The Carthiginians were a Phoenicians people. The Phoenicians were a seafaring trading people centered in what is now Lebanon. The Phoenicians established trading colonies throughout the Mediterrean. The two major Phoenicians cities became Tyre and Carthage. Tyre was conquered byb Nebuchadnezzer. Carthage was one of the key trading cities of the Mediterrean world. The city was located near modern Tunis on the Bay of Tunis. It was a Phoenician city, by tradition founded by Dido, a priestess expelled from Tyre. (9th century BC). Its strategic location and poweful fleet helped it to dominate Mediterrean trade. Carthiginian traders were legendary, Some Cartheginian vessels ranged as far as the Gulf of Guina to the south and Ireland to the north. The city's wealth grew from the fact that the major Mediterrean cities were in the east and imprtant resoures such as metals were located in the west (especially Spain). Carthage by its location and powerful fleet dominated the narrow passage between North Africa and Sicily that controlled trade between east and west. The city was governed by a powerfull oligarchy. The religion included child sacrifice which became an accepted part of Cartheginian culture. It also may have been a factor in limiting the population, a critical factor in the ensuing Punic Wars with Rome.
The Carthiginians were a Phoenician people. The early Phoenicians were of semetic origins and an early seafaring people who settled islands and coastal areas in the easterm Mediterrean. The Phoenicians dominated Crete whoch was an early center known as the Minoan civilization (2000-1200 BC). As the Mycenaean Greeks civilization expanded in the Agean, the center of Phoenician civilization shifted to the mainland of the eastern Mediterrean, especially in the area of what is now Lebanon. The most imporant Phoenician city was Tyre. Other cities included Sidon and Byblos. The Phoenicians established trading colonies throughout the Mediterrean. The most important became Carthage. Other colonies included Utica and coastal cities in Spain. The Phoenicians were not only skilled navigators and artisans, but also made a major contribution to civilization--the alphabet. Tyre was conquered by Nebuchadnezzer. Eventually the Greeks and Persians overwelmed Phoenician naval power. Alexander and Helenistic society suplanted Phoenician culture.
Carthage was a Phoenician colony according to tradition founded by Elissa/Dido, a priestess expelled from Tyre (about 814 BC). The Phoenicians called Carthage Qart hadasht, meaning “New City” which signified its relationship to Tyre, rather like New York. The precise date and nature of the founding has not yet been confirmed. Archeological work has not yet found any 9th century BC remains at the site of Carthage. Some findings have been dated to about 760 BC, which is reasonably close to the date given in classical sources.
Carthage was one of the key trading cities of the Mediterrean world. The city was located near modern Tunis on the Bay of Tunis. Its strategic location and poweful fleet helped it to dominate Mediterrean trade. Carthiginian traders were legendary, Some Cartheginian vessels ranged as far as the Gulf of Guina to the south and Ireland to the north. The city's wealth grew from the fact that the major Mediterrean cities were in the east and imprtant resoures such as metals were located in the west (especially Spain). Carthage by its location and powerful fleet dominated the narrow passage between North Africa and Sicily that controlled trade between east and west.
Carthigian navigators primarily operated within the Mediterrean. Carthiginian ships traded at every port of antiquity. Whiole the bulk of their trade was done in the editrranean, it was not limited to the Mediterraen. They traded overland with peoples of the interior of Africa, including the Garamantes, Berbers, Numidians, Mauretanians and Ethiopians, and it is believed with the not identified Nok culture of central Africa. From the interior of Africa they obtained salt, which was highly prized in ancient times and very valuable. Roman soldiers (and probably Carthaginians too) were paid in part in salt, from which comes the old saying 'worth your salt' or even the word 'salary'. Carthage traded extensively with the warlike Celts (including the Gauls) the greatest enemies iof Rome. The Celts offered amber, tin, silver, and furs from northern Europe. Carhiginian merchant vessels were capable of tranporting 100 tons or more of cargo. European ships did not reach this size until the voyages of discovery (15th century AD). These ships brought exotic goods (spices like cinnamon, cassia--a Chinese type of cinnamon--, sesame seeds, frankincense, myrrh, ebony wood, ivory, and metals, including copper, lead, and gold. Some uthors believe that Cathiginian ships rounded the tip of southern Africa abd saied as far east as Sumatra in modern Indonesia--perhps the mythical land of Punt. Trade beyond West Afria, however, must be considered specultive. Carhiginian traders lmost certinly reached as far south as the Gulf of Guiena and as far north as Ireland. Hanno reprtedly moved south along the African coast to what is now Sierra Leone (5th century BC).
Cartheginian military power centered on its fleet. Carthage improved its port facilities (4thbcentury BC). There were two main ports on opposite sides of the peninsula where the city was located. One was for the city's merchant fleet. The other was for the powerful Cartheginian navy. The navy was an instrument in Carthage's colonial expansion an=d served to protect the merchant fleet.
Carthage as it grew rich on trade emerged as the dominant power in the western Mediterranean (6th century BC). Cathage gradually expanded its influence to large areas of North Africa. Carthage spread its influence west and south of the city. Cartheginian civilization became especially dominant in the Medjerda River valley that flowed from the west. Caryheginian influence also spread south into what is now southern Tunisia and Libya. The Greek geographer Strabo reported that Carthage extended its dominance to 300 cities in Libya. This is notto say that these cities were settled by Cartheginians or the civilization and culture Cartheginian. Libya was, hoiwever, an important area to control. At the time Libya was less arid than is the case today. Libya was the center of a rich agricultural economy. The population of Carthage itself was reported to be about 700,000 people. Carthage
seized control of many Medfiterrean islands, including Sardinia, Malta, and the Balearic Islands. Carthage found seizing control of Sicily a more difficult proposition, depite the facrt the island was so close.
