Carthage

Carthage

Carthage

Carthage is an ancient city that has known prosperity and power, complete destruction, rebirth and decline. For a long period of time its ruins were underground and only in the second half of the XIX century they began to be gradually uncovered to the world. The archaeological park is considered one of the main attractions of Tunisia, so thousands of tourists come here from all over the world. In 1979 the site was included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Archaeological Findings

Former Carthage

The advantageous geographical position and business acumen of the Carthaginians made the city the capital of a powerful state, which in the III century became the largest in the western Mediterranean and one of the richest in the Ancient world. The local inhabitants were engaged in trade and natural exchange, production, craftsmanship and agriculture. Sea and land trade routes converged in Carthage because its harbors were able to receive a large number of ships that necessarily stopped here when crossing the strait between the African continent and the island of Sicily.

The Carthaginians had their own fleet and army, minted their own coins, imposed high taxes on the inhabitants of the annexed territories, not giving them the slightest indulgence and brutally suppressing rebellion. The city had markets, places of worship, a municipality, a cemetery, four residential areas, watchtowers, and the tall citadel of Birsa. The area was surrounded by a 37-kilometer-long fortress wall up to 12 meters high.

Punic Quarter

Carthage must be destroyed

The competition and the rapid restoration of economic power to Carthage after the two Punic wars irritated the Romans, accompanied by calls to fight the enemy. Plutarch mentions in his writings who said “Carthage must be destroyed” first. He attributes the authorship to Cato the Censor, from a plebeian family, who managed to reach high state positions and became famous for his public speeches. It is a famous phrase that he used to end all his speeches in the Senate, even when the subject was quite different.

Who Destroyed Carthage

The city was razed to the ground in 146 BC during the Third Punic War. Upon entering Carthage after a long siege and capturing the last line of defense, the citadel of Birsa, the Romans plundered, set fire to and then razed the Punic capital to the ground. The land was liberally sprinkled with salt, the captives were sold into slavery, the settlement of the place was forbidden under pain of damnation, and then the territory was annexed to the Roman provinces.

A city in ruins

The geographical location of the ruined city of Carthage did not give the Romans any peace of mind. The idea of founding a colonial city in its place was announced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, and 17 years later it was realized by the first Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. Built on an artificial “cushion” Roman Carthage – Colonia Julia Carthago – was settled and became the capital of the province of Africa. In the V century it was partially destroyed by the Vandals, and in the VII century – completely destroyed by the Arabs.

Preserved ruins

Excursions

Excursions offered to tourists include visits to Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and the city of Tunis. It is recommended to bring drinking water, cameras, camcorders or modern gadgets, as well as cash to buy souvenirs, hats and sunglasses. Clothing and shoes should be comfortable.

For independent visits to the archaeological park, it is recommended to stay in Tunis or Carthage for a couple of days.

Souvenirs

Where is Carthage

The archaeological area is located in the northwest of the metropolitan vilayet of Tunis, the most compact province of the North African country of the same name. The central part of ancient Carthage stands on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Tunis. The city is part of the district of Carthage.

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The city of Carthage: History

On the events associated with the founding, development, wars, colonies and the fall of ancient Carthage, many works have been written and many films have been made. But its history requires further study.

Carthage

Ancient Carthage

The most common date of foundation of the city is called 814-13 B.C. In this period, the future Carthaginian queen Didon landed on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, along with her companions. She fled Tyre from the persecution of her brother Pygmalion, who had murdered her husband to get his wealth.

In buying land for a settlement from the king of the local Iarbantes tribe, Didon took advantage of a cunning plan. She was only allowed to purchase a piece of land that would be covered by an ox’s hide. The legendary queen cut it into thin strips and surrounded the hill, where the citadel of Birsa was built.

Five centuries later, Carthage had become a developed, powerful city. It was well fortified on land and impregnable on sea. Before the Punic Wars nearly half a million people lived there.

Punic Carthage

The wars with Rome

By the 3rd century BC the Apennine peninsula was under Roman rule and Carthage controlled the western Mediterranean. The former was unwilling to put up with the domination of the straits by the latter and to obey their rules, because the powers of the mighty powers were almost equal at that time. A serious conflict, resulting in a series of armed clashes, broke out over the possession of Sicily. The three Punic Wars lasted at intervals from 264 to 146 (the Romans called the Phoenicians, who had settled in North Africa).

The First Punic War ended after 23 years with the victory of the Roman Republic. As a result, the Carthaginians were forced to give up Sicily in favor of the Romans and pay them contributions. But the contradictions between the powers remained.

