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A rich and powerful city on the northern coast of Africa, the capital of one of the greatest empires of antiquity. The Roman name Carthago and the Greek Καρχηδών are both corruptions of the native Punic Kirjath-Hadeshath, or “New Town,” so called to distinguish it from Tyre, or possibly from the earlier settlement at Utica (q.v.)

Carthage was situated on the peninsula forming the northeast corner of modern Tunis, but topographers differ in their views of the exact locality. One school holds that the city occupied the north of the peninsula, while the other school places its site upon the southern portion. The most generally accepted view is the latter.

An important feature of the city was the hill with its citadel (Byrsa), surrounded by walls, and approached by a series of sixty steps. On the land side a triple wall, on which were mounted

Plan of Tyrian Carthage.

towers and casemates, surrounded the city, and afforded shelter for 300 elephants and some 4000 horses. Two artificial harbours—one rectangular, for merchant vessels, opening into the Bay of Tunis, and with a narrow passage that could be closed by chains, and a second circular harbour for ships of war—gave Carthage access to the sea. The second harbour (Kothon) contained in its centre an island with the official residence of the naval commander-in-chief. Although these harbours are now much diminished in size, their situation is still readily identified. Between the lagoon and the sea a strip of land, called by Roman writers the Taenia, is also plainly to be recognized to-day. Beyond the walls of the city was the beautiful suburb of Magalia or Megara (now Mara), and still farther a great necropolis of sepulchres strongly built and carefully preserved.

The people of Carthage were members of the great Semitic race, and belonged to the Phœnician branch, since Carthage was settled (probably about the middle of the ninth century B.C.) either by a colony directly sent from the Phœnician city of Tyre, or from the Tyrian offshoot, Utica. They were closely akin to the Canaanites who held Palestine before the Jewish invasion, and their language resembled the Hebrew. Because of their generally known Phœnician origin, the Romans called them Poeni or Punici, from Φοίνικες, signifying “the Red Men,” or perhaps referring to the palms (φοίνικες), the symbol of the Syrian coast. The name Sarranus, given to Phœnician wares, serves also to connect the Poeni with their original Syrian home (Sil. Ital. ix. 319).

Carthage was the youngest of the Phœnician colonies in the northern territory of Africa, the earlier ones being Utica, Tunis, and Hadrumetum, in the district of Zeugitana, Hippo, and Leptis. Over all these, which were once independent of her, Carthage finally attained at once commercial and political supremacy. The history of this gradual rise to power is unknown, for no historical notices earlier than the sixth century B.C. are now available; and at that period Carthage was already the centre and the capital of a mighty empire, extending from the borders of Cyrené to the Straits of Gibraltar, and holding as provinces the Balearic Islands, Malta, Sardinia, and some settlements on the coast of Spain and Gaul. An immense revenue flowed into the coffers of the State from the rich grain lands of Emporia and Byzacium southeast of the city, and commerce extending over the known world brought wealth to the citizens. South of the African coast, the power of Carthage extended as far as Lake Tritonis (q.v.), which was connected by a canal with the Lesser Syrtis. Besides the Carthaginians of pure Phœnician descent, the aristocracy of the Empire, three other classes of subjects are mentioned. These are: (a) the Libyo-Phœnicians, a mixed race, the offspring of intermarriages between the Libyans and the original Phœnician settlers; (b) the Libyans, an entirely different race from the Phœnicians, and to some extent ignorant even of the Punic language; and (c) the Nomads, who lived on the borders of the Empire towards the south, and professed an allegiance of a doubtful sort to the government of Carthage. The Libyo-Phœnicians formed the agricultural class, tilling the fields in Zeugitana; but were regarded with a certain suspicious dislike by the Carthaginians of pure blood, much as the Mexican gentry of unmixed Spanish lineage regard their fellow-countrymen of mixed descent. The Libyans, who were the original owners of the soil, and had been dispossessed by the Phœnician colonists, formed the bulk of the Carthaginian army; but the harsh treatment which they received, and perhaps the remembrance of their former ownership of the land, made them discontented, and, at times, mutinous. The Nomads furnished Carthage with a fierce and warlike irregular cavalry; yet their loyalty was always uncertain, and, in fact, it was by their aid that Rome finally subdued the Carthaginian people.

