Thermes of Antoninus Pius at Carthage
|First settled||814 BC|
|• Mayor||Azedine Beschaouch|
|• City||180 km2 (70 sq mi)|
|• Density||120/km2 (310/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|Criteria||ii, iii, vi|
|Designated||1979 (3rd session)|
The city of Carthage (/ˈkɑrθɪdʒ/; Tunisian Arabic: قرطاج Qarṭāj) is a city in Tunisia that was once the center of the ancient Carthaginian civilization. The city developed from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC into the capital of an ancient empire. The area of Carthage was inhabited by Berber people who also became the bulk of Carthage's population and constituted a significant part of its army, economy and administration. Native Berbers and settling Phoenicians in Carthage mixed in different ways including religion and language, creating the Punic language and culture.
The name of Carthage, Latin: Carthago or Karthago, Ancient Greek: Καρχηδών Karkhēdōn, Etruscan: *Carθaza, is derived from the Phoenician 𐤒𐤓𐤕 𐤇𐤃𐤔𐤕 Qart-ḥadašt meaning "New City" (Aramaic: קרת חדתה Qeret Ḥadatha; Hebrew: קרת חדשה Qeret Ḥadašah), implying it was a 'new Tyre'.
The first civilization that developed within the city's sphere of influence is referred to as Punic (a form of the word "Phoenician") or Carthaginian. The city of Carthage is located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis across from the centre of Tunis. According to Greek historians, Carthage was founded by Canaanite-speaking Phoenician colonists from Tyre (in modern Lebanon) under the leadership of Queen Elissa or Dido. It became a large and rich city and thus a major power in the Mediterranean. The resulting rivalry with Syracuse, Numidia, and Rome was accompanied by several wars with respective invasions of each other's homeland.
Hannibal's invasion of Italy in the Second Punic War culminated in the Carthaginian victory at Cannae and led to a serious threat to the continuation of Roman rule over Italy; however, the Romans gained the upper hand by invading Africa and defeating Carthage at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. Following the Third Punic War, the city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC. However, the Romans refounded Carthage, which became the empire's fourth most important city and the second most important city in the Latin West. It later became the capital of the short-lived Vandal kingdom. After its conquest by Belisarius, it remained one of the most important cities until the Muslim conquest, when it was destroyed a second time in 698.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote extensively on Carthaginian politics, and he considered the city to have some of the best governing institutions in the world, along with those of the Greek states of Sparta and Crete.
Carthage was built on a promontory with sea inlets to the north and the 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 harbours.
The city had massive walls, 37 kilometres (23 mi) 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 4.0 to 4.8 kilometres (2.5 to 3 mi) of wall on the isthmus to the west were truly massive and were never penetrated.
The city had a huge necropolis or burial ground, religious area, market places, council house, towers and a theater 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.
Carthage was one of the largest cities in Hellenistic times and was among the largest cities in pre-industrial history. Whereas by 14 A.D. Rome had at least 750,000 inhabitants, and in the following century may have reached 1 million, the cities of Alexandria, Antioch, and Carthage numbered only a few hundred thousand or less. According to the not always reliable history of Herodian, Carthage rivaled Alexandria for second place in the Roman empire.
The historical study of Carthage is difficult because its culture and records were destroyed by the Romans at the end of the Third Punic War and few primary Carthaginian historical sources survived. While there are few ancient translations of Punic texts into Greek and Latin, inscriptions remain on monuments and buildings discovered in North Africa, the main sources are Greek and Roman historians, including Livy, Polybius, Appian, Cornelius Nepos, Silius Italicus, Plutarch, Dio Cassius and Herodotus. These writers belonged to peoples in competition and often at war with Carthage. Greek cities contested with Carthage for the Western Mediterranean culminating in the Greek-Punic Wars and the Pyrrhic War over Sicily and the Romans fought three wars against Carthage. Not surprisingly, their accounts of Carthage are extremely hostile; while there are a few Greek authors who took a favorable view, these works have been lost.
