1902 Encyclopedia > Carthage


CARTHAGE was situated on the north coast of Africa, not far from the modern city of Tunis, just at that point where the coast approaches most nearly to the Island of Sicily. It lay in the heart of the Bay of Tunis, close to the mouth of the River Bagradas, and its site was so favourable co the natural development of a city that a hundred years after its entire destruction by the Romans it was chosen with Corinth as a place for colonization by Julius Caesar, and rose into distinction as the third town in the empire. It was a colony of the Phoenicians, and was founded about the middle of the 9th century B.C., a hundred years before the foundation of Rome. This is not the place to discuss the position of Phoenicians in history, even if there existed sufficient material to do so with satisfactory results. The Phoenicians have generally been regarded as a purely com-mercial nation, forming a connecting link between the nations of antiquity, distributing the elements of culture, but producing little or no addition to the common stock. A fuller examination of Phoenician and Assyrian remains may serve to show us that this view needs correction. It is probable that a nation which gave its language to the Hebrews, and its alphabet to the Greeks, and which, after profoundly influencing both these factors of modern civiliza-tion, consolidated an empire which for four hundred years held its own against the preponderance of Greece and Rome, possessed a greater individuality of development than has been usually accorded to it. Phoenicians have had the mis-fortune of being for the most part described by their enemies. We must receive with caution the accounts given us by the Jews of Canaanitish cruelty, or by the Romans of Carthaginian dishonesty. The relations of native historians both of the mother-city and of her chief colony have come down to us in a garbled and fragmentary form. Our best hope of more perfect knowledge lies in the deciphering of contemporary inscriptions.

The name Cartago (the city was called Karthada by the Phoenicians, and KapxySuv by the Greeks) signifies New City. The inhabitants called themselves Canaanites, or inhabitants of the plain. The Romans used the name Poeni or Punici, the Latin form of ^OIVIKK, which either signifies * red men," or refers to the palms which were the chief products, and the principal emblem of the Syrian coast. We gather from this that the first knowledge of Phoenicians was gained by the Romans from the Greeks, but the name Sarranus given to Phoenician wares, and the name Carthago itself, shows us that their knowledge of the chief products of Syrian merchandize, and of the existence of their rival city, was gained independently. Carthage was the youngest Phoenician colony founded in the territory, which she after-wards subdued. Utica, Tunis, and Hadrumetum lay close to her in the district of Zeugitana, Hippo a short distance to the west, Leptis to the east. As these towns, with the exception of Utica, eventually became subject to her, she rose like Rome on the ruins of older towns, and she owed her success to the same cause,—the possession of a situation of superior commercial capabilities. We propose to give first a sketch of the history, next of the constitution, and lastly of the topography of the city.

The history of ancient Carthage divides itself naturally into three periods :—the first extends from about 850 to 410 B.C, from the foundation of the city to the beginning of the wars with Syracuse; the second from 410 to 265 B.C., the beginning of the wars with Rome; the third from the commencement of the Roman (or Punic) wars till the destruction of the city, 146 B.C. It will then remain to remark the fortunes of the restored city until its destruction by the Arabs in 638 A.D. The first period of four centuries and a half contains the rise of the Carthaginian dominion and the culmination of its prosperity. Her empire was extended from the Straits of Gibraltar to the altars of the Philasni, near the Great Syrtis, where she touched on the territory of Cyrene. She possessed as provinces Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and Malta, and a few settlements in Spain and Gaul. She had subdued the neighbouring states founded from Phoenicia with the exception of Utica, and drew a large revenue from the corn lands of Byzacium and Emporia, situated on the coast south-east of the city. In Africa her subjects consisted of three classes—(1) Libyo-Phoenicians, (2) Libyans, and (3) Nomads. The first were of a mixed race, the product of intermarriages be-tween the native Libyans and the Carthaginians or earlier settlers from Phoenicia. They cultivated the fields of Zeugitana, but were regarded with suspicion by the Carthaginians of pure blood. The Libyans, although completely subdued by Carthage, were of an entirely different race, and to a great extent did not understand the Punic language. At first they received a rent from the new settlers for the ground they occupied, but this was after-wards refused. They formed the staple of the Cartha-ginian army. Entire difference of race made it impossible for the new settlers to amalgamate with the original inhabitants, and the hard treatment they received led them to join the mercenaries in a revolt against their masters. Outside these limits the rest of the territory of Carthage was occupied by Nomads, who owed her a loose allegiance. They supplied her with mercenary troops, especially cavalry ; but their fidelity could not be depended upon, and the Romans finally subdued Carthage by their assistance. Among these Nomad tribes were situated various cities, colonized partly from Carthage and partly from the mother-country. Towards the south the dominion of Carthage extended as far as Lake Tritonis, connected by a canal with the Lesser Syrtis.

