to conquer its immediate several other coastal cities of Pheonician descent, as well as its immediate neighbours to the south, including Numidia. The armies of late Carthage also enjoyed on average approximate military parity to those of the Roman republic when the two met.

It is worth noting, however, that the Carthaginian system of mercenary troops from mixed ethnic groups and geographic locations was subject to a much greater range of effectiveness that their Roman counterparts: whereas Roman troops of the republic tended to cluster around a median of effectiveness and have their actual performance dictated to a greater degree by the ability of their generals, Carthaginian armies ranged from highly ineffective to highly effective. This has been attributed to the variety of troop types amongst the ethnic groups - an unprepared or raw mixed mercenary army suffered from communication problems and a lack of cohesiveness in tactical situations. In contrast, a veteran or highly trained mercenary army could draw strength from its variety of unit types, and presented a formidable foe. When combined with a great general, such as Hannibal Barca, it formed one of the most effective armies of the time.

[edit] Child Abuse

Carthage under the Phoenicians was notorious to its neighbors for child sacrifice. Plutarch (ca. 46–120 AD) mentions the practice, as do Tertullian, Orosius and Diodorus Siculus. Livy and Polybius do not. The Hebrew Bible also mentions child sacrifice practiced by the Caananites, ancestors of the Carthaginians, and by some Israelites. According to Diodorus Siculus, "There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire."[citation needed]

Modern archaeology in formerly Punic areas has in fact found a number of large cemeteries for children and infants. But there is some argument that the reports of child sacrifice were based on a misconception, later used as blood libel by the Romans who destroyed the city. These cemeteries may have been used as graves for stillborn infants or children who died very early.[citation needed]

[edit] Religion

Main article: Religion in Carthage
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Ruins of Punic houses on the Byrsa Hill
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Stelae on the Tophet

Carthaginian religion was based on Phoenician religion. Phoenician religion was inspired by the powers and processes of nature. Many of the gods they worshipped, however, were localized and are now known only under their local names.

[edit] Pantheon

The supreme divine couple was that of Tanit and Ba'al Hammon. The goddess Astarte seems to have been popular in early times. At the height of its cosmopolitan era, Carthage seems to have hosted a large array of divinities from the neighbouring civilizations of Greece, Egypt and the Etruscan city-states.

[edit] Caste of priests and acolytes

Surviving Punic texts are detailed enough to give a portrait of a very well organized caste of temple priests and acolytes performing different types of functions, for a variety of prices. Priests were clean shaven, unlike most of the population. In the first centuries of the city ritual celebrations included rhythmic dancing, derived from Phoenician traditions.

[edit] Punic stelae

Cippi and stelae of limestone are characteristic monuments of Punic art and religion, and are found throughout the western Phoenician world in unbroken continuity, both historically and geographically. Most of them were set up over urns containing cremated human remains, placed within open-air sanctuaries. Such sanctuaries constitute striking relics of Punic civilisation.

[edit] Evidence from archaeology

Modern archeological excavations have been interpreted as confirming Plutarch's reports of Carthaginian child sacrifice.<ref>Kelly A. MacFarlane, University of Alberta, Hittites, Caananites, Israelites, Lydians and Persians</ref> In a single child cemetery called the Tophet, an estimated 20,000 urns were deposited between 400 BC and 200 BC, with the practice continuing until the early years of the Christian period. The urns contained the charred bones of newborns and in some cases the bones of fetuses and 2-year-olds. These remains have been interpreted to mean that in the cases of stillborn babies, the parents would sacrifice their youngest child. There is a clear correlation between the frequency of sacrifice and the well-being of the city. In bad times (war, poor harvests) sacrifices became more frequent, indicating an increased assiduousness in seeking divine appeasement.

Carthaginian votive stelae (several in Egyptian style) display a priest carrying a living child, apparently to sacrifice.

