Ancient Phoenician port in North Africa founded by colonists from Tyre in the late 9th century BC; it lay 16 km/10 mi north of Tunis, Tunisia. A leading trading centre, it was in conflict with Greece from the 6th century BC, and then with Rome, and was destroyed by Roman forces in 146 BC at the end of the Punic Wars. About 45 BC, Roman colonists settled in Carthage, and it became the wealthy capital of the province of Africa. After its capture by the Vandals in AD 439 it was little more than a pirate stronghold. From 533 it formed part of the Byzantine Empire until its final destruction by Arabs in 698, during their conquest in the name of Islam.
Carthage is said to have been founded in 814 BC by Phoenician emigrants from Tyre, led by Princess Dido. It developed an extensive commerce throughout the Mediterranean and traded with the Tin Islands, whose location is believed to have been either Cornwall, England, or southwestern Spain. After the capture of Tyre by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC, Carthage became the natural leader of the Phoenician colonies in North Africa and Spain, and there soon began a prolonged struggle with the Greeks, which centred mainly on Sicily, the east of which was dominated by Greek colonies, while the west was held by Carthaginian trading stations. About 540 BC the Carthaginians defeated a Greek attempt to land in Corsica, and in 480 BC a Carthaginian attempt to conquer the whole of Sicily was defeated by the Greeks at Himera.
The population of Carthage before its destruction by the Romans in 146 BC is said to have numbered over 700,000. The constitution was an aristocratic republic with two chief magistrates elected annually and a senate of 300 life members. One aristocratic clan, the Barcids, which included Hannibal, traced their descent from Mago in the late 6th century BC. The religion was Phoenician, including the worship of the Moon goddess Tanit, the great Sun god Baal-Hammon, and the Tyrian Meklarth; human sacrifices were not unknown. The original strength of Carthage lay in its commerce and its powerful navy; its armies were for the most part mercenaries.
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