The foreign conquests of Carthage were undertaken with the object of securing her commerce. Justin tells us of a king, Malchus (the Latin form of the royal title), who after successes in Africa and Sicily was defeated in Sardinia, and turned his arms against his country. He must have lived between 600 and 550 B.C. A more historical personage is his successor Mago (between 550 and 500 B.C), said to be the founder of the military power of the Carthaginians. His sons were Hasdrubal and Hamilcar, his grandsons Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Sappho, sons of Hasdrubal, and Himilco, Hanno, and Cisco, sons of Hamilcar. By the energy of this family the Carthaginian empire was established over Sardinia, which was not lost till after the first Punic war, over the Balearic Islands and part of Sicily, and over portions of Liguria and Gaul. There are, however, few events of which the chronology is certain. The first is the sea fight between the Etruscans and Carthaginians on the one hand and the Phocseans of Aleria in Corsica on the other, which occurred in 536 B.C. The Phocaeans, driven from Asia Minor by Harpagus in 564, had settled at Aleria or Alalia in Corsica, but engaged in piracy, which demanded the interference of the com-mercial naval powers. The Phocaeans won the battle, but with such loss that they abandoned Corsica, and settled at Velia in Italy. Polybius has preserved three treaties between Carthage and Rome, the first of which belongs to the year 509 B.C., the second probably to the period between 480 and 410 B.C. Their object is to restrict Roman commerce in Punic waters, and it is noticeable that the second treaty prescribes stricter limits than the first, and testifies to a considerable superiority of Carthage over Rome. To the period of about 500 B.C. belong the expedi-tions of Hanno arid Himilco,—the one to found colonies on the west coast of Africa, which was probably explored as far as the mouths of the Senegal and Gambia, the other to obtain a knowledge of the Atlantic, which resulted in the discovery of Britain. But the most important event of the first period was the battle of Himera, fought between Hamilear and Gelo of Syracuse, about the year 480 B.C. Terillus, tyrant of Himera, on the north coast of Sicily, driven out by Thero of Agrigentum, implored and obtained help from the Carthaginians. Thero was assisted by Gelo of Syracuse. An account of this battle is given by Herodotus. The forces of Hamilear consisted of 3000 ships and 300,000 men,—Phoenicians, Libyans, Iberians, Ligurians, Hefysci (perhaps Volscians), Sardinians, and Corsicans. He was defeated with great loss. For seventy years the Carthaginians made no further effort for the subjugation of Sicily This battle is one of the most important in ancient history. The expedition in which it terminated was undertaken in conjunction with that of the Persians against the Greeks of Attica. The nearly simultaneous defeats of Himera and Salamis decided the question whether Semitic or Aryan nations should hold the empire of the West. The only other events of any importance in this period, of which we have an account, are the more complete subjugation of the African dependencies by the family of Mago, and the settlement of the disputed boundary between Carthage and Cyrene.