The commercial and maritime enterprise of the people of Carthage was remarkable in antiquity. They were great navigators and explorers. One of their admirals, Hanno (q.v.), as early as the sixth century B.C., sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar out into the Atlantic, passed down the western coast of Africa, entered the Senegal (Chretes?), and having reached a bay supposed to be on the southern borders of Sierra Leone, returned only when compelled to do so by the difficulty of provisioning his ship. A Greek MS. in the library of Heidelberg University professes to be the translation of the account which Hanno placed among the archives kept in the great Temple of Molech at Carthage. (See Africa.) A little later, a second Carthaginian, one Himilco, is believed to have visited the northern coasts of Europe.

Coin of Carthage, with Winged

Religion.—The religion of the Carthaginians, like that of the other Canaanitish peoples, was a form of fire-worship. As with all Semites, the rites and practice of religion formed a part of the daily life, and profoundly influenced the development of their civilization. Their chief god, Molech, represented the destructive influence of the sun, and in his temples human victims were immolated with fire. These victims were usually prisoners taken in war, but not always, for when Agathocles besieged the city, we are told that 200 noble children belonging to native families were offered up to secure the favour of the god. The moon-goddess Tanith or Tanist (Tanis) appears to have been identical with Ashtaroth, Melkart with Heracles, and a seagod whom the Greeks identified with Poseidon was probably the same as the Philistine deity, Dagon. Rites in honour of deified heroes were celebrated, while animals—e. g. the lion, bull, serpent, etc.—and such of the Greek divinities as the Carthaginians had heard of in Sicily also received special worship. There is no evidence that the priests formed a separate caste, confined to certain families. On the contrary, sacrifices appear to have been offered by the magistrates and military leaders. The inscriptions and bas-reliefs thus far discovered and studied afford no confirmation of the charges made by the Greek and Roman writers, that the Carthaginians were guilty of obscene and unnatural practices in the conduct of their worship; and it is probable that the statements of the Christian Fathers refer to Roman and not to Phœnician Carthage. The morality of the Carthaginians, in fact, appears to have been originally of even an ascetic character, as befitted an industrious and largely agricultural people (Aristot. Oecon. i. 5). The Phœnician theory of cosmogony was given by a native author, Sanchoniathon, born either at Tyre or Berytus in the tenth century B.C., who wrote in Phœnician a history in nine books, containing an account of the theology and antiquities of Phœnicia, and of the neighbouring states. This work was translated into Greek under Hadrian by Philo of Byblus, and of it some fragments have been preserved in the history of Eusebius of Caesarea. An interesting summary of the substance of these fragments is given in Davis's Carthage, pp. 199-205 (N. Y. 1861).

Government.—The form of government at Carthage, which Aristotle praises for its stability and for its success in securing the general happiness and prosperity of the people, was aristocratic in its constitution (Aristot. Polit. ii. 8). The principal magistrates (suffetes, Heb. sophetim) have been compared to both the Roman consuls and the Spartan kings. Their number, however, is not definitely known, nor the extent of their term of office. They were eligible for re-election. A Senate, elected by popular vote, participated in the government with the suffetes, and was filled largely from the ranks of the wealthy. There appears to have been a sort of referendum to the people when the suffetes and the Senate disagreed upon any course of action. There existed also, side by side with the regular governmental organization, a power which, like that of the Spartan ephors, gradually gained the real control of the State. This was the highest aristocracy, which elected bodies of commissions (pentarchies) so constituted that the outgoing members preserved their power for another year, and thus impressed upon the institution a consistent and symmetrical policy. These pentarchies elected a council of 104 members, who at last usurped the authority of the State; though Hannibal succeeded in checking their power, and in restoring to the people some real share in the government.

History.—The history of Carthage falls naturally into four periods:


from the foundation of the city to the beginning of the wars with Syracuse, B.C. 410;


to the beginning of the war with Rome, B.C. 265;


to the destruction of the city by the Romans, B.C. 146;


from the restoration of the city to its final destruction by the Arabs, A.D. 698.