The second Punic war was unleashed by the sworn enemy of Rome, Hannibal, in 221-20 B.C. He entered the territory of Italy from the north, through the Alps and Apennines, defeated several forces directed against him and followed it with triumph to the very south. In August 216 B.C., at the Battle of Cannes (Puglia), the general dealt a crushing blow to the Roman army. However, the last phase of the war ended in a general battle on the territory of Africa in 202 BC with the victory of the Romans. Carthage lost all its overseas colonies and navy, paid huge contributions and was deprived of the right to wage war without the consent of Rome.

The reason for the outbreak of the Third Punic War in 149 BC was the armed conflict between Carthage and the Numidian king Massinissa, who was constantly provoking the Carthaginians. Rome took advantage of the breach of the treaty and sent its army to Africa. The siege of Carthage lasted until the spring of 146 B.C. and ended in its defeat and destruction.

Street View

Rome and Carthage

The Roman era in Carthage began in 29 B.C. To finally eliminate the traces of the Puns, the top of Birsa was cut off and the surrounding area was leveled. A forum was organized in the center, a grid of parallel-perpendicular streets was laid from it, public and residential buildings were built, temples were erected, and an aqueduct was built. The capital of the province of Africa was moved here so the population grew to several hundred thousand. By the 3rd century the city had become one of the largest polis in the Roman Empire and a center of early Christianity. The Romans ruled Carthage until 439.

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Ancient Statue

After Rome

The weakening of the Western Roman Empire was also reflected in Carthage. In the 5th century the province was lost and the city was seized by the Vandals, who declared it the residence of their king. In 534 the Byzantines conquered the land and formed an African exarchate with its capital in Carthage. It lasted until the Arabs conquered the territory. In 698 the city finally fell – the houses and the aqueduct were destroyed, the farmlands were ravaged, and the harbors were abandoned.

At the end of the XIX century Tunisia found itself under the protectorate of France. Since then, archaeologists have become interested in ancient Carthage.

Ruins and sights

The exact location of Carthage was defined in the first half of XIX century by the Danish Consul C. Falbe who copied the plan of the ruins on the map. The excavations began in 1857 under the direction of the Frenchman S. Beaulieu and their active phase took place at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The finds in the park belong mainly to the Roman period. Of the Punic sites remain necropolis and a small number of artifacts.

Carthage

District Birsa

On the steep hill of the same name with a height of 60 m lies the Carthage citadel, which was the last stronghold of the city defenders in 146 BC. 50 000 inhabitants managed to hide in the citadel. Many surrendered and were enslaved, while the rest chose to perish in the flames of the temple of Eshmun, which they set on fire.

Today, on the site of the citadel are the remains of Roman structures. However, on the sides of Birsa, under the layers of the mound built by the colonists, it was possible to discover the ruins of Punic Carthage. On the southern side we see the “Hannibal quarter” with the remains of houses and neatly planned streets. It is thought that the small buildings rose to 6 stories and the cisterns in the basements were used to collect water. During excavations deep sumps and pools were found on the slopes of Birsa, where the ancient sewage system carried the runoff water.

On the Birsa are:

  • St. Louis Catholic Cathedral – built in the 1890s and consecrated in honor of Louis IX, who died suddenly in Tunisia during the Crusade in 1270. The collection includes archaeological finds from the Punic, Roman, Old Christian, and Byzantine periods.

St. Louis Cathedral

In the open area are placed artifacts found during excavations – parts of columns and statues, capitals, etc. Nearby is the Museum of Early Christianity.

In the 1990s, a 4.7 m deep shaft leading to a burial vault was accidentally discovered at Birsa. One of the two sarcophagi contained the remains of a young European man named Arish. His appearance in the form of a wax figure was subsequently reconstructed. The find dates back to the 6th century BC.

Amphitheatre

The fast growing city demanded organization of mass spectacles and in this connection in the 2nd century a huge amphitheatre with a capacity up to 50,000 people was built. Battles were held on the arena and during the period of Christian persecution public executions were carried out on it, as evidenced by the marble column with the memorial inscription. The Carthage amphitheatre was destroyed by the Vandals in the 5th century.

La Magla (Maalga) cisterns

This well-preserved complex of covered cisterns, designed to collect and store water, is located not far from the amphitheatre. The huge parallel cisterns were built in Roman times and were restored at the end of the 19th century. They are over 800 m long and about 8 m wide. Water was supplied to the cisterns by a many kilometers long aqueduct. Its fragments have survived to this day.