The second period of 140 years (410-269 B.C.) is occupied with the attempts of Carthage to reduce Sicily to the con-dition of a subject province. At this time her settlements were confined to the eastern corner of the island, while on the western coast Syracuse undertook the defence of Grecian nationality, and waged the battle of Aryans against Semites, until both combatants fell before the supremacy of Rome. The repulse of the Athenians from Syracuse, and the same rivalry between Egesta and Selinus which had invited Athenian interference in the affairs of the island, induced the Carthaginians to renew an enterprise which had been interrupted for seventy years. Hannibal, son of Gisco, stormed Selinus, and avenged at Himera the death of his grandfather. Overtures of peace were rejected, and preparations made for a more vigorous attack. In 406 Hannibal and Himilco destroyed the great city of Agri gentum, overthrew the mighty columns of her temples, and covered a flourishing site with a mass of ruins. Hannibal died before Agrigentum; Himilco proceeded to attack Gela. Syracuse was now governed by Dionysius, who from an obscure position had raised himself to the rank of despot. In 405 a treaty made by Carthage secured to her the possession of her conquests, and to Dionysius a firmer position on the throne. But he no sooner felt himself secure than he hastened to drive the enemy from the island. War broke out in 398, all Sicily fell before the Punic arms, and Dionysius, driven by Himilco to take refuge within the walls of Syracuse was there besieged. Pestilence came to his assistance, and the Carthaginians were defeated; 150,000 Punic corpses lay unburied on Grecian soil; and Himilco, unable to bear the contempt of his fellow-citizens, starved himself to death. The Libyans rose in rebellion, and Carthage was threatened by an army of 200,000 men. The attempt of Mago between 396 and 392 to procure a more favourable result had little effect. Ten years afterwards he led another expedition. The defeat of Cabala nearly lost the possession of the whole of Sicily, but the brilliant victory of Corsica restored the balance, and the Halycus was accepted as the boundary between the two peoples Fourteen years of peace ensued. In 368 the misfortunes of Carthage encouraged Dionysius to a new but unsuccessful effort to complete the purpose of his life His death put an end to a renewal of the attempt, and his son and successor made peace with the Cartha-ginians. The weak government of Dionysius II. was favourable to the extension of Carthaginian empire in Sicily; but they found an antagonist of different mettle in the Corinthian Timoleon, who, after liberating Syracuse from its tyrants, made war against Carthage for six years (345-340 B.C.). The defeat of the Crimissus (340 B.C.) was most crushing. The Holy Legion, composed of 2500 of the best families of Carthage, was destroyed, and the host of mercenaries cut to pieces. Peace restrained the Cartha-ginians within their old boundary of the Halycus; the Greek cities were declared free; and Carthage promised never again to support a despot in Syracuse. The next thirty years contain little of note except trace of friendly intercourse between Carthage and Rome, and a record of assistance given to the Tyrians when besieged by Alexander the Great. She, however, sent ambassadors to Babylon to congratulate the conqueror on his return from Asia. Agathocles was the first to discover that the secular enemies of his countrymen were vulnerable in Africa. After becoming despot of Syracuse, and establishing his authority over the great towns in Sicily, he found that he had to reckon with the Carthaginians. Unsuccessful in the island, he transferred his forces to the mainland in 310, reduced Carthage to the last extremities, and would probably have obtained more signal success had not the revolt of Agrigentum called him home. Peace made in 306 continued till the death of Agathocles in 289. His loss encouraged the extension of Punic dominion, and at last obliged the Syracusans to call in the assistance of Pyrrhus, the chivalrous- king of Epirus. He left Italy in 277, and in a short time drove the Carthaginians from the west and besieged them in the distant fortress of Lilybaeum.. But his allies were untrue to him—Carthage and Rome were leagued against him ; he left Sicily in 276, and his departure from Italy in the following year left the Cartha-ginians to stand in sharp antagonism to the Latin branch' of the Aryan stock.