The foreign conquests of Carthage were undertaken with the object of securing her commerce. Justin tells us of a king, Malchus (the Latin form of the royal title), who, after successes in Africa and Sicily, was defeated in Sardinia, and turned his arms against his country. He must have lived between B.C. 600 and 550. A more historical personage is his successor Mago (between B.C. 550 and 500), said to be the founder of the military power of the Carthaginians. His sons were Hasdrubal and Hamilcar, his grandsons Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Sappho, sons of Hasdrubal, and Himilco, Hanno , and gisco, sons of Hamilcar. By the energy of this family the Carthaginian Empire was established over Sardinia, which was not lost till after the First Punic War, over the Balearic Islands and part of Sicily, and over portions of Liguria and Gaul. There are, however, few events of which the chronology is certain. The first is the seafight between the Etruscans and Carthaginians on the one hand and the Phocæans of Aleria in Corsica on the other, which occurred in B.C. 536. The Phocæans, driven from Asia Minor by Harpagus in 564, had settled at Aleria or Alalia in Corsica, but engaged in piracy, which demanded the interference of the commercial naval powers. The Phocæans won the battle, but with such loss that they abandoned Corsica, and settled at Velia in Italy. Polybius has preserved three treaties between Carthage and Rome, the first of which belongs to the year B.C. 509, the second probably to the period between B.C. 480 and 410. Their object is to restrict Roman commerce in Punic waters, and it is noticeable that the second treaty prescribes stricter limits than the first, and testifies to a considerable superiority of Carthage over Rome. To the period of about B.C. 500 belong the expeditions of Hanno and Himilco—the one to found colonies on the west coast of Africa, which was probably explored as far as the mouths of the Senegal and Gambia, the other to obtain a knowledge of the Atlantic, which resulted in the discovery of Britain. But the most important event of the first period was the battle of Himera, fought between Hamilcar and Gelo of Syracuse, about the year B.C. 480. Terillus, tyrant of Himera, on the north coast of Sicily, driven out by Thero of Agrigentum, implored and obtained help from the Carthaginians. Thero was assisted by Gelo of Syracuse. An account of this battle is given by Herodotus. The forces of Hamilcar consisted of 3000 ships and 300,000 men—Phœnicians, Libyans, Iberians, Ligurians, Helysci (perhaps Volscians), Sardinians, and Corsicans. He was defeated with great loss.

Carthaginian Warrior. (Cabinet de France.)

For seventy years the Carthaginians made no further effort for the subjugation of Sicily. This battle is one of the most important in ancient history. The expedition in which it terminated was undertaken in conjunction with that of the Persians against the Greeks of Attica. The nearly simultaneous defeats at Himera and Salamis decided the question whether Semitic or Aryan nations should hold the empire of the West. The only other events of any importance in this period of which we have an account are the more complete subjugation of the African dependencies by the family of Mago, and the settlement of the disputed boundary between Carthage and Cyrené.