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La Magla Cisterns

The former stadium and hippodrome has only the visible outlines of an oblong shape. In Roman times it was the gathering place for mass spectacles.

Roman villas

The remains of the buildings and paved streets show the general urban layout in the Roman period. In varying degrees of preservation we find a 7th century Christian basilica, a Byzantine church, a Punic necropolis, a 3rd century Roman villa called the “Poultry House” and shops, partly restored in the 1960s.

Roman Theater

The restored amphitheatre with 5,000 seats, originally built in the 2nd century, has unique acoustics. Concerts and festivals are organized here.

The Baths of Antonius (Antoninus Pius)

It is assumed that this imposing complex was erected during the time of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, in the middle of the 2nd century. It was second in size only to the Roman Thermae of Caracalla and Diocletian. Only the basement remained of the building. It was excavated after the Second World War. The ground part of Antoninus Thermae was destroyed by vandals in the early Middle Ages.

Thermae of Antony

Tofet

A place of mass sacrifice of children (later animals) was discovered in 1921. In the Phoenician and the Punic religion that succeeded it, the construction of such a sanctuary was considered indispensable for the performance of the sacrifices. The site with rows of ceremonial urns filled with charred bones, and a cluster of stones with carved requests shocked archaeologists.

Experts have counted more than 20 thousand remains collected here for two centuries of the Punic era. After a detailed study of materials extracted from more than 300 urns, scientists have concluded that in most cases, the deaths of children were not violent.

Harbors

The two Punic harbors were intended for merchant and military ships. The latter could accommodate up to 220 ships at a time. On the isthmus between the two harbors rose a high walled tower. On a small island in the harbor area is the Oceanographic Museum and a small pavilion with exhibitions on the history of the ports.

Byzantine Basilica

The ruined early Christian complex included a monastery, two temples, a chapel and a baptistery. Only the rotunda framed with 16 columns survives. What remains of the basilica of Damus el Karita are the lower parts of the columns giving an idea of its size.

Remains of a Byzantine basilica

Modern Carthage

The Archaeological Park is located in the town of Carthage, founded in 1919. The sites open for viewing are scattered over a huge area. The historic sites are juxtaposed with the residential development of the modern city, which until recently, step by step absorbed the territory of ancient Carthage.

Kartaj prefers to live in Kartaj, where wealthy citizens prefer to live. It is home to the official residence of the President of Tunisia and the University.

View of modern city from Birsa

Mode of operation

The archaeological park is open from 08:00 to 19:00 in summer and from 08:30 to 17:00 in winter.

An all-inclusive ticket costs 12 TND (Tunisian dinar). Children under 12 years old are free to enter. For photography you have to pay 1 TND extra.

How to get to Carthage

The archaeological area can be reached by trains of the TGM line. They run between Tunis-Marine and La Marsa stations. Get off at any of the stops – “Carthage Byrsa”, “Carthage Dermech” or “Carthage Hannibal”, depending on the planned route of the walk.

By car from the center of Tunisia go along the embankment of Goulet Street and then along the R23, or take the N9 freeway rounding the lake of Tunis, and then turn off at the N10.

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You can book a cab in Tunisia by using mobile applications Ched-Taxi, Taxi216, TjikTaxi.

Carthage: from the greatness to the fall

The history of Carthage: the birth, prosperity and fall of the Phoenician city that became a powerful Mediterranean state.

There is an interesting legend connected with the foundation of Carthage. At the end of IX century B.C. Didon, widow of Phoenician king Sichée, fled from Thebes after her brother Pygmalion killed her husband. She decided to buy a piece of land from the local tribe for a precious stone. The queen had the right to choose the place, but she could only take as much land as the ox’s skin would cover. Didona decided on a trick and cut the hide into small straps. By making a circle of them, she was able to take possession of a large enough piece of land. The tribe had to agree – a deal is a deal. In memory of this, the citadel of Birsa, whose name means “hide”, was founded. However, the exact year of the founding of Carthage is unknown, experts have called both 825-823 BC and 814-813 BC.

Carthage.

Carthage. Source: wikipedia.org

The city had an incredibly advantageous location and had access to the sea to the south and to the north. Very quickly Carthage became the leader of maritime trade in the Mediterranean Sea. The city even had two harbors specially dug – for military ships and for merchant ships.

