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Situated on a large peninsula, which stretched between salty lagoons to the furthermost part of the gulf of Tunis, Carthage was twice in antiquity a capital. Founded by Tyrians, who came from Phoenicia, the settlement quickly became the metropolis of an empire, at first essentially maritime. Destroyed, it was reconstructed and immediately raised to the rank of capital of the province of Africa, a position it held almost to the end of antiquity. This past, covering 15 centuries of history, has left relatively few traces which strike the imagination of the visitor of today. Since the end of the 19th c., modern life has progressively covered over much of the ancient site.

During all the centuries of abandonment which preceded, the ruins served as an inexhaustible stone quarry for Tunis and other towns as well as for present-day structures built on the site. Very few monuments have escaped this intensive exploitation. Further, the explorations of the 19th c. resulted in stripping the remains of their archeological objects for private collections and museums.

Of the first Punic city there are known only the two harbors, the tophet, the sacred area destined for cult sacrifices, and the necropoleis, which form a large strip occupying the N heights of the town. Of the Roman period, several monuments have survived which, in spite of their ruinous condition, bear witness to their original importance. To the SW, no more of thie circus remains than traces of foundation; a little farther to the N was the amphitheater, of which only the arena and the substructures have survived; of the Odeon, situated on the summit of the plateau, there exists no more than the platform of the foundation; of the theater only a part of the cavea, backed against the side of the hill, is still intact. There are also the large cisterns of Malga to the W and those of Borj Jedid to the NE, fed by the aqueduct of Zaghouan; and finally, above all, the Baths of Antoninus preserved today in a great archaeological park. This is the most imposing monument of Roman Carthage and counts among the largest of the Empire. Situated on the seashore at the foot of the hill of Borj Jedid, with one facade towards the sea and the other towards the interior, it had an alternation of projections and recesses formed by a succession of rectangular, hexagonal, and octagonal rooms. Perfectly symmetrical in plan, it was covered by an immense vault supported by enormous granite columns. The wings encircled two large palestrae with porticos of white marble. The building was surrounded by an esplanade, itself circled by porticos and building annexes of which two immense hemicycles sheltered the latrines.

In this city, subjected to incessant pillage of its materials and objects, the most indestructible monument is certainly the city plan. A large-scale work, thought out rationally and implanted by Rome even at the origins of the re-founding of the town, this plan takes as its central axis the summit of the acropolis of Byrsa and divides the area of the city into four quarters of equal importance except for the one situated to the NW. A rectilinear, regular plan of the streets determines the insulae in which are set all the monuments of the town.

The most remarkable sector in this regard is that which stretches along the slope of the hill of the Odeon. Uncovered by several campaigns since 1899, the villas included in these areas rose on successive levels up to the Baths of Antoninus. The most remarkable of these dwellings is the House of the Aviary named for a mosaic. Around a large peristyle open the rooms, which also give on an octagonal garden situated in the center of the court. Cleared at the beginning of this century, this aristocratic villa has been restored and transformed in part into an antiquarium protecting some archaeological objects of various provenance.

From the Christian era, several basilicas have been found and cleared: that of Dermech, situated in the archaeological park, that of Damous el Karita, behind the plateau of the Odeon, and to the NE on a cliff dominating the gulf, that of St. Cyprian.

Apart from the houses, which have been despoiled of their most beautiful mosaics, the most complete recovery of the lost city has been carried out in the necropoleis, which surround the town; the numerous furnishings that have been recovered from there constitute the essence of the archaeological documentation of ancient Carthage.


Audollent, Carthage Romaine (1901)P; G. C. Picard, Carthage (1964; Fr. ed. 1956); La Carthage de Saint Augustin (1965)PI; Lézine, Carthage—Utique (1968)PI; M. Fantar, Carthage, la prestigieuse cité Ellissa (1970).


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