Queen Elissa (Dido)
According to Roman sources, Phoenician colonists from modern-day Lebanon, led by Queen Dido (Elissa), founded Carthage (c. 814 B.C.). Queen Elissa (also known as "Alissar") was an exiled princess of the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre. At its peak, the metropolis she founded, Carthage, came to be called the "shining city," ruling 300 other cities around the western and leading the Phoenician (or Punic) world.
Elissa's brother, King Pygmalion of Tyre, had murdered her husband, the high priest. Elissa escaped the tyranny of her own country, founding the "new city" of 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 Elissa was the daughter of King Belus II of Tyre. When he died, the throne was jointly bequeathed to her and her brother, Pygmalion. She married her uncle Acherbas (also known as Sychaeus), the High Priest of Melqart, a man with both authority and wealth comparable to the king. This led to increased rivalry between religion and the monarchy. Pygmalion was a tyrant, lover of both gold and intrigue, who desired the authority and fortune enjoyed by Acherbas. Pygmalion assassinated Acherbas in the temple and kept 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.
In the Roman epic of Virgil, the Aeneid, Queen Dido, the Greek name for Queen Elissa, 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 by Virgil as even more noble when she offers asylum to Aeneas and his men, who have recently escaped from Troy. A spirit in the form of the messenger god, Mercury, sent by Jupiter, reminds Aeneas that his mission is not to stay in Carthage with his new-found love, Dido, but to sail to Italy to found Rome. Virgil ends his legend of Dido with the story that, when Aeneas tells Dido, her heart broken, she orders a pyre to be built where she falls upon Aeneas' sword. As she lay dying, she predicted eternal strife between Aeneas' people and her own: "rise up from my bones, avenging spirit" (4.625, trans. Fitzgerald) she says, an invocation of Hannibal. The details of Virgil's story do not, however, form part of the original legend and are significant mainly as an indication of Rome's attitude towards the city she had destroyed, exemplified by Cato the Elder's much-repeated utterance, "Carthago delenda est", "Carthage must be destroyed."
The Carthaginian Republic was one of the longest-lived and largest states in the ancient Mediterranean. Reports relay several wars with Syracuse and finally, Rome, which eventually resulted in the defeat and destruction of Carthage in the third Punic war. The Carthaginians were Semitic Phoenician settlers originating in the coast of the Near East. They spoke Canaanite and followed a predominantly Canaanite religion.
According to Polybius, Carthage relied heavily, though not exclusively, on foreign mercenaries, especially in overseas warfare. The core of its army was from its own territory in north Africa (ethnic Libyans and Numidians (modern northern Algeria), as well as "Liby-Phoenicians"—i.e., Phoenicians proper). These troops were supported by mercenaries from different ethnic groups and geographic locations across the Mediterranean who fought in their own national units; Celtic, Balearic, and Iberian troops were especially common. Later, after the Barcid conquest of Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal), Iberians came to form an even greater part of the Carthaginian forces. Carthage seems to have fielded a formidable cavalry force, especially in its North African homeland; a significant part of it was composed of Numidian contingents of light cavalry. Other mounted troops included North African elephants (now extinct), trained for war, which, among other uses, were commonly used for frontal assaults or as anti-cavalry protection. An army could field up to several hundred of these animals but on most reported occasions fewer than a hundred were deployed. The riders of these elephants were armed with a spike and hammer to kill the elephants, in case they charged toward their own army.
The navy of Carthage was one of the largest in the , using serial production to maintain high numbers at moderate cost. The sailors and marines of the Carthaginian navy were predominantly recruited from the Phoenician citizenry, unlike the multi-ethnic allied and mercenary troops of the Carthaginian armies. The navy offered a stable profession and financial security for its sailors. 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. The reputation of her skilled sailors implies that there was in peacetime a training of oarsmen and coxswains, giving their navy a cutting edge in naval matters.
The trade of Carthaginian merchantmen was by land across the Sahara and especially by sea throughout the and far into the Atlantic to the tin-rich Cassiterides, and also to North West Africa. There is evidence that at least one Punic expedition, that of Hanno, may have sailed along the West African coast to regions south of the Tropic of Cancer.