Recent evidence from the island of Motya (off Sicily) suggests that child sacrifice did indeed take place, the remains in the sacred cemetery showing that children buried there were all males aged between two and six. This is consistent with the common (ancient) Middle Eastern custom of sacrificing the first-born son.

Their bones showed no evidence of chronic disease, suggesting that the children did not die of natural causes. While bone analysis cannot rule out all common diseases that killed children in that era, quickly or slowly, an ordinary cemetery populated with numerous burials over a period of a few generations should contain many bones showing evidence of disease.

[edit] The Tophet

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Stele from the Tophet showing a Tanit symbol

The sacred precinct of Carthage, now called the Tophet, after a Biblical term, was the location of the temple of the goddess Tanit and the necropolis.

The word "Tophet" can be translated "place of burning" or "roaster." The Biblical text (2 Kings, 23:10), which uses the word with reference to illicit Israelite sacrifices, does not specify that the victims were buried, only burned, although the "place of burning" was probably adjacent to the place of burial. Indeed, soil in the Carthage Tophet was found to be full of olive wood charcoal, probably from the sacrificial pyres. We have no idea how the Phoenicians themselves referred to the places of burning or burial or to the practice itself, since no large body of Phoenician writing has come down to us.

Accounts of child sacrifice in Carthage report that beginning at the founding of Carthage in about 814 B.C., mothers and fathers buried their children who had been sacrificed to Baal Hammon and Tanit there. The practice was apparently distasteful even to Carthaginians, and they began to buy children for the purpose of sacrifice or even to raise servant children instead of offering up their own. However, in times of crisis or calamity, like war, drought, or famine, their priests demanded the flower of their youth. Special ceremonies during extreme crisis saw up to 200 children of the most affluent and powerful families slain and tossed into the burning pyre. During the political crisis of 310 B.C., some 500 were killed. On a moonlit night, after the child was mercifully killed, the body was placed on the arms of the god, where it rolled into the fire pit. The sound of flutes, lyres, and tambourines helped to drown out the cries of the anguished parents. Later, the remains were collected and placed in special small urns. The urns were then buried in the Tophet.

[edit] Arguments against the existence of child sacrifice

It has been argued by some modern scholars that evidence of Carthaginian child sacrifice is incomplete, and that it is far more likely to have been Roman blood libel against the Carthaginians to justify their conquest and destruction. The debate is ongoing among modern archeologists and historians. Skeptics suggest that the bodies of children found in Carthaginian and Phoenician cemeteries were merely the cremated remains of children that died naturally. Sergio Ribichini has argued that the Tophet was "a child necropolis designed to receive the remains of infants who had died prematurely of sickness or other natural causes, and who for this reason were "offered" to specific deities and buried in a place different from the one reserved for the ordinary dead".<ref>Sergio Ribichini, "Beliefs and Religious Life" in Moscati, Sabatino (ed), The Phoenicians, 1988, p.141</ref> The few Carthaginian texts which have survived make absolutely no mention of child sacrifice, though most of them pertain to matters entirely unrelated to religion, such as the practice of agriculture.

[edit] Carthaginian ethnicity and citizenship

In Carthaginian society, advancement was largely relegated to those of distinctly Carthaginian descent, and the children of foreign men generally had no opportunities. However, there are several notable exceptions to this rule. The Barcid family after Hamilcar himself was half Iberian through their mother, Hamilcar's wife - a member of the Iberian nobility, whose children all rose to leading positions in both their native cultures. Adherbal the Red and the Hanno the Navigator were also of mixed origin, the former identified from his Celti[Iberian] epithet, and the latter from a coupling much like the later Barcids. Other exceptions to this rule include children of prominent Carthaginians with Celtic nobles, as well as a single half-Sardinian admiral who was elevated simply by virtue of his own ability.