The third period of Carthaginian history extends from 264 to 146 B.c,—from the outbreak of the first war with-Rome to the final annihilation of the city by the conquerors. This is not the place for a detailed account of the Punic wars, which occupy a large space in every Roman history. We must content ourselves with a hasty summary. The-first war, which lasted from 264 to 241 B.C, was a contest for the possession of Sicily. The Carthaginians in under-taking it felt secure of their mastery over the sea. Their ambassadors told the Romans that they could net even wash their hands in the sea withouu permission of the-Carthaginians. Montesquieu considers it one of the chief causes of the rise of Roman greatness that they were care-ful to borrow from their enemies whatever was calculated to improve their own efficiency. The Romans not only built a fijet but developed a novelty of tactics which precisely secured the object which they had in view. They were encouraged to further exertion by the victories of 260 B.C. and 256 B.C., and were schooled to caution by the defeat of the following year. The war was ended by the brilliant success of Catulus in 242 B.C., and Sicily was lost to the Carthaginians. The next three years and a half (241--237) were occupied by a civil war, which shows us-on what insecure foundations the power of Carthage was based. The large army of mercenaries which had been employed against Rome was incautiously admitted into the city. Under pretence of demanding pay they rose against their employers, and were joined by the Libyans and Numidians, who cultivated the surrounding lands in unwilling subjection. The insurrection was quelled with difficulty, but a similar revolution in Sardinia was morer successful; 700 Carthaginians were barbarously murdered, and the possession of tne island passed to the Romans. All we know of the twenty years which elapsed before the beginning of the second war with Rome is confined to the successes of Hamilear and his family in Spain. In 21 & B.c. Hannibal, who had sworn as a boy eternal enmity to the Romans, began the enterprize to which he devoted his life. His object was not so much to conquer Italian soil or Italian cities as to break up the confederacy on which the greatness of Rome depended, and to undo the fabric of its empire stone by stone. He sought, therefore, on the one hand to rouse Greeks and Orientals to a joint attack against the common foe, and on the other to sow dissension amongst the Latin, Sabellian, and Oscan tribes, and to urge them to reduce Rome to that position of comparative inferiority which she had occupied many centuries before. Both these plans failed. Hannibal was badly supported from home; he found that to combine in unity the shifting policy of the East was to weave a rope of sand ; and he dis-covered above all that Roman supremacy was established on a basis of complete security. How different was her position, seated among kindred peoples bound to her by affinities of blood and language as well as interest, governed by the wise policy of a patriotic senate, and restrained by the overpowering force of devoted legions, and that of the city of merchants, torn by factions, surrounded by alien and even hostile tribes, defended by mercenaries, and swayed by interest and passion. The defeat of Hasdrubal at the Metaurus in 207 B.C. crushed the last hope of the invader; Spain was recovered by the genius of Scipio, and in 203 B.C. Hannibal, not unwillingly; obeyed the order to embark from Italy to retard the ruin of his country which it was too late to save. The battle of Zama in 202 put an end to the war in the following year. It was due to the magnaminity of Scipio and Hannibal that peace was concluded on such terms that, while Rome had no longer to fear Carthage as a rival, she was content to recognize her existence as a commercial community.

For the next six years Hannibal governed the city which he had not been able to preserve. He reformed the con-stitution in a democratical sense, and paid with surprising facility the enormous indemnity demanded by Rome. He was engaged in planning a combination against Rome with Antiochus of Syria, when he was driven from power, and forced to take refuge in the East. Shortly afterwards he fell a victim to Roman hatred.

The interval between 183 and 159 B.C. contains little besides the history of internal dissensions,— struggles between the Roman party, the democratical party, and the party of Masinissa, which tore the city in sunder by their quarrels. The so-called third Punic war (149-146 B.C.) is one of the saddest events in all history, and the greatest blot on the reputation of the Romans. Jealousy of their old antagonists had been shown by constant acts of injustice, and at last the sight of the prosperity and riches of the city impressed upon the narrow mind of Cato the conviction that Carthage must be blotted out. A pretext for war was wantonly invented. The anxieties of the Carthaginians to secure peace at any sacrifice was made the instrument of their destruction. When they saw that their ruin was resolved upon, and that compromise was hopeless, they defended themselves with an energy which would have saved them at an earlier period. The sentence of the senate was ruthlessly carried out. The city burned for seventeen days, and concealed its very site under a heap of ashes. The plough was passed over it, and the ground was cursed for ever. In the words of Mommsen, " where the industrious Phoenicians bustled and trafficked for five hundred years, Roman slaves henceforth pastured the herds of their distant masters."

The history of Roman Carthage must be given in a few words. In 122 B.C. Caius Gracchus led 6000 colonists to Africa, and founded the city of Junonia. The colony did not prosper. In 29 B.C. a second colony was sent out by Augustus in fulfilment of a design of Julius Caesar. This became so prosperous that Herodian states that it disputed with Alexandria the second place in the empire. In the middle of the 5th century it became, under Genseric, the capital of the Vandal kingdom, and in 533 A.D. it was stormed by Belisarius. In 706 A.D. it was entirely destroyed by the general of the caliph Abdulmelek.

The constitution of Carthage was essentially aristocratical. Constitu-The little we know of it is derived from a single chaptertion-in the Politics of Aristotle (ii. 8), a few scattered passages in the same treatise, and in Polybius, Livy, Nepos, and other authors. The official heads of the Government were the suffetes (Heb. Sophetim), who are compared to the Roman consuls and the Spartan kings; they may only have been two in number, and probably held office for a year, but were capable of re-election. Under them was the senate, which may or may not have been divided into two houses. These offices were filled by popular election, determined by the joint claims of wealth and merit, but bribery was largely practised, and Aristotle goes as far as to say that the chief offices were objects of sale and purchase. The people had a voice in the conduct of affairs, but they were not consulted if the suffetes and the senate were agreed on a course of action. There is no reason to suppose with Grote that the public banquets mentioned by Aristotle were part of the machinery of bribery. The history of England (which by some writers is spoken of as the modern Carthage) supplies us with ample examples of an aristocratical government carried on under the forms of a democracy. By the side of the regular Government stood a controlling power which gradually absorbed into itself all the authority of the state. The pentarchies were probably bodies of commissioners chosen from the principal families, self-elected, and so con-stituted that the outgoing members preserved their power for another year, and thus impressed a unity of policy on the institution. By these were elected the council of a hundred (or more strictly a hundred and four), who stood in the same relation to the suffetes as the ephors to the Spartan kings. By the gradual extension of judicial functions, like the parliaments of France, they usurped to themselves the authority of the state. To them is to be referred the cruel vengeance so often wreaked on unsuc-cessful generals. It was the work of Hannibal to diminish the authority of this body, and to secure a more real share of power to the people.

The Carthaginians were, like the Phoenicians, a deeply religious people. Religion entered into every important action of their lives, and their priests were held in the highest honour, yet there was no special order of priests, and we have no proof that the office was by law or custom confined to any particular family. Aristotle, writing more than half a century before the first Punic war, gives great praise to the Carthaginian constitution on the score of its stability, and its success in securing the happiness and con-tentment of the nation. It is, indeed, inconceivable that the Carthaginians should have attained such wealth and prosperity except under a good government; and the picture of faction, dissension, and disturbance, which we are accustomed to associate with it, belongs rather to the decline of the Punic empire, and is known to us only through the representation of its enemies.

The general outline of the topography of Carthage is Topo-tolerably certain, but the details are involved in almost graphy. unavoidable obscurity. Two schools of topographers place the site of the city respectively on the north and south of the peninsula, which the territory of Carthage undoubtedly occupied. It seems now certain that the latter are in the right. The most important feature of the ancient city was the citadel Byrsa (Bozra), the hill now occupied by a church dedicated to St Louis, who died at Tunis. It was sur-rounded by walls, and its summit was formerly crowned by a temple of Aesculapius, standing at the head of sixty steps. The name Byrsa was probably also given to the whole quarter of the city as well as to the citadel itself. The city was enclosed on the land side by a triple wall, with towers at short intervals and casemates, which afforded stabling for 300 elephants and 4000 horses. The harbours of Carthage were artificial, and consisted of two basins,—one rectangular, for the merchant ships, opening into the lagoon of Tunis, and ending in a narrow passage, capable of being closed by a chain ; the other circular, for ships of war, containing an island in the centre on which the admiral lived. Their site can be easily identified, although their size is now considerably reduced. Between the lagoon of Tunis and the sea ran out a tongue of land, the Taenia of Appian, still recognizable although altered in size and shape; on it stands the fort of the Goletta. Outside the walls lay the suburb of Megara or Magalia, now the districts of Mara, covered then as now with villas and gardens; and still beyond this, towards the north of the peninsula, lay the vast necropolis marked by the modern village of Camart. The Carthaginians, like the Jews and other Semitic nations, combined a feeling of reverence for ancestors with a fear of contamination from the dead ; therefore, while their sepulchres were carefully and strongly built, they were situated far away from the habitations of the living, and in this case were not even visible either from Byrsa or Megara. We shall not be surprised that so little remains of this mighty city if we remember that for ocenturies it has been used as a quarry not only by its African neighbours but by the rapacious merchants of the West. The Cathedral of Pisa is said to have been built _out of the ruins of Carthage ; and Genoese vessels, trading with Tunis in the Middle Ages, seldom returned without a ballast of Tunis marble. The most impressive remains which strike the modern traveller are the arches of the aqueduct, once fifty miles long, which cannot be referred with certainty to Carthaginian or Roman origin. Much more lies hidden under drifted sand and the silt of the Bagradas. Even lately the marble blocks of the ancient walls have been in part destroyed by the works of the Tunis railway.

The antiquarian may regret the want of evidence to assist him in reconstructing the ancient city. The historian and philosopher will feel still more deeply that the hostility of the Romans has left him so few traces of this vigorous scion of the Semitic stock. Phoenician culture still remains a tantalizing riddle to those who would unravel the course of human progress. The world has lost as well as gained by the cruel and arrogant self-assertion which culminated in the supremacy of Rome. In the history of civilization the survival of the fittest has frequently been nothing else but the survival of those who by force, obstinacy, and cunning were fittest to survive. In modern clays we can give their full value to enterprize in commerce, activity in geographical discovery, and the taste which decorated the metropolis with noble buildings and works of art, and collected a library which the ignorance of the conquerors dispersed amongst the barbaric princes of the desert. Virgil, standing in the light of a wiser and more tolerant age, did his best to soften the hatred of his countrymen against their hereditary foe, and to show that generous hospitality and refinement were not foreign to the court of Dido, and that the perfidy of Hannibal was a fitting retribution for the heartless treachery of Aeneas.

Notices of Carthage in the lassical writers are frequent, especially in Polybius, Diodorus, Livy, Appian, and Justin. The two works which have been the foundation of most that has been written on the subject in modern times are Bdttger, Geschichte der Cartluigen, Berlin, 1827, and Heeren, Ideen, vol. ii. pt. 1. There is a brilliant sketch of Carthage in Mommsen's History of Rome, vol, ii., and some sensible remarks in Grote's History of Greece, vol. x. The articles on Carthage in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopadie, in Smith's Dictionary of Geography (by Philip Smith), and in Pauli's Real Lexicon, are admirable. Indispensable for the study of the constitution is Kluge, Aristoteles de Potitia Carthaginieiuium. Illustrative of the topography may be mentioned Beale, Fouilles d Cartilage, and Davis, Carthage and her Remains. The standard work on the Phoenicians is still Movers, Die Phonizien, but it is probable that our knowledge of the subject may be much increased when the researches now in progress have been completed and co-ordinated. E. de Sainte Marie published in 1875 a Bibliographie Carthaginoise (Jourdan, Paris), of which there is a severe but instructive review in the Literarisches Centralblatt for May 20, 1876. (.0. B.)

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