The story of Carthage begins in the eastern Mediterranean country of Lebanon, ruled by King Belus II. Upon his death the throne passed jointly to his children Prince Pygmalion and Princess Elissa. When Elissa married the High Priest Sychaeus, her uncle, there was rivalry between the church and the state. This led to the murder of Sychaeus by Pygmalion and the subsequent flight of Elissa to North Africa. And so it came to pass, that Queen Elissa came to found the great city and state of Carthage on a headland in modern day Tunisia in 814 BCE. From which Carthage grew to be the second largest city to Alexandria during Hellenistic times.
The city was laid out on a grid pattern around the high citadel built on Byrsa Hill, lying between the sea and the inland Lake Tunis. It had two large artificial ports built within the 23 miles of its city walls, one for merchants and the other to harbor its navy’s massive fleet of some 300 warships. Carthage possessed one of the largest and most professional navies of the time. Its position gave it control of all the maritime trade passing from east to west in the Mediterranean. Its maritime trade extended to the British Isles and the coast of West Africa as well as around the Mediterranean.
Trade was also conducted with central Africa, with caravans heading south over the Sahara to buy gold, ivory, skins and exotic wild animals.
The foundation of Qart-Hadast, the “New City,” was the start of the rich and powerful Punic Empire which was to become a major power and rule over 300 cities all along the North African coastline from Libya to the Pillars of Hercules, it also ruled half of Spain, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and much of Sicily.
The Carthaginian army consisted largely of foreign mercenaries from lands which it ruled, North African Libyan and Numidian light cavalry, African elephant troops and Iberian, Celtic and Balearic contingents from Europe.
Upon the rise of the Roman Republic, the rivalry that developed between Rome and the Syracusan state in eastern Sicily led to fighting between the Carthaginians, who supported Syracuse, and Rome. A hundred years of wars were to follow, with the Carthaginian high point being Hannibal’s invasion of Italy during the Second Punic War, and low point being the destruction of Carthage by the Romans in 146 BCE following the Third Punic War. To quote the famous "what did the Romans do for us?" they burnt the Carthaginian fleet, and raped and enslaved fifty thousand Carthaginians, who were then sold into slavery, before they razed the city to the ground.
All the Carthaginian history up to this point in fact is hearsay, written by Roman and Greek authors who were the enemies and rivals of the long established empire, as all Carthaginian history and culture was destroyed. Recently the written history has come into conflict with some of the archaeological evidence since excavated.
The rebuilding of Carthage didn’t happen until the reign of Julius Caesar, but by the 1st century CE it had once again grown to be one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and their main city in Africa. It became a main supplier of foodstuffs to Rome, and an important centre for early xtianity. The bishops of Carthage however were never at one with the bishops of Rome.
The Romans rebuilt Carthage, which was to become the third most important city in their Empire, and on their fall it became the North African capital of their Vandal conquerors before its final destruction by Muslim hoards in 698 CE, when the joint Byzantine and Berber armies were beaten in the Battle of Carthage. This resulted in the exile of all Byzantines from Africa, and the dominance of Islam.
The Circular Punic Port from Byrsa Hill
Shades of Atlantis!
Punic Tomb and Dug Graves
The Bath Complex
Roman Aqueduct and Water Storage Tanks
The French Cathedral of St Louis
Now a Museum