Owing to this social organization, citizenship in Carthage was exclusive only to those of a select ethnic background (with an emphasis on paternal relationships), though those of exceptional ability could escape the stigma of their background. Regardless, acceptance of the local religious practices was requisite of citizenship - and by extension any sort of advancement, which left many prominent and well regarded peoples out of the empire's administration.

[edit] Conflicts with other civilizations

[edit] The Sicilian wars

[edit] First Sicilian war

Carthage's economic successes, and its dependence on shipping to conduct most of its trade, led to the creation of a powerful Carthaginian navy to discourage both pirates and rival nations. This, coupled with its success and growing hegemony, brought Carthage into increasing conflict with the Greeks, the other major power contending for control of the central Mediterranean.

The island of Sicily, lying at Carthage's doorstep, became the arena on which this conflict played out. From their earliest days, both the Greeks and Phoenicians had been attracted to the large island, establishing a large number of colonies and trading posts along its coasts. Small battles had been fought between these settlements for centuries.

By 480 BC Gelo, the tyrant of Greek Syracuse, backed in part by support from other Greek city-states, was attempting to unite the island under his rule. This imminent threat could not be ignored, and Carthage - possibly as part of an alliance with Persia, then engaged in a war with Greece - fielded its largest military force to date, under the leadership of the general Hamilcar. Traditional accounts give Hamilcar's army a strength of three hundred thousand men; though these are almost certainly exaggerated, it must nonetheless have been of formidable force.

En route to Sicily, however, Hamilcar suffered losses (possibly severe) due to poor weather. Landing at Panormus (modern-day Palermo), he was then decisively defeated by Gelo at the Battle of Himera. He was either killed during the battle or committed suicide in shame. The loss severely weakened Carthage, and the old government of entrenched nobility was ousted, replaced by the Carthaginian Republic.

[edit] Second Sicilian war

By 410 BC Carthage had recovered after serious defeats. It had conquered much of modern day Tunisia, strengthened and founded new colonies in North Africa, and sponsored Mago Barca's journey across the Sahara Desert, Hanno the Navigator's journey down the African coast, and Himilco the Navigator's exploration of the European Atlantic coast. Although, in that year, the Iberian colonies seceded—cutting off Carthage's major supply of silver and copperHannibal Mago, the grandson of Hamilcar, began preparations to reclaim Sicily, while expeditions were also led into Morocco and Senegal, and also into the Atlantic.

In 409 BC, Hannibal Mago set out for Sicily with his force. He was successful in capturing the smaller cities of Selinus (modern Selinunte) and Himera, before returning triumphantly to Carthage with the spoils of war. But the primary enemy, Syracuse, remained untouched, and in 405 BCE Hannibal Mago led a second Carthaginian expedition, this time to claim the island in its entirety. This time, however, he met with fierce resistance and ill-fortune. During the siege of Agrigentum, the Carthaginian forces were ravaged by plague, Hannibal Mago himself succumbing to it. Although his successor, Himilco, successfully extended the campaign by breaking a Greek siege, capturing the city of Gela and repeatedly defeating the army of Dionysius, the new tyrant of Syracuse, he, too, was weakened by the plague and forced to sue for peace before returning to Carthage.

In 398 BC, Dionysius had regained his strength and broke the peace treaty, striking at the Carthaginian stronghold of Motya. Himilco responded decisively, leading an expedition which not only reclaimed Motya, but also captured Messina. Finally, he laid siege to Syracuse itself. The siege met with great success throughout 397 BCE, but in 396 BCE plague again ravaged the Carthaginian forces, and they collapsed.

Sicily by this time had become an obsession for Carthage. Over the next sixty years, Carthaginian and Greek forces engaged in a constant series of skirmishes. By 340 BC, Carthage had been pushed entirely into the southwest corner of the island, and an uneasy peace reigned over the island.

[edit] Third Sicilian war

In 315 BC Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, seized the city of Messene (present-day Messina). In 311 BC he invaded the last Carthaginian holdings on Sicily, breaking the terms of the current peace treaty, and laid siege to Akragas.