The power of the city of Carthage

In the 8th century BC the situation in the region changed – Phoenicia was conquered by the Assyrians, this caused a large influx of Phoenicians to Carthage. The city soon grew so large that Carthage itself was able to begin colonizing the coast. At the turn of the VII-VI centuries BC Greek colonization began, and to resist it, the Phoenician states began to unite. The basis of the united state was an alliance of Carthage and Utica. Carthage gradually gained its power – the population increased, agriculture developed, trade flourished, Carthaginian merchants traded in Egypt, Italy, the Black Sea and the Red Sea, Carthage almost monopolized trade turnover, obliging its subjects to trade only through the mediation of the Carthaginian merchants.

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Power in Carthage was concentrated in the hands of the aristocracy. There were two warring parties: the agrarian party and the commercial-industrial party. The former favored expansion in Africa and was against expansion in other regions, which the rest of the aristocracy favored, relying on the urban population. The highest authority was the council of elders, headed first by 10 and later by 30. The two Suffets were the heads of the executive branch. Like the Roman consuls, they were elected annually and served as commander-in-chief of the army and navy. Carthage had a senate of 300 senators elected for life, but real power was concentrated in the hands of a committee of 30. The people’s assembly also played an important role, but in fact it was only called upon in cases of conflict between the senate and the suffragettes. The council of judges administered the trials of the officials after the expiration of their terms of office, and was concerned with control and trial.

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Because of its commercial power Carthage was rich and could afford a powerful army of mercenaries. The infantry was based on Spanish, Greek, Gallic and African mercenaries, while the aristocrats formed the heavily armed cavalry, the “sacred squad”. The cavalry was made up of Numidians and Iberians. The army was highly equipped with catapults and ballistas.

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Carthage society was also heterogeneous and divided into several groups along ethnic lines. The most disadvantaged were the Libyans, who were heavily taxed and forced to join the army, while their political and administrative rights were also restricted. Revolts often broke out in Libya. The Phoenicians were scattered all over the western Mediterranean, but they were all united by common beliefs. The Carthaginians inherited the Canaanite religion from their ancestors, and the chief deities in the state were Baal Hammon and the goddess Tanit, identified with the Greek Astrata. An infamous feature of their beliefs was the sacrifice of children. The Carthaginians believed that only the sacrifice of a child could appease and placate Baal Hammon. According to legend, during one of the attacks of the city, the inhabitants sacrificed more than 200 children of noble families.

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The victories of ancient Carthage

By the 3rd century BC, Carthage had already conquered southern Spain, the coast of North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. It was a powerful commercial and cultural center, than certainly hindered the strengthening of the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Eventually the situation became so aggravated that it inevitably led to war in 264 B.C. The First Punic War was fought mainly in Sicily and on the sea. The Romans captured Sicily and gradually transferred the fighting to Africa, managing to achieve several victories. However, thanks to the command of a Spartan mercenary, the Punic army was able to defeat the Romans. The war was fought with varying success for each side until Rome, gathering strength, defeated Carthage. The Phoenicians made peace, gave the Romans Sicily and undertook to pay a contribution over the next 10 years.

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Carthage could not forgive the defeat, and Rome could not accept that a powerful enemy was quickly recovering from the war. Carthage was looking for a new cause for war and the opportunity presented itself. Commander in Chief Hannibal in 218 BC attacked the Roman friendly Spanish city of Sagunta. Rome declared war on Carthage. At first, the Punic were victorious and even managed to defeat the Romans at Cannes, which was a heavy defeat for the empire. However, Carthage soon lost the initiative and Rome went on the offensive. The last battle was the Battle of Zama. Carthage then requested peace and lost all its possessions outside Africa.

Carthage’s defeat in the struggle for hegemony

Although Rome became the strongest state in the western Mediterranean, the war for hegemony in the region was not over. Carthage again managed to recover quickly and regain its status as one of the richest cities. Rome, who had suffered several military defeats during the previous confrontations, was firmly convinced that “Carthage must be destroyed” and began to look for a new reason for a third war. It was a military conflict between the Puni and the Numidian king, who constantly attacked and seized the Carthaginian possessions. When the Numidians were rebuffed, Rome led the army to the walls of the city. The Carthaginians asked for peace, agreeing to every conceivable condition. They gave up all their weapons and only after that did the Romans announce the main demand of the senate – the destruction of the city and the eviction of all its inhabitants. The townspeople could establish a new city, but not closer than 10 miles from the coast. That way Carthage could not revive its trading power. The Carthaginians asked for time to consider the terms and began to prepare for war. The city was well fortified and resisted the Romans courageously for three years, but eventually fell in 146 B.C. Of its 500,000 inhabitants, 50,000 were enslaved by the Romans, the city was completely destroyed, its literature was almost completely burned, and a Roman province was established in Carthage with a governor from Utica.

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