Date Visited

2008

 
    Tunisia
 
 
 
Carthage




Summary

Carthage dates back to 814 BCE but emerged as a leading power in the area by 350 BCE vying with Rome for dominance. This led to a number of wars known as the Punic Wars. It is known for one of historyís greatest generals, Hannibal who is known for taking his army across the Alps with 37 elephants to attack the Romans on their home ground.


The city of Carthage dates back to 814 BCE when a number of Phoenicians settled there from the city of Tyre in Lebanon. They began to form colonies along the coast of Africa and by 350 BCE Carthage was the leading force in the area, although this was to be challenged by the emerging power of Rome and this led to war breaking out between the two powers over Sicily in 264 BCE, this became known as the First Punic War. Two other wars were to follow one of which was to produce one of the greatest generals in history the Carthaginian Hannibal who took his army with 37 elephants across the Alps to inflict a number of defeats on the Roman army.  Hannibalís victorious spree was only curtailed when the Romans took the war to Carthage resulting in Hannibal being recalled in order to protect Carthage, something that he wasn't able to do, and he was defeated by the Roman Scipio in 202 BCE which was to end the Second Punic War.  Between 202-150 BCE Carthage prospered through itsí trade with North Africa and Greece, making Rome very uneasy.
 
In 150 BCE Rome found an excuse to mount an attack on Carthage and sent 80,000 troops. This resulted in a three-year siege and in 146 BCE Carthage fell to Scipio the Younger, the grandson of Scipio who defeated Hannibal 50 years before. The City was burnt to the ground and remained in ruins until Julius Caesar rebuild it and made it the capital of the Roman province of Africa.
 
Carthage is not a single site but consists of a number of sites.  

The main source of Punic power was its navy, and it had a fortified and secure harbour, so the harbour was an important part of its settlement. The central area of the Punic settlement, however, was Byrsa Hill. In the 5th century BCE, it contained the Carthaginians workshops, and later it became their residential area.

After the destruction of Carthage, the hill remained unoccupied, and it was not until the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus that the summit of the hill was levelled which led to the construction of a large forum, resulting in the destruction of the Punic remains. Today, a small, excavated area containing the remains of Punic houses can be seen there.

Byrsa Hill is the location of the former Cathedral of St Louis which was built in the late 19th century and is dedicated to King Louis IX of France, who died there in 1270 during the siege of Tunis. The cathedral now serves as a cultural centre and concert venue. 


Bursa_Hill_Carthage



A modern building to be found on Byrsa