Hamilcar, grandson of Hanno the Navigator, led the Carthaginian response and met with tremendous success. By 310 BC he controlled almost all of Sicily and had laid siege to Syracuse itself. In desperation, Agathocles secretly led an expedition of 14,000 men to the mainland, hoping to save his rule by leading a counterstrike against Carthage itself. In this, he was successful: Carthage was forced to recall Hamilcar and most of his army from Sicily to face the new and unexpected threat. Although Agathocles' army was eventually defeated in 307 BC, Agathocles himself escaped back to Sicily and was able to negotiate a peace which maintained Syracuse as a stronghold of Greek power in Sicily.

[edit] Pyrrhic War

Further information: Pyrrhic War

Between 280 BC and 275 BC, Pyrrhus of Epirus waged two major campaigns in an effort to protect and extend the influence of the Macedonians in the western Mediterranean: one against the emerging power of the Roman Republic in southern Italy, the other against Carthage in Sicily.

Pyrrhus sent an advance guard to Tarentium under the command of Cineaus with 3,000 infantry. Pyrrhus marched the main army across the Greek peninsula and engaged in battles with the Thessalians and the Athenian army. After his early success on the march Pyrrhus entered Tarentium to rejoin with his advance gaurd.

In the midst of Pyrrhus' Italian campaigns, he received envoys from the Sicilian cities of Agrigentum, Syracuse, and Leontini, asking for military aid to remove the Carthaginian dominance over that island.<ref>Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, 22:1 - 22:3</ref> Pyrrhus agreed, and fortified the Sicilian cities with an army of 20,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry and 20 War Elephants, supported by some 200 ships. Initially, Pyrrhus' Sicilian campaign against Carthage was a success, pushing back the Carthaginian forces, and capturing the city-fortress of Eryx, even though he was not able to capture Lilybaeum.<ref>Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus , 22:4 - 22:6</ref>

Following these losses, Carthage sued for peace, but the roman senate refused unless Carthage was willing to renounce its claims on Sicily entirely. According to Plutarch, Pyrrhus set his sights on conquering Carthage itself, and to this end, began outfitting an expedition. However, his ruthless treatment of the Sicilian cities in his outfitting of this expedition, and his execution of two Sicilian rulers whom he claimed were plotting against him led to such a rise in animosity towards the Greeks, that Pyrrhus withdrew from Sicily and returned to deal with events occurring in southern Italy.<ref>Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus , Chapter 23</ref>

Pyrrhus' campaigns in Italy were inconclusive, and Pyrrhus eventually withdrew to Epirus. For Carthage, this meant a return to the status quo. For Rome, however, the failure of Pyrrhus to defend the colonies of Magna Graecia meant that Rome absorbed them into its "sphere of influence", bringing it closer to complete domination of the Italian peninsula. Rome's domination of Italy, and proof that Rome could pit its military strength successfully against major international powers, would pave the way to the future Rome-Carthage conflicts of the Punic Wars.

[edit] The Punic Wars

Further information: Punic Wars,  First Punic War,  Mercenary War,  Second Punic War, and Third Punic War

When Agathocles died in 288 BC, a large company of Italian mercenaries who had previously been held in his service found themselves suddenly without employment. Rather than leave Sicily, they seized the city of Messana. Naming themselves Mamertines (or "sons of Mars"), they became a law unto themselves, terrorizing the surrounding countryside.

The Mamertines became a growing threat to Carthage and Syracuse alike. In 265 BCE, Hiero II, former general of Pyrrhus and the new tyrant of Syracuse, took action against them. Faced with a vastly superior force, the Mamertines divided into two factions, one advocating surrender to Carthage, the other preferring to seek aid from Rome. As a result, embassies were sent to both cities.

