For history buffs, they might have come across the name Carthage in their history books back in the day. Well, Carthage is a great African city of antiquity on the north coast of the continent. It’s now a residential suburb located in Tunis, the Tunisian capital.
According to documented history, it was founded by the Phoenicians of Tyre around the year 814 BC and the Phoenician name means ‘new town. Currently, the archaeological site where this historical city once stood is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, added in 1979.
Historically, Carthage may have not been the earliest Phoenician settlement, as it’s likely Utica may have come before it by at least 50 years. Numerous traditions as regards its founding was among the Greek, who named it Karchedon. However, the roman tradition is well known, in part, because of the Aeneid, which describes the city’s foundation by the Tyrian princess Dido in greater detail. She fled from her brother Pygmalion, which incidentally is the name of an ancient king of Tyre.
The early inhabitants of Carthage were described as Poeni by the Romans, which is a derivation from the world Phoenikes or Phoenicians, from which the adjective Punic is derived. It’s likely the exact date of the founding of Carthage was wildly exaggerated by the Carthaginians since it does not tally with archaeological findings. There has been nothing earlier than the last quarter of the 8th century BC discovered, which is a full century after the traditional founding date.
With great care and precision, the Phoenicians picked the locations of their maritime settlements, paying attention to the quality of the harbors and their closeness to trade routes. This explains the site chosen for Carthage, which was in the center of the shore of the Gulf of Tunis. This city was built on a triangular peninsula, hemmed in by low hills and bathed by the Lake of Tunis with its safe anchorage and plenteous fish resources.
This location was ideal, offering easy access to the Mediterranean, but still shielded from the many tropical storms that pass through the area yearly. Also, the location of the city of Carthage also was well protected and fortified, with its closeness to the Strait of Sicily placing it at a strategic bottleneck in east-west Mediterranean trade routes.
Although the city of Punic’s wealth was well-known, the standard of life culturally was likely not on par with those of other larger cities of the Ancient World. The city’s interests were attuned to commerce and industry, rather than art. Thus, Carthage controlled a large chunk of the trade-in luxury purple dye from the murex shell.
Debates about the non-existence of Punic literature are largely baseless; when the Romans invaded and destroyed the city, the libraries of Carthage were either taken over by Numidian kings or didn’t survive the fiery destruction. However, one well-known exception was the works of the Carthaginian author, Mago. His 28 books on agriculture were later translated into Greek by Cassius Dionysius and were later cited by Romans such as Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella.
In 122 BC, Gaius Gracchus and Marcus Fulvius were entrusted by the Roman Senate with the foundation of a settlement or colony on the site of the city of Carthage. Altogether the endeavor was a largely unsuccessful one, Julius Caesar was to later send a number of landless citizens there. In 29 BC, Augustus located the administration of the Roman province of Africa at the same site.
After its annexation and capture by the Arabs in 7995, the city of Carthage was soon eclipsed by the newly built town of Tunis. Today, although the city of Carthage was destroyed, much of its remains could still be found, including the many fornications, and aqueducts.