70 Facts About Ancient Carthage


Ancient Carthage was a settlement in modern Tunisia that later became a city-state and then an empire.

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At its height in the fourth century BC, Carthage was one of the largest metropolises in the world, and the centre of the Carthaginian Empire, a major power in the ancient world that dominated the western Mediterranean.

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Ancient Carthage was settled around 814 BC by colonists from Tyre, a leading Phoenician city-state located in present-day Lebanon.

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Ancient 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.

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The majority of available primary sources about Ancient Carthage were written by Greek and Roman historians, most notably Livy, Polybius, Appian, Cornelius Nepos, Silius Italicus, Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and Herodotus.

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Inevitably, foreign accounts of Ancient Carthage usually reflect significant bias, especially those written during or after the Punic Wars, when the interpretatio Romana perpetuated a "malicious and distorted view".

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Dido and her allies escaped his reign and established Ancient Carthage, which became a prosperous city under her rule as queen.

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The horse foretells where Dido's new city will rise, becoming the emblem of Ancient Carthage, derived from the Phoenician Qart-Hadasht, meaning "New City".

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Ancient Carthage's is thereafter worshiped as a goddess by the people of Carthage, who are described as brave in battle but prone to the "cruel religious ceremony" of human sacrifice, even of children, whenever they seek divine relief from troubles of any kind.

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Ancient Carthage's is adored by her subjects and presented with a festival of praise.

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Site of Ancient Carthage was likely chosen by the Tyrians for several reasons.

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Finally, Ancient Carthage would be conduit of two major trade routes: one between the Tyrian colony of Cadiz in southern Spain, which supplied raw materials for manufacturing in Tyre, and the other between North Africa and the northern Mediterranean, namely Sicily, Italy, and Greece.

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In contrast to most Phoenician colonies, Ancient Carthage grew larger and more quickly thanks to its combination of favorable climate, arable land, and lucrative trade routes.

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Unlike many other Phoenician city-states and dependencies, Ancient Carthage grew prosperous not only from maritime commerce but from its proximity to fertile agricultural land and rich mineral deposits.

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Ancient Carthage's growing economic prominence coincided with a nascent national identity.

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However, it too remained subjugated, leading the way for Ancient Carthage to fill the vacuum as the leading Phoenician political power.

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The threat to the Phoenician trade monopoly—by Etruscan and Greek competition in the west, and through foreign subjugation of its homeland in the east— created the conditions for Ancient Carthage to consolidate its power and further its commercial interests.

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Ancient Carthage is credited with initiating, or at least expanding, the practice of recruiting subject peoples and mercenaries, as Carthage's population was too small to secure and defend its scattered colonies.

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Ancient Carthage took control of all nearby Phoenician colonies, including Hadrumetum, Utica, Hippo Diarrhytus and Kerkouane; subjugated many neighboring Libyan tribes, and occupied coastal North Africa from Morocco to western Libya.

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Ancient Carthage's growing wealth and power, along with the foreign subjugation of the Phoenician homeland, led to its supplanting of Sidon as the supreme Phoenician city state.

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Ancient Carthage's empire was largely informal and multifaceted, consisting of varying levels of control exercised in equally variable ways.

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In many other instances, Ancient Carthage's hegemony was established through treaties, alliances, tributary obligations, and other such arrangements.

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The treaty conveys the extent to which Ancient Carthage was, at the very least, on equal terms with Rome, whose influence was limited to parts of central and southern Italy.

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Ancient Carthage emphasized maritime trade over territorial expansion, and accordingly focused its settlements and influence on coastal areas while investing more on its navy.

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Ancient Carthage did not focus on growing and conquering land, instead, it was found that Ancient Carthage was focused on growing trade and protecting trade routes.

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The trades through Libya were territories and Ancient Carthage paid Libyans for access to this land in Cape Bon for agricultural purposes until about 550 BC.

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Ancient Carthage focused on growing their population by taking in Phoenicians colonies and soon began controlling Libyan, African, and Roman colonies.

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Island of Sicily, lying at Ancient Carthage's doorstep, became the main arena on which this conflict played out.

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Ancient Carthage captured the smaller cities of Selinus and Himera—where the Carthaginians had been dealt a humiliating defeat seventy years prior—before returning triumphantly to Carthage with the spoils of war.

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In 315 BC, Ancient Carthage found itself on the defensive in Sicily, as Agathocles of Syracuse broke the terms of the peace treaty and sought to dominate the entire island.

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Ancient Carthage was drawn into a war in Sicily, this time by Pyrrhus of Epirus, who challenged both Roman and Carthaginian supremacy over the Mediterranean.

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Cassius Dio claimed that Ancient Carthage had harboured the exiled Syracusans, and "harassed [Pyrrhus] so severely that he abandoned not only Syracuse but Sicily as well".

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Ancient Carthage sent additional forces to Sicily, and following Pyrrhus' departure, managed to regain control of their domains on the island.

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Notwithstanding the decisive defense of its homeland, as well as some initial naval victories, Ancient Carthage suffered a succession of losses that forced it to sue for peace.

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Shortly thereafter, Ancient Carthage faced a major mercenary revolt that dramatically changed its internal political landscape, bringing the influential Barcid family to prominence.

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The war impacted Ancient Carthage's international standing, as Rome used the events of the war to back its claim over Sardinia and Corsica, which it promptly seized.

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Consequently, many Roman allies went over to Ancient Carthage, prolonging the war in Italy for over a decade, during which more Roman armies were nearly consistently destroyed on the battlefield.