While the Roman Senate debated the best course of action, the Carthaginians eagerly agreed to send a garrison to Messana. A Carthaginian garrison was admitted to the city, and a Carthaginian fleet sailed into the Messanan harbor. However, soon afterwards they began negotiating with Hiero; alarmed, the Mamertines sent another embassy to Rome asking them to expel the Carthaginians.

Hiero's intervention had placed Carthage's military forces directly across the narrow channel of water that separated Sicily from Italy. Moreover, the presence of the Carthaginian fleet gave them effective control over this channel, the Strait of Messina, and demonstrated a clear and present danger to nearby Rome and her interests.

As a result, the Roman Assembly, although reluctant to ally with a band of mercenaries, sent an expeditionary force to return control of Messana to the Mamertines.

The Roman attack on the Carthaginian forces at Messana triggered the first of the Punic Wars. Over the course of the next century, these three major conflicts between Rome and Carthage would determine the course of Western civilization. The wars included a Carthaginian invasion led by Hannibal, which nearly prevented the rise of the Roman Empire. Eventual victory by Rome was a turning point which meant that the civilization of the ancient Mediterranean would pass to the modern world via Southern Europe instead of North Africa.

Shortly after the First Punic War, Carthage faced a major mercenary revolt which changed the internal political landscape of Carthage (bringing the Barcid family to prominence), and affected Cathage's international standing, as Rome used the events of the war to base a claim by which it seized Sardinia and Corsica.

[edit] The fall of Carthage

The fall of Carthage was at the end of the third Punic War in 146 B.C. In spite of the initial devastating Roman naval losses at the beginning of the series of conflicts and Rome's recovery from the brink of defeat after the terror of a 15 year occupation of much of Italy by Hannibal, the end of the series of wars resulted in the end of Carthaginian power and the complete destruction of the city by Scipio Aemilianus. The Romans pulled the Phoenician warships out into the harbor and burned them before the city, and went from house to house, slaughtering and enslaving the people. The city was set ablaze, and in this way was razed with only ruins and rubble to field the aftermath.

[edit] Roman Carthage

There is a widespread notion that the Carthaginian farmland was salted to ensure that no crops could be grown there, but the veracity of this is disputed. At the time, the salt was very expensive, and it would have been difficult purely as a matter of logistics to accomplish this. Besides, the site was too well chosen to waste.

Image:Follis-Domitius Alexander-carthage RIC 68.jpg
Domitius Alexander on a follis. On the reverse, the personification of Carthage, his capital.

When Carthage fell, its nearby rival Utica, a Roman ally, was made capital of the region and replaced Carthage as the leading center of Punic trade and leadership. It had the advantageous position of being situated on the Lake of Tunis and the outlet of the Majardah River, Tunisia's only river that flowed all year long. However, grain cultivation in the Tunisian mountains caused large amounts of silt to erode into the river. This silt was accumulated in the harbor until it was made useless, and Rome was forced to rebuild Carthage.

A new city of Carthage was built on the same land, and by the 1st century it had grown to the second largest city in the western half of the Roman empire, with a peak population of 500,000. It was the center of the Roman province of Africa, which was a major "breadbasket" of the empire. Carthage briefly became the capital of an usurper, Domitius Alexander, in 308-311.

Carthage also became a center of early Christianity. Tertullian rhetorically addresses the Roman governor with the fact that the Christians of Carthage that just yesterday were few in number, now "have filled every place among you—cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palaces, senate, forum; we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods." (Apologeticus written at Carthage, c. 197.) It is worth noting that Tertullian omits any mention of the surrounding countryside or its network of villas not unlike colonial hacienda society.

In the first of a string of rather poorly reported Councils at Carthage a few years later, no fewer than seventy bishops attended. Tertullian later broke with the mainstream that was represented more and more by the bishop of Rome, but a more serious rift among Christians was the Donatist controversy, which Augustine of Hippo spent much time and parchment arguing against. In 397 at the Council at Carthage, the Biblical canon for the western Church was confirmed.

