is, indeed, an exceptional experience to visit the site where in ancient
times the mighty Carthage was located. Only a few remains bear witness
to this legendary city which developed about 3000 years ago on the Gulf
of Tunis from a Phoenician colony. According to Dionyssios von Halikarnasos
the foundation dates back to 814 BC.
The centre of the city was the Byrsa Hill, the acropolis of Carthage
as it is today. Southeast of the hill a Punic residential area with
multi-storey houses made from mud brick on stone foundations was
excavated. They had courtyards, mosaic floors, swimming pools and
underground cisterns to collect water.
holiest site of Carthage was the Trophet, a cemetery and ritual site.
In the course of excavations 12 layers of graves from the 8th cent B.C.
up until the early years of the Christian period were found as well as
1,500 steles with inscriptions and religious symbols. The excavations
revealed the remains of infants and children in large numbers which suggests
possible evidence of child sacrifices.
After its foundation the city developed into a flourishing commercial
centre and soon became one of the most important trading and sea powers.
In the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. Carthage had become the richest city
in the Mediterranean area. The city had 400,000 inhabitants and a
further 100,000 were living in the adjacent agricultural areas. Their
navy included some 300 to 350 warships!
Rivalry with Rome and Syracuse led to several wars. Best known
are the “Three Punic Wars” (264 to 241 BC
/218 to 201 BC /149 to 146 BC) between the Carthaginian Empire and
the expanding Roman Republic, which have been among the most costly traditional
battles of human history and – Carthage lost them all!
The German writer Berthold Brecht once wrote: “The great Carthage
led three wars. It was still powerful after the first, still inhabitable
after the second. It was no more to be found after the third”
The second Punic war became the most famous due
to Hannibal’s incredible crossing of the Alps with 37 war elephants,
probably 50,000 infantrymen and 9000 cavalry. However, in spite of crushing
victories over Roman armies in Italy, this war ended in Hannibal’s own
country with a heavy defeat at Zama,
after which Carthage lost its foreign sovereignty.
In the third Punic war, Carthage finally met its Waterloo. It
ended with the complete destruction of Carthage and the enslavement of
to a resolution by Julius Caesar in 46 BC the Emperor Augustus colonised
the place with 3000 people in 28 BC.. The city was now renamed “Colonia
Iulia Concordia Carthago” and rapidly developed into a flourishing trading
town again. Already, in the 2nd century Carthage, with over 300,000
inhabitants, was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome,
Alexandria and Antioch. It became the centre of early Christianity
in North Africa and due to its size was, along with Rome, the most important
Episcopal see in the western half of the Roman Empire.. The most
important remnants of the Roman period in Carthage are the Antonninus Pius-Baths,
The end of ancient Carthage.
In the course of Islamic expansion Arab troops under Hasan ibn al-Nu’man
defeated Carthage in the Battle of Carthage in 698 AD. It ended the
reign of the Eastern Roman Empire. Roman Carthage was destroyed just
as the Romans had destroyed Carthage in 146 BC.
Carthage still is a popular tourist attraction and noble residential
garden suburb of Tunis, where also the Tunisian presidential palace is
located. On the Byrsa there is the largest church of North Africa, the
Cathedral of St. Louis, built in 1890, which was up to 1965 the Episcopal
see of the archbishop of Carthage and is a cultural centre today.