The second period of 140 years (B.C. 410-269) is occupied with the attempts of Carthage to reduce Sicily to the condition of a subject province. At this time her settlements were confined to the western corner of the island, while on the eastorn coast Syracuse undertook the defence of Grecian nationality, and waged the battle of Aryans against Semites, until both combatants fell before the supremacy of Rome. The repulse of the Athenians from Syracuse, and the same rivalry between Egesta and Selinus which had invited Athenian interference in the affairs of the island, induced the Carthaginians to renew an enterprise which had been interrupted for seventy years. Hannibal, son of Giso, stormed Selinus, and avenged at Himera the death of his grandfather. Overtures of peace were rejected, and preparations made for a more vigorous attack. In 406, Hannibal and Himilco destroyed the great city of Agrigentum, overthrew the mighty columns of her temples, and covered a flourishing site with a mass of ruins. Hannibal died before Agrigentum; Himilco proceeded to attack Gela. Syracuse was now governed by Dionysius, who from an obscure position had raised himself to the rank of despot. In 405, a treaty made by Carthage secured to her the possession of her conquests, and to Dionysius a firmer position on the throne. But he no sooner felt himself secure than he hastened to drive the enemy from the island. War broke out in 398, all Sicily fell before the Punic arms, and Dionysius, driven by Himilco to take refuge within the walls of Syracuse, was there besieged. Pestilence came to his assistance, and the Carthaginians were defeated; 150,000 Punic corpses lay unburied on Grecian soil; and Himilco, unable to bear the contempt of his fellow-citizens, starved himself to death. The Libyans rose in rebellion, and Carthage was threatened by an army of 200,000 men. The attempt of Mago, between 396 and 392, to procure a more favourable result had little effect. Ten years afterwards he led another expedition. The defeat of Cabala nearly lost the possession of the whole of Sicily, but the brilliant victory of Corsica restored the balance, and the Halycus was accepted as the boundary between the two peoples. Fourteen years of peace ensued. In 368, the misfortunes of Carthage encouraged Dionysius to a new but unsuccessful effort to complete the purpose of his life, but his death put an end to a renewal of the attempt, and his son and successor made peace with the Carthaginians. The weak government of Dionysius II. was favourable to the extension of Carthaginian Empire in Sicily; but they found an antagonist of different mettle in the Corinthian Timoleon, who, after liberating Syracuse from its tyrants, made war against Carthage for six years (B.C. 345-340). The defeat of the Crimissus (B.C. 340) was most crushing. The Holy Legion, composed of 2500 men of the best families of Carthage, was destroyed, and the host of mercenaries cut to pieces. Peace restrained the Carthaginians within their old boundary of the Halycus; the Greek cities were declared free; and Carthage promised never again to support a despot in Syracuse. The next thirty years contain little of note except traces of friendly intercourse between Carthage and Rome, and a record of assistance given to the Tyrians when besieged by Alexander the Great. She, however, sent ambassadors to Babylon to congratulate the conqueror on his return from Asia. Agathocles (q.v.) was the first to discover that the secular enemies of his countrymen were vulnerable in Africa. After becoming despot of Syracuse, and establishing his authority over the great towns in Sicily, he found that he had to reckon with the Carthaginians. Unsuccessful in the island, he transferred his forces to the mainland in 310, reduced Carthage to the last extremities, and would probably have obtained more signal success had not the revolt of Agrigentum called him home. Peace made in 306 continued till the death of Agathocles in 289. His loss encouraged the extension of Punic dominion, and at last obliged the Syracusans to call in the assistance of Pyrrhus, the chivalrous king of Epirus. He left Italy in 277, and in a short time drove the Carthaginians from the west and besieged them in the distant fortress of Lilybaeum. But his allies were untrue to him. Carthage and Rome were leagued against him. He left Sicily in 276, and his departure from Italy in the following year left the Carthaginians to stand in sharp antagonism to the Latin branch of the Aryan stock.

The third period of Carthaginian history extends from B.C. 264 to 146—from the outbreak of the first war with Rome to the final annihilation of the city by the conquerors. This is not the place for a detailed account of the Punic wars, which occupy a large space in every Roman history. We must content ourselves with a hasty summary. The first war, which lasted from B.C. 264 to 241, was a contest for the possession of Sicily. The Carthaginians in undertaking it felt secure of their mastery over the sea. Their ambassadors told the Romans that they could not even wash their hands in the sea without permission of the Carthaginians. Montesquien considers it one of the chief causes of the rise of Roman greatness that they were careful to borrow from their enemies whatever was calculated to improve their own efficiency. The Romans not only built a fleet, but developed a novelty of tactics which precisely secured the object which they had in view. They were encouraged to further exertion by the victories of B.C. 260 and B.C. 256, and were schooled to caution by the defeat of the following year. The war was practically ended by the brilliant success of Catulus in B.C. 242, and Sicily was lost to the Carthaginians. The next three years and a half (241-237) were occupied by a civil war, which shows us on what insecure foundations the power of Carthage was based. The large army of mercenaries which had been employed against Rome was incautiously admitted into the city. Under pretence of demanding pay they rose against their employers, and were joined by the Libyans and Numidians, who cultivated the surrounding lands in unwilling subjection. The insurrection was quelled with difficulty, but a similar revolution in Sardinia was more successful—700 Carthaginians were barbarously murdered, and the possession of the island passed to the Romans. All we know of the twenty years which elapsed before the beginning of the second war with Rome is confined to the successes of Hamilcar and his family in Spain. In B.C. 218, Hannibal, who had sworn as a boy eternal enmity to the Romans, began the enterprise to which he devoted his life. His object was not so much to conquer Italian soil or Italian cities as to break up the confederacy upon which the greatness of Rome depended, and to undo the fabric of its empire stone by stone. He sought, therefore, on the one hand to rouse Greeks and Orientals to a joint attack upon the common foe, and on the other to sow dissension among the Latin, Sabellian, and Oscan tribes, and to urge them to reduce Rome to that position of comparative inferiority which she had occupied many centuries before. Both these plans failed. Hannibal was badly supported from home; he found that to combine in unity the shifting policy of the East was to weave a rope of sand; and he discovered, above all, that Roman supremacy was established on a basis of complete security. Far different, in fact, was her position, seated among kindred peoples bound to her by affinities of blood and language as well as interest, governed by the wise policy of a patriotic Senate, and restrained by the overpowering force of devoted legions, from that of the city of merchants, torn by factions, surrounded by alien and even hostile tribes, defended by mercenaries, and swayed by interest and passion. The defeat of Hasdrubal at the Metaurus in B.C. 207 crushed the last hope of the invader; Spain was recovered by the genius of Scipio; and in B.C. 203, Hannibal, not unwillingly, obeyed the order to embark from Italy to retard the ruin of his country which it was too late to save. The battle of Zama, in 202, put an end to the war in the following year. It was due to the magnanimity of Scipio and Hannibal that peace was concluded on such terms that, while Rome had no longer to fear Carthage as a rival, she was content to recognize her existence as a commercial community.