The political fallout from the deep disaffection of African Christians is supposedly a crucial factor in the ease with which Carthage and the other centres were captured in the 5th century by Gaiseric, king of the Vandals, who defeated the Byzantine general Bonifacius and made the city his capital. Gaiseric was considered a heretic too, an Arian, and though Arians commonly despised Catholic Christians, a mere promise of toleration might have caused the city's population to accept him. After a failed attempt to recapture the city in the 5th century, the Byzantines finally subdued the Vandals in the 6th century. Using Gaiseric's grandson's deposal by a distant cousin, Gelimer, as a pretext, the Byzantines dispatched an army to conquer the Vandal kingdom. On Sunday, October 15 533, the Byzantine general Belisarius, accompanied by his wife Antonina, made his formal entry into Carthage, sparing it a sack and a massacre.

During the emperor Maurice's reign, Carthage was made into an Exarchate, as was Ravenna in Italy. These two exarchates were the western bulwarks of Byzantium, all that remained of its power in the west. In the early 7th century, it was the Exarch of Carthage, Heraclius (of Armenian origin), who overthrew Emperor Phocas.

The Byzantine Exarchate was not, however, able to withstand the Arab conquerors of the 7th century. The first Arab assault on the Exarchate of Carthage was initiated from Egypt without much success in 647. A more protracted campaign lasted from 670-683. In 698 the Exarchate of Africa was finally overrun by Hassan Ibn al Numan and a force of 40,000 men, who destroyed Roman Carthage, just as the Romans had done in 146 B.C. Carthage was replaced by Tunis as the major regional center. The destruction of the Exarchate of Africa marked a permanent end to Roman or Byzantine influence there, as the rising tide of Islam shattered the empire.

[edit] Carthage in modern times

Carthage remains a popular tourist attraction and residential suburb.

[edit] Carthage in fiction

  • Hannibal's Children, an alternate history novel, about the Carthaginians.
  • Gustave Flaubert, Salammbô, a novel on the mercenary wars in North Africa and around Carthage.
  • Isaac Asimov, The Dead Past, a science fiction story in which Carthage is a scientific interest of one of the characters; concisely mentions all major facts about it.
  • John Barnes wrote the Timeline wars series of science fiction stories, which has several timelines where Carthage wins and enslaves other timelines.
  • Pride of Carthage, a novel accounting Hannibal Barca's campaign against Rome, by David Anthony Durham.
  • The Purple Quest, a novel about a Phoenician sea captain by Frank Slaughter.
  • The Young Carthaginian, a novel about the Carthaginians by G. A. Henty.
  • Carthage trilogy of Ross Leckie - each book depicting different personal history, interwoven with the Carthaginian history. The first two are Hannibal and Scipio, written in a first perspective like I, Claudius of Robert Graves, starting from the teen years of the two brilliant generals till their death (at the same year).
  • Carthage is the codename of the mysterious fifth sector in the French animation series, Code Lyoko, and a password is required to reach it. The code is "Scipio" (Reference to the man who conquered Carthage, Scipio Aemilianus Africanus). Also, references are also made to 'Project Carthage', a military-sponsored technology-development project.
  • Carthage is one of a number of factions in the 2004 PC game Rome: Total War. Carthage's troops include a good mixture of infantry and cavalry and powerful elephants. Each of Carthage's starting territories holds the location of an ideal sea-port, with very few nearby factions who place as much naval emphasis as Carthage, meaning that it is a simple matter for Carthage to ferry troops back and forth from landmass to landmass, without much worry that enemy navies will threaten the passengers.
  • Vampire: the Masquerade attributes Carthage to the Brujah, who founded the city-state in hopes that Kindred and Kine could walk freely amongst each other, and that the city could be a fountain of strength and knowledge. The Brujah blame its fall on Ventrue-controlled Rome, and hold a grudge against the high clan to this day because of it. Carthage is used by many idealist Brujah as a rallying cry, and their hope is to some day rebuild the fabled city. The Ventrue hold that they were justified in destroying the city, which had become in a festering sore of demonic corruption in the service of the Baali.

