Ancient Carthage

c. 814 BC–146 BC
Flag of Carthage
Supposed military standard[1] topped by the crescent moon and sun disc symbols
Symbol of the goddess Tanit, the cultic or state insignia of Carthage
Symbol of the goddess Tanit,
the cultic or state insignia
Carthage and its dependencies in 264 BC
Carthage and its dependencies in 264 BC
Common languagesPunic, Phoenician, Berber (Numidian), Ancient Greek
Punic religion
GovernmentMonarchy until c. 480 BC, republic led by Shophets thereafter[2]
Historical eraAntiquity
• Founded by Phoenician settlers
c. 814 BC
• Independence from Tyre
c. 650 BC
146 BC
• 221 BC[3]
3,700,000–4,300,000 (entire empire)
CurrencyCarthaginian shekel
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Africa (Roman province)
Sicilia (Roman province)

Carthage (/ˈkɑːrθɪ/) was a settlement in modern Tunisia that later became a city-state and then an empire. Founded by the Phoenicians in the ninth century BC, it was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, who later rebuilt the city lavishly.[4][5][6] At its height in the fourth century BC, Carthage was one of the largest metropolises in the world,[7] and the centre of the Carthaginian Empire, a major power in the ancient world that dominated the western Mediterranean.

Carthage was settled around 814 BC by colonists from Tyre, a leading Phoenician city-state located in present day Lebanon. In the seventh century BC, following Phoenicia's conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Carthage became independent, gradually expanding its economic and political hegemony across the western Mediterranean. By 300 BC, through its vast patchwork of colonies, vassals, and satellite states, Carthage controlled the largest territory in the region, including the coast of northwest Africa, southern Iberia (Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar) and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Malta, and the Balearic archipelago.[8]

Among the ancient world's largest and richest cities, Carthage's strategic location provided access to abundant fertile land and major maritime trade routes.[9] Its extensive mercantile network reached as far as west Asia, west Africa and northern Europe, providing an array of commodities from all over the ancient world, in addition to lucrative exports of agricultural products and manufactured goods. This commercial empire was secured by one of the largest and most powerful navies in the ancient Mediterranean, and an army composed heavily of foreign mercenaries and auxiliaries, particularly Iberians, Balearics, Celtic Gauls, Sicilians, Italians, Greeks, Numidians and Libyans.

As the dominant power of the western Mediterranean, Carthage inevitably came into conflict with many neighbours and rivals, from the indigenous Berbers of North Africa to the nascent Roman Republic.[10] Following centuries of conflict with the Sicilian Greeks, its growing competition with Rome culminated in the Punic Wars (264146 BC), which saw some of the largest and most sophisticated battles in antiquity. Carthage narrowly avoided destruction after the Second Punic War, and was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC after the third and final Punic War. The Romans later founded a new city in its place.[11] All remnants of Carthaginian civilization came under Roman rule by the first century AD, and Rome subsequently became the dominant Mediterranean power, paving the way for its rise as a major empire.

In spite of the cosmopolitan character of its empire, Carthage's culture and identity remained rooted in its Phoenician-Canaanite heritage, albeit a localised variety known as Punic. Like other Phoenician people, its society was urban, commercial, and oriented towards seafaring and trade; this is reflected in part by its more famous innovations, including serial production, uncolored glass, the threshing board, and the cothon harbor. Carthaginians were renowned for their commercial prowess, ambitious explorations, and unique system of government, which combined elements of democracy, oligarchy, and republicanism, including modern examples of checks and balances.

Despite having been one of the most influential civilizations of antiquity, Carthage is mostly remembered for its long and bitter conflict with Rome, which threatened the rise of the Roman Republic and almost changed the course of Western civilization. Due to the destruction of virtually all Carthaginian texts after the Third Punic War, much of what is known about its civilization comes from Roman and Greek sources, many of whom wrote during or after the Punic Wars, and to varying degrees were shaped by the hostilities. Popular and scholarly attitudes towards Carthage historically reflected the prevailing Greco-Roman view, though archaeological research since the late 19th century has helped shed more light and nuance on Carthaginian civilization.

  1. ^ Based on R. Hook's illustrations for Wise's "Armies of the Carthaginian Wars, 265 – 146 BC"
  2. ^ Carthage and the Carthaginians, R Bosworth Smithp16
  3. ^ Hoyos (2003), pp. 225–226.
  4. ^ Glenn Markoe (2000). Phoenicians. University of California Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-520-22614-2.
  5. ^ Maria Eugenia Aubet (2008). "Political and Economic Implications of the New Phoenician Chronologies" (PDF). Universidad Pompeu Fabra. p. 179. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013. The recent radiocarbon dates from the earliest levels in Carthage situate the founding of this Tyrian colony in the years 835–800 cal BC, which coincides with the dates handed down by Flavius Josephus and Timeus for the founding of the city.
  6. ^ Sabatino Moscati (2001). "Colonization of the Mediterranean". In Sabatino Moscati (ed.). The Phoenicians. I.B.Tauris. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-85043-533-4.
  7. ^ George Modelski, World Cities: –3000 to 2000, Washington DC: FAROS 2000, 2003. ISBN 0-9676230-1-4. Figures in main tables are preferentially cited. Part of former estimates can be read at Evolutionary World Politics Homepage Archived 2008-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Cite error: The named reference :1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  9. ^ "Carthage | History, Location, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  10. ^ John Iliffe (13 August 2007). Africans: The History of a Continent. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-139-46424-6.
  11. ^ H.H. Scullard (1 September 2010). From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome 133 BC to AD 68. Taylor & Francis. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-415-58488-3.