For the next six years, Hannibal governed the city which he had not been able to preserve. He reformed the constitution in a democratical sense, and paid with surprising facility the enormous indemnity demanded by Rome. He was engaged in planning a combination against Rome with Antiochus of Syria when he was driven from power, and forced to take refuge in the East, where shortly afterwards he fell a victim to Roman hatred.

The interval between B.C. 183 and 150 contains little besides the history of internal dissensions— struggles between the Roman party, the democratical party, and the party of Masinissa, which tore the city in sunder by their quarrels. The socalled Third Punic War (B.C. 149-146) is one of the saddest events in all history, and the greatest blot upon the reputation of the Romans. Jealousy of their old antagonists had been shown by constant acts of injustice, and at last the sight of the prosperity and riches of the city impressed upon the narrow mind of Cato the conviction that Carthage must be blotted out. A pretext for war was wantonly invented. The anxieties of the Carthaginians to secure peace at any sacrifice was made the instrument of their destruction. When they saw that their ruin was resolved upon, and that compromise was hopeless, they defended themselves with an energy which would have saved them at an earlier period. The sentence of the Roman Senate was ruthlessly carried out. The city burned for seventeen days, and concealed its very site under a heap of ashes. The plough was passed over it, and the ground was cursed forever. In the words of Mommsen, “where the industrious Phœnicians bustled and trafficked for five hundred years, Roman slaves henceforth pastured the herds of their distant masters.”

The history of Roman Carthage, which constitutes the fourth period, can be given in a few words. In B.C. 122, Gracchus led 6000 colonists to Africa, and founded the city of Iunonia. The colony did not prosper. In B.C. 29, a second colony (Colonia Carthago) was sent out by Augustus in fulfilment of a design of Iulius Caesar. This became so prosperous that Herodian declares it to have disputed with Alexandria the second place in the Empire. In the middle of the fifth century, it became, under Genseric, the capital of the Vandal kingdom (A.D. 439), and in A.D. 533 it was stormed by Belisarius. In A.D. 698, it was entirely destroyed by the general of the calif Abd-ul-Melek.

For centuries after this final destruction, the site of Carthage was a quarry for both the Africans and for the merchants of Europe. Genoese vessels, trading with Tunis in the Middle Ages, seldom returned without a cargo of Carthaginian marble. The cathedral of Pisa is even said to have been built out of the ruins of Carthage. Recent times, also, have aided in the work of devastation, since the marble blocks of the ancient walls have been within the last few years in part destroyed by the operations of the Tunisian railway. The aqueduct, over fifty miles in length, is the only remnant of the greatness of the city's past that still preserves a real impressiveness.

Bibliography.—The reader is referred to the following works: Mer, Mémoire sur le Périple d'Hannon (Paris, 1888); Böttger, Geschichte der Carthagen (Berlin, 1827); Davis, Carthage and her Remains (N. Y. 1861); Hennebert, Histoire d'Anibal (Paris, 1870-78); Bosworth Smith, Carthage and the Carthaginians (London, 1879); Perrot and Chipiez, History of Art in Phœnicia and her Dependencies (Eng. trans. by Armstrong, 1885); Church, Carthage, or the Empire of Africa (London, 1886); and the sketch in Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, vol. ii. The famous novel of Gustave Flaubert, Salammbô, gives a vivid picture of ancient Carthage, and is both learned and brilliant. See also the articles Dido; Hannibal; Punic Wars; and for a notice of the Carthaginian language, Phœnicia.

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