Located on the northern shore of modern-day Tunisia, Ancient Carthage was the very symbol of an ancient super-power.

Foundations

At the time the Greeks were colonizing the Mediterranean sea's northern shores, the Phoenicians followed suit. Carthage (literally "Kart Hadasht" in Phoenician) quickly became the center of Phoenicia's mercantile empire. The Romans quickly learned to loathe their new maritime rival.

Vergil describes Carthage as:

...A spot / Where at the mouth of a long bay an island / Makes a harbor, forming a breakwater / Where every swell divides it as its comes in / And runs far into curving recesses. / There are high cliffs on this side and on that, / And twin peaks towering heavenward impend / On reaches of still water. Over these, / Against a forest backdrop shimmering, / A dark and shaggy grove casts a deep shade, / While in the cliffside opposite, below / The overhanging peaks, there is a cave / With fresh water and seats in living rock

--Aeneid,Book 1. 216-230

According to legend, Elissa (originally "Elishat") originally took a group of Tyrians to Cyprus, then on to the Northern coast of Africa, and eventually to Carthage to found the city-state. This earned her the name Dido (originally "Deido" ("the wanderer")).

Culture

Carthaginian culture was predominantly defined by their intense religious beliefs, primarily worshipping Baal Hammon (deemed to be the communities' Lord and Protector). Human sacrifice was prevalent, and in some instances expected as burnt offerings to Baal (and not Moloch, as is often misunderstood).

Unlike their Greek and Roman couterparts, the Phoenicians took their names predominantly from items of religious significance (such as "Hannibal", which translates "Favored by Baal"). Similar to the ancient Hebrew culture in many ways, the Carthaginians life predominantly revolved around temple ordinances.

History

  • 814 BCE - Carthage founded by colonists from Tyre
  • 6th Century BCE - Oligatchy established, Governor reporting to king of Tyre
  • 508 BCE - Carthage signs treaty with Rome
  • 480 BCE - Carthaginians defeated in Sicily
  • 450 BCE - Carthage signs treaty with Rome
  • 406 BCE - Takes over Greek colonies in western Siciliy
  • 323-330 BCE - City of Carthage at it's zenith. Population reaches 200,000.
  • 264-240 BCE - First Punic War. Rome takes Siciliy and Sardinia.
  • 218-202 BCE - Second Punic War. Hannibal attacks Saguntum, marches across the Alps, defeated at Zama, Tunisia. Archimedes dies.
  • 149-146 BCE - Third Punic War. Lucius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus destroys Carthage, per wishes of Cato the Elder.
  • 19 BCE - Vergil's epic Aeneid published, explaining mythical causes of Roman/Carthaginian strife.
  • 1st century BCE - Augustus Caesar establishes a colony of veterans on what was the ruins of Carthage.
  • 2nd Century AD - Zenith of city under Romans, third largest city in the Empire.
  • 2nd-4th Centuries AD - Carthage enjoys great prosperity, becomes center of Christian Church in the west.
  • 439 AD - Carthage succumbs to Vandals, eventually falls to the Byzantine empire
  • 697 AD - Carthage falls to Muslims

Geography

Carthage was located near the Kabir and Majardah rivers on the northern coast of modern day Tunisia. The City of Tunis presently has suburbs that sprawl over where Carthage was, but the ruins are still accessible by bus (leaving from Hannibal station). The Gulf of Tunis offered protection from the seas during ancient times, and serves the same purpose to the residents of modern-day Tunis and Hammam al Anf.

---|                                | _
...|\       Gulf of Tunis        .--|'.'.
...|.\                         /'...|...|
---|--------------------------------|------ 37º North
...|..\                      /......|...|   Latitude
...|...''\                  /.......|../
...|...**| <-- Carthage   /''.......|./
...|...../               |'.........|/
...|../                  |..........|
...|**\ <-- Tunis       /'........./|
...|...'-'\             |..........||
...|.......\..--..     /...........||
...|..............\..--'........../ |
...|............................./  |
...|............................/   |
...|.........................../    |
...|...Modern...............__/     |
...|....day..............__/        |
...|...Tunisia........../'          |
...|.................../            |
...|................../             |
...|..................|    Gulf     |
...|................./      of      |
...|................/    Hammamat   |
...|.10º East.......|               | 11º East
...|.Longitude......|               | Longitude

Resources

http://www.carthage.edu/outis/carthage3.html
http://phoenicia.org/me.html
http://www.barca.fsnet.co.uk/carthage-religion.htm
"Greece and Rome, Builders of our World" - ISBN#87044-071-3

Buying a pot in Carthage

It is a hot day, like all days in Tunisia. The coach coughs us out at the dusty ruins of Carthage. We are here with 30 other people, trying to understand the Carthaginians and the Romans. Trying to add to the patchy history we remember from schooldays.

It is a sorry sight. Nothing to see, except more tourists and some old walls. The boy comes up to us. He has already identified us as English, but his patter would have been the same in French, German, Italian or Spanish. “Hello, good morning, How are you,” he asks with just a trace of an accent.

Knowing what is coming, I prepare to spend some time with the lad. He has a wonderful smile. Bright teeth made brighter by the African sun. A dark face with darker eyes.

He wants to sell us some souvenirs. Tiny pots, made yesterday. “Real Roman,” he tells me. I look at him with the hint of a smile and a raised eybrow, and say impressed, “Real Roman?” He grins and nods. We both know the game has started and how it will end, though neither of us yet knows what the conclusion will be.

He names a price, and I start to walk away, laughing. He follows, with a lower offer. I talk to my wife in Polish about what price we will pay. This language is new to him, and he is curious. He knows we are discussing the price, but he does not know what we are saying. This once, he is at a disadvantage, but he learns so quickly that you know the next Pole will not be so lucky.

We smile and walk, we mention another price. He smiles ever broader and we can start to see where the deal will finish. And now, as we approach the bus, I reach into my pocket and bring out some coins. It is just a bit lower than he had expected, but there is the coach about to take us away; there is the money, shining in the harsh sunlight, and he hands me the little pottery lamps, rewarding me with another huge smile.

I want to give him the pots back, because I have not enjoyed an hour’s sightseeing so much for years, but we take the pots home, and now they sit at the back of a drawer. I still smile whenever I remember those few hours in Carthage.

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