The city was governed by a powerfull oligarchy. Carthage was dominated by an alliance of aristocrats and wealthy merchants. The city had a council and a popular assembly, but over time oligarchical institutions emerged as dominant. The governing officials were judges and two elected magistrates (suffetes). Carthage also had a small but important senate.
The Cartheginian statesman Mago concluded treaties with the Etruscans, the Romans, and Greek states. Of course as Rome grew in power it was Carthage's relations with Rome that emerged as critical. The two powers agreed not to impinge on each other's sphere of influence.
Carthage society consisted of both landholding and maritime/trading families. There was a rivalry between these two factions. The maritime faction as a result of the great wealth acquired emerged as the dominant faction.
The religion included child sacrifice which became an accepted part of Cartheginian culture. It also may have been a factor in limiting the population, a critical factor in the ensuing Punic Wars with Rome.
The Carthaginians like all ancient people had slaves. There is, however, very limited information on Cathiginan slavery, all from a small number of Roman and Greek sources. None of them contemporary with Carthiginian society. They apparently did not go on slaving expeditions. This is suggested by a treaty with Rome (about 500 BC). The treaty mentions coastal raiding or the sale of slaves from Roman allies in Roman ports. The Carthiginians certinly rade extensively in slaves. [Aristole, p. 88.] We are not sure just how extesive slavery was in Carthage, but availabkle surces suggest therewa a large slave population. Appian, p. 59.] We have no information on the ethnicity of the saves, but Scippio Africanus encounteed slaves from Italy, Sicily, and Spain, but not Africa (204 BC). [Appian, p. 59.] Large numbers were reportedly employed in agriculture. Carthginian slaves were treated more humnnely in Carthage than in Rome. They had basic legal rights. Slaves could visit a temple for worship. They could also marry and accumulate property with which they could buy their freedom. Laws were passed to govern the process of manumission. [Plaustus, pp. 67-77.] Some sources dwell on the use of chains as relates to slave labor and war captives. These references do not seem, however, to be more extreme than general practices of the time.
Sicily is located in the central Mediterrean. The history of the island is a striking example of the powerful force that geography can play on history. Geographically, Sicilly is like the center point on a hour glass--a kind of giant bottle stopper in the Mediterrean. One tip almost touches the toe of Italy and another tip projects toward Africa (mosern Tunisia). It was at the point of northestern Tunisia that projects toward Sicily that Cathage was located. The main east-west Meditterean trade route pass between Carthage and Sicily. The abiolity of the Cartheginian Navy to dominate the waters between Sicily and Africa was a key factor in the rise of Cathage giving the city control over east-west trade in the Mediterrean and thus generating vast wealth. Sicily is shapped like a triangle. The nrthern side faces Europe and Italy. The eastern side faces the eastern Mediterrrean and Greece. The southern side faces Africa and Carthage. As might be expected from the geography, Sicily in history has been a battle ground for contending forces. This was true in ancient history with Sicily playing an important part in major wars like the Pelopensian (431-404 (BC) and Punic Wars. Sicily also figured in many Medieval conflicts and most recently was an important campaign in World War II (1943).
Carthage founded colonies on Sicily, but so did the Greeks. Thus Carthiginian expansion did not include the total control of Sicily. Cathage founded settlements in the area of western Sicily closest to Carthage itself. Conflict developed with the Greeks over control of the island. The Cartheginian General Hamilcar led an army into Sicily. (Cartheginian history is somewhat complicated because many important fifures had the same name. There were several Hamilcars and Hanibals in Cartheginian history. They were members of the powerful Barcas family.) Hamilcar's forces were defeated by the Greek forced commanded by Gelon, the tyrant of Syracuse, at the battle over the Greek city of Himera (480 BC). This halted for a time the expansion of Carthaginian influence on Sicily. The expanding power of Carthage, however, meant that Greek cities on Sicily were still threatened. After Hamilcar's defeat at Himera, Carthage focused its attention to expanding its control over adjacent areas of North africa where it faced less determined opposition. Hannibal (Hamilcar’s grandson, not the famous general who fought the Romans) returned to Himera and destroyed the city (409 BC). The Greek forces had been seveerlky weakened by the Pelopenesian War. Himilco, another Cartheginian general, took Acragas (modern Agrigento) (406 BC). The Cartheginians were, however, unable to totally seized Sicily. Syracuse continued to defy the Cartheginians. Forces commanded by the Syracuse tyrant Agathocles campaigned in North Africa against Carthage (310–307? BC). This was, however, an exception to essebtially total Cartheginian domination of the western Medfiterrrean (4th century BC).
One of the great struggles of the clasical world was the Puinc Wars. The Punic Wars were the epic struggles conducted from 264 BC to 146 BC between Rome and Cathage over control of the Mediterrean Sea. These wars began with Carthage the dominant force in North Africa and the western Mediterran an Rome a rising but still limited power in Italy. By the end of the wars, Carthage was in ruins and Rome emerged as the dominant Mediterrean power. The Punic Wars were a series of three wars between Carthage and Rome. The best know period of the conflict was the Second Punic War in which Cartheginian forces were led by the military genius Hannibal. The greatest, but not the dessive battle of the War was Hannibal's crushing victory over the Romans at Cannae (216 BC).
Appian. Punic Wars Ch. 9.
Aristotle. De mirabilibus auscultatibus. Aristole describes slaves sold to the Balearians. The merchants involved are widely believed to be Cathiginians.
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