Polybius wrote in the sixth book of his History that the Carthaginians were "more exercised in maritime affairs than any other people." Their navy included some 300 to 350 warships. The Romans, who had little experience in naval warfare prior to the First Punic War, managed to finally defeat Carthage with a combination of reverse engineering captured Carthaginian ships, recruitment of experienced Greek sailors from the ranks of its conquered cities, the unorthodox corvus device, and their superior numbers in marines and rowers. In the Third Punic War Polybius describes a tactical innovation of the Carthaginians, augmenting their few triremes with small vessels that carried hooks (to attack the oars) and fire (to attack the hulls). With this new combination, they were able to stand their ground against the numerically superior Roman for a whole day.
The fall of Carthage came at the end of the Third Punic War in 146 BC at the Battle of Carthage. Despite initial devastating Roman naval losses 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 harbour and burned them before the city, and went from house to house, capturing and enslaving the people. Fifty thousand Carthaginians were sold into slavery. The city was set ablaze and razed to the ground, leaving only ruins and rubble. After the fall of Carthage, Rome annexed the majority of the Carthaginian colonies, including other North African locations such as Volubilis, Lixus, Chellah, and Mogador. The legend that the city was sown with salt remains widely accepted despite lacking evidence among ancient historical accounts; R.T. Ridley found that the earliest such claim is attributed to B.L. Hallward's chapter in Cambridge Ancient History, published in 1930. Ridley contended that Hallward's claim may have gained traction due to historical evidence of other salted-earth instances such as Abimelech's salting of Shechem in Judges 9:45. Many historians have since issued retractions acknowledging Ridley. B.H. Warmington similarly admitted fault in repeating Hallward's error but posited that the legend precedes 1930 and inspired repetitions of the practice. After Boniface VIII's destruction of Palestrina in 1299 he issued a papal bull referring to the plowing and salting of defeated Carthage. For this reason, Warmington suggested that the symbolic value of the legend is so great and enduring that it mitigates the deficiency of concrete evidence that it happened and is useful to understand how subsequent historical narratives have been framed.
On top of Byrsa hill, the location of the Roman Forum, a residential area from the last century of existence (early 2nd century B.C.) of the Punic city was excavated by the French archaeologist Serge Lancel. The neighborhood, with its houses, shops and private spaces, is significant for what it reveals about daily life there over twenty-one hundred years ago.
The remains have been preserved under embankments, the substructures of the later Roman forum, whose foundation piles dot the district. The housing blocks are separated by a grid of straight streets approximately six metres wide, with a roadway consisting of clay; there are in situ stairs to compensate for the slope of the hill. Construction of this type presupposes organization and political will, and has inspired the name of the neighborhood, "Hannibal district", referring to the legendary Punic general or suffete (consul) at the beginning of the 2nd century BC.
The habitat is typical, even stereotypical. The street was often used as a storefront/shopfront; cisterns were installed in basements to collect water for domestic use, and a long corridor on the right side of each residence led to a courtyard containing a sump, around which various other elements may be found. In some places the ground is covered with mosaics called punica pavement, sometimes using a characteristic red mortar.
When Carthage fell, its nearby rival Utica, a Roman ally, was made capital of the region and replaced Carthage as the leading centre of Punic trade and leadership. It had the advantageous position of being situated on 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 accumulated in the harbour until it became useless, and Rome was forced to rebuild Carthage.
By 122 BC Gaius Gracchus founded a short-lived colony, called Colonia Iunonia, after the Latin name for the Punic goddess Tanit, Iuno caelestis. The purpose was to obtain arable lands for impoverished farmers. The Senate abolished the colony some time later, in order to undermine Gracchus' power.
After this ill-fated attempt a new city of Carthage was built on the same land by Julius Caesar in 49–44 BC period, and by the 1st century A.D. it had grown to be the second largest city in the western half of the Roman Empire, with a peak population of 500,000. It was the centre of the Roman province of Africa, which was a major breadbasket of the Empire. Among its major monuments was an amphitheater.