[edit] Trivia

  • During the Punic Wars, the Romans copied Carthaginian designs of warships in mass quantity to fight them. The new warships were hastily built and rotted at sea.

[edit] Notes

<references />

[edit] References

Commerce, Topography, Cities, and Colonies:

Holst, Sanford. Phoenicians: Lebanon's Epic Heritage. Cambridge and Boston Press, 2005.

Salim Khalaf. "Phoenician Settlements Outside the Mainland." Phoenician Colonies. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Phoenician Colonies.

Roy A Decker. "Economy of the Punic Phoenician Empire." Economy of the Punic Phoenician Empire. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Economy of the Punic Phoenician Empire.

William J. Broad. "Phoenician Ship Wreck: Teaming up to find Ancient Mariners". Phoenician Ship Wreck. 1999. New York Times. Phoenician Ship Wreck.

Salim Khalaf. "Phoenician Trade and Ships". Phoenicia, Phoenician Trade & Ships. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Phoenician Trade and Ships

Anthony Bonanno. “Malta’s Role in the Phoenician, Greek, and Etruscan Trade in the Western Mediterranean.” Malta’s Role in Phoenicia’s Trade. 1999. Melita Historica. Phoenicia’s Trade with Malta.

Salim Khalaf. “Metals and Processees.” Phoenician Mining. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Phoenician Mining

Salim Khalaf. “Britain, Phoenicia’s Secret Treasure, and its Conversion to Christianity – the Legendary Tin Mines of Cornwall.” Britain, Phoenicia’s Secret Treasure. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Britain.

Adopted by Salim Khalaf from original text by R.N. Hall and W.G. Neal. “Was South-East Africa a Major Source of Phoenician Gold Import?” Phoenician Gold Mines of Zimbabwe. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Gold Mines of Zimbabwe

Summarized by Salim Khalaf from original text by Dr. Touhami GARNAOUI. “The Pursuit of the Lost Times of Deceit and Illusions: The Case of Tunisia” The Case of Tunisia. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. The Case of Tunisia

Salim Khalaf. “Phoenician Wine.” Phoenician Wines and Vines. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Phoenician Wines and Vines

Salim Khalaf. “Elissar Dido: Queen of Carthage.” Elissar, Dido, The Queen of Carthage and her City.” 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Elissar

Roy A Decker. “Carthaginians in the New World, a radical theory.” Carthaginians in the New World. 1999. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Carthaginians in the New World.

William Serfaty. “The Pillars of the Phoenicians.” Gibraltar, the Pillars of the Phoenicians. 1997. Virtual Center for Phoenician Studies. Pillars of the Phoenicians.

Each site has its own sources listed. Also see Bibliography for an extensive list of references.


Phoenician Religion [1]

  1. Polybius [2]
  2. Hannibal's Campaigns. Tony Bath. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981.
  3. La vie quotidienne à Carthage au temps d'Hannibal. Gilbert et Colette Charles-Picard. Paris: Hachette, 1958.
  4. La légende de Carthage. Azedine Beschaouch. Paris: Gallimard, 1993.
  5. Carthage: Uncovering the Mysteries and Splendors of Ancient Tunisia. David Soren, Aicha Ben Abed Ben Kader, Heidi Slim. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
  6. The Phoenicians and the West: Politics, colonies and trade. Maria Eugenia Aubet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  7. Itineraria Phoenicia.Edward Lipinski. Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Studies, 2004. "Aeneid" Virgil


  1. Polybius. Ancient History Sourcebook: Polybius (c.200-118 BC): Rome at the End of the Punic Wars History, Book 6. [3]
  2. A General History for Colleges and High Schools, Myers, P.V.N.

[edit] See also

Coordinates: 36°53′12″N, 10°18′53″E

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