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Meanwhile, in Iberia, which served as the main source of manpower for the Carthaginian army, a second Roman expedition under Scipio Africanus took New Ancient Carthage and ended Carthaginian rule over the peninsula in the Battle of Ilipa.

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Ancient Carthage itself managed to resist the Roman siege for three years, until Scipio Aemilianus—the adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus—was appointed consul and took command of the assault.

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Notwithstanding its impressive resistance, Ancient Carthage's defeat was ultimately a foregone conclusion, given the far larger size and strength of the Roman Republic.

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Ancient Carthage seems to have been ruled by a similar body known as the Blm, made up of nobles responsible for all important matters of state, including religion, administration, and the military.

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The subsequent political upheaval led to a gradual weakening of the monarchy; by at least 308 BC, Ancient Carthage was an oligarchic republic, characterized by an intricate system of checks and balances, a complex administrative system, civil society, and a fairly high degree of public accountability and participation.

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Traders of Ancient Carthage were secretive in ways to keep trade routes from the Greeks.

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The people of Ancient Carthage spoke Punic, which had its own alphabet and would later continue through trade routes and grow into Africa.

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Ancient Carthage's military provides a glimpse into the criteria of citizenship.

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Greek accounts describe a "Sacred Band of Ancient Carthage" that fought in Sicily in the mid-fourth century BC, using the Hellenistic term for professional citizen-soldiers selected on the basis of merit and ability.

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Since at least the reign of Mago I in the early sixth century BC, Ancient Carthage regularly utilized its military to advance its commercial and strategic interests.

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Ancient Carthage employed Iberian troops long before the Punic Wars; Herodotus and Alcibiades both describe the fighting capabilities of the Iberians among the western Mediterranean mercenaries.

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Ancient Carthage observed that the Carthaginians, at least under Hannibal, never forced any uniformity upon their disparate forces, which nonetheless had such a high degree of unity that they "never quarreled amongst themselves nor mutinied", even during difficult circumstances.

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Ancient Carthage used the diversity of its forces to its own advantage, capitalizing on the particular strengths or capabilities of each nationality.

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Ancient Carthage seems to have fielded a formidable cavalry force, especially in its Northwest African homeland; a significant part of it was composed of light Numidian cavalry, who were considered "by far the best horsemen in Africa".

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Ancient Carthage maintained a separation of military and political power, with generals either appointed by the administration or elected by citizens.

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Ancient Carthage was unique in antiquity for separating political and military offices, and for having the former exercise control over the latter.

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Ancient Carthage's commerce extended by sea throughout the Mediterranean and perhaps as far as the Canary Islands, and by land across the Sahara desert.

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Ancient Carthage was the Mediterranean's largest producer of silver, mined in Iberia and on the Northwest African coast; after the tin monopoly, this was one of its most profitable trades.

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Ancient Carthage's economy began as an extension of that of its parent city, Tyre.

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Circumstantial evidence suggests that Ancient Carthage developed viticulture and wine production before the fourth century BC, and exported its wines widely, as indicated by distinctive cigar-shaped Carthaginian amphorae found at archaeological sites across the western Mediterranean, although the contents of these vessels have not been conclusively analysed.

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Ancient Carthage shipped large quantities of raisin wine, known in Latin as passum, which was popular in antiquity, including among the Romans.

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Ancient Carthage raised fine horses, the ancestors of today's Barb horses, which are considered the most influential racing breed after the Arabian.

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Baal Hammon had been the most prominent aspect of the chief Phoenician god Baal, but after Ancient Carthage's independence became the city's patron god and chief deity; he was responsible for the fertility of crops.

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Ancient Carthage's cult was especially prominent in Punic Sicily, of which he was a protector, and which was known during Carthaginian rule as "Cape Melqart".

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Ancient Carthage was accused by both contemporary historians and its adversaries of child sacrifice; Plutarch, Tertullian, Orosius, Philo, and Diodorus Siculus all allege the practice, although Herodotus and Polybius do not.

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Sceptics contend that if Ancient Carthage's critics were aware of such a practice, however limited, they would have been horrified by it and exaggerated its extent due to their polemical treatment of the Carthaginians.

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Ancient accounts, coupled with archaeological findings, suggest that Carthage had a complex, urbanized society similar to the Hellenistic polis or Latin civitas; it was characterized by strong civic engagement, an active civil society, and class stratification.

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Ancient Carthage had a sizable and centrally located agora, which served as a hub of business, politics, and social life.

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In lands outside direct Punic control, independent Berbers cultivated grain and raised horses; within the lands immediately surrounding Ancient Carthage, there were ethnic divisions that overlapped with semi-feudal distinctions between lord and peasant, or master and serf.

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The inherent instability of the countryside drew the attention of potential invaders, although Ancient Carthage was generally able to manage and contain these social difficulties.

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Ancient Carthage studied philosophy under the Skeptic Carneades and authored over 400 works, most of which are lost.

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Ancient Carthage was highly regarded by Cicero, who based parts of his De Natura Deorum, De Divinatione and De Fato on a work of Cleitomachus he calls De Sustinendis Offensionibus ; Cleitomachus dedicates many of his writings to prominent Romans such as the poet Gaius Lucilius and the consul Lucius Marcius Censorinus, suggesting his work was known and appreciated in Rome.

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Ancient Carthage is best remembered for its conflicts with the Roman Republic, which was almost defeated in the Second Punic War, an event that likely would have changed the course of human history, given Rome's subsequent central role in Christianity, European history, and Western civilization.

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