Carthage also became a centre of early Christianity (see Carthage (episcopal see)). In the first of a string of rather poorly reported councils at Carthage a few years later, no fewer than 70 bishops attended. Tertullian later broke with the mainstream that was represented more and more in the west 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 AD 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 Roman general Bonifacius and made the city his capital. Gaiseric was considered a heretic too, an Arian, and though Arians commonly despised orthodox 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 Eastern Roman empire finally subdued the Vandals in the Vandalic War 533–534.
Thereafter the city became the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Africa, which during the emperor Maurice's reign, was made into an Exarchate, as was Ravenna in Italy. These two exarchates were the western bulwarks of the Roman empire, all that remained of its power in the west. In the early 7th century it was the exarch of Carthage who overthrew emperor Phocas.
The Roman Exarchate of Africa was not able to withstand the Muslim conquerors of the 7th century. Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik in 686 AD sent a force led by Zuhayr ibn Qais who won a battle over Romans and Berbers led by Kusaila, on the Qairawan plain, but he could not follow that up. In 695 AD Hasan ibn al-Nu'man captured Carthage and advanced into the Atlas Mountains. An imperial fleet arrived and retook Carthage, but in 698 AD Hasan ibn al-Nu'man returned and defeated Emperor Tiberios III at the Battle of Carthage. Roman imperial forces withdrew from all Africa except Ceuta. Roman Carthage was destroyed—its walls torn down, its water supply cut off and its harbours made unusable. It was replaced by Tunis as the major regional centre. The destruction of the Exarchate of Africa marked a permanent end to the Byzantine Empire's influence in the region.
Modern Carthage (/ˈkɑrθɪdʒ/; Tunisian Arabic: قرطاج Qarṭāj, Berber: ⴽⴰⵔⵜⴰⵊⴻⵏ Kartajen) is a suburb of Tunis, Tunisia, situated at the site of the ancient capital of the Carthaginian empire. It was little more than an agricultural village for nine hundred years until the middle of the 20th century; since then it has grown rapidly as an upscale coastal suburb. In 2004 it had a population of 15,922 according to the national census, and an estimated population of 21,276 in January 2013.
In February 1985, , the mayor of Rome, and Chedly Klibi, the mayor of Carthage, signed a symbolic treaty "officially" ending the conflict between their cities, which had been supposedly extended by the lack of a peace treaty for more than 2,100 years.
Carthage remains a popular tourist attraction and residential suburb of Tunis. The Carthage Palace (the Tunisian presidential palace) is located in the city. Modern Carthage, on a peninsula, attracts more wealthy residents. If Carthage is not the capital, it tends to be the political pole, a « place of emblematic power » according to , leaving to Tunis the economic and administrative roles.
Portrayals in fiction
Carthage features in Gustave Flaubert's historical novel Salammbô (1862). Set around the time of the Mercenary War, it includes a dramatic description of child sacrifice, and the boy Hannibal narrowly avoiding being sacrificed.
The Young Carthaginian (1887) by G.A. Henty is a boys' adventure novel told from the perspective of Malchus, a fictional teenage lieutenant of Hannibal during the Second Punic War.
In The Dead Past, a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, a leading character is an ancient historian who is trying to disprove the allegation that the Carthaginians carried out child sacrifice.
The Purple Quest by Frank G. Slaughter is about the founding of Carthage.
Die Sterwende Stad (The Dying City) is a novel written in Afrikaans by Antonie P. Roux and published in 1956. It is a fictional account of life in Carthage and included the defeat of Hannibal by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama. For several years it was prescribed reading for South African year 11 and 12 high school students studying the Afrikaans language.
A duology by John Maddox Roberts, comprising Hannibal's Children (2002) and The Seven Hills (2005), is set in an alternate history where Hannibal defeated Rome in the Second Punic War, and Carthage is still a major Mediterranean power in 100 BC.