Archaeological Site of Carthage
Archaeological Site Of Carthage
Cultural Tunisia Arab States District Of Tunis

Carthage is one of the most famous historic sites of the Roman Empire. The Roman Julia Carthago illustrates the splendour and wealth of Rome, and exerted considerable influence on the development of structural architecture and of characteristic Punic and Roman town planning. It is also important testimony to Punic history and constitutes an interesting example of the Punic city.

The state takes its name from the city of Carthage, out on the coast, 10 km from modern Tunis. Carthage was founded in the 9th century by Phoenician traders from Tyre, in today's Lebanon;it had two first class harbours, and therefore an advantage in possessing the most efficient means of communications of those days, the sea. The Carthaginians soon developed high skills in the building of ships and used these to dominate the seas for centuries. The most important merchandise was silver, lead, ivory and gold, beds and bedding, simple cheap pottery, jewellery, glassware, wild animals from African, fruit, and nuts.

In the 7th century, with the establishment of Greek trading colonies in Sicily, the position of Carthage was seen as inconvenient, and a conflict became inevitable. In the 6th century Carthage had conquered the territory of the Libyan tribes and the old Phoenician colonies and had control over the North African coast, stretching from today's Morocco to the borders of today's Egypt, plus Sardinia, Malta, the Balearic Islands, and the western half of Sardinia.

The town was fighting the Greeks and the Romans for control over territories. The war against the Greeks lasted more than 200 years, ending with success for Carthage. The wars against Rome, known as the Punic Wars, were divided into three periods, from 264 to 146 BCE. In 146 BC Carthage was almost totally burnt to the ground, and strict controls over further settlement were imposed on the remaining population.

In the 1st century CE, Augustus founded Colonia Julia Carthago, a city that once again proved the skills and the power of the people of this region. Within a few years it prospered and soon became only second to Rome in splendour and wealth. In 439 the Vandal king Genseric occupied Carthage and made it his capital. In 637 Carthage was captured by the Arabs and destroyed, and since then never regained its importance, largely owing to the concentration of power in nearby Tunis.

The Punic port is the best place to visit, as Carthage was a seaport that was stronger on the seas than the Roman Empire for many years.

Most modern archaeologists agree that child sacrifice was performed by the Carthaginians at the site of the Tophet, just a few hundred metres from the Punic port. The Tophet (not the original name, but the biblical name for sanctuaries for child sacrifice in the Middle East) lies next to a sanctuary dedicated to Baal Hammon and Tanit, but little remains of this.

An example from the period of Roman rule is the Antonine Baths, constructed from AD 145 to AD 165, which reflect the extent to which Carthage was an important and rich city even after the Roman conquest.

Also remarkable is the presence of the Cathedral of St Louis on the hill overlooking Carthage: it was built in the 1890s on the spot where the French King Louis IX died in 1270. Today the cathedral is used only for cultural purposes.