The Carthaginians (Peoples of the Ancient World)
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The Carthaginians reveals the complex culture, society and achievements of a famous, yet misunderstood, ancient people. Beginning as Phoenician settlers in North Africa, the Carthaginians then broadened their civilization with influences from neighbouring North African peoples, Egypt, and the Greek world. Their own cultural influence in turn spread across the Western Mediterranean as they imposed dominance over Sardinia, western Sicily, and finally southern Spain.
As a stable republic Carthage earned respectful praise from Greek observers, notably Aristotle, and from many Romans – even Cato, otherwise notorious for insisting that ‘Carthage must be destroyed’. Carthage matched the great city-state of Syracuse in power and ambition, then clashed with Rome for mastery of the Mediterranean West. For a time, led by her greatest general Hannibal, she did become the leading power between the Atlantic and the Adriatic.
It was chiefly after her destruction in 146 BC that Carthage came to be depicted by Greeks and Romans as an alien civilization, harsh, gloomy and bloodstained. Demonising the victim eased the embarrassment of Rome’s aggression; Virgil in his Aeneid was one of the few to offer a more sensitive vision. Exploring both written and archaeological evidence, The Carthaginians reveals a complex, multicultural and innovative people whose achievements left an indelible impact on their Roman conquerors and on history.
provisions. Two hundred and fifty kilometres north of Hippacra lies Sardinia, also beginning to receive a steady flow of Phoenician settlers from around 800 who readily developed two-way trade with Carthage. Utica and Hippacra, though much the same distance from both islands, lacked their sister colony’s size and had more limited harbour facilities. If the Phoenician traditions about her founding have a factual core, Carthage also had close links to the ruling aristocracy of Tyre, with whom good
iron ore, a process which much improved the quality of their iron products (and was not recovered until the Bessemer process in the mid-19th Century).7 Some recent discoveries, and excavations at a number of Phoenician settlements in southern Spain, indicate that the earliest city had a typical range of structures: temples and warehouses, shops and private dwellings – with the wealthiest and largest of these, each with its central courtyard, on Byrsa’s slopes – all linked by streets of pounded
created sometime around 200, the island in the circular port housed Carthage’s naval headquarters, described by Appian as a high building where the admiral in command could survey both the ships and shipyards below and the sea outside. As a result the island is now called the Îlot de l’Amirauté. The admiralty building can be recognised in the excavations of the long and narrow foundations of a six-sided building, about 80 metres long and 25 at its widest, surrounded by the traces of shipsheds for
probably inevitable as Carthaginian dominance spread westward, for there was no firm or sharp border, ethnic or physical, between Libya and Numidia. By 131 C A R T HA G E I N A F R I C A contrast, the only clashes feasible with any Mauri would be by sea, in defence of Carthaginian trading-posts or colonies. No other evidence exists for clashes, but it was noted earlier how Justin’s claim may connect with the expedition recorded in Hanno’s Periplus. Meanwhile conflict in Sicily was very
the king himself who told their envoys at Tyre to take home the warning that he had plans to march in Carthage’s direction eventually. His death in 323 and the disruption of his empire eased their worries. Several generations of in-fighting among the empire’s successor states followed, including Egypt under its new Greek pharaohs, the Ptolemies. (Incidentally, the suspicious Carthaginians put their agent to death on his return, claiming that he had intended to betray the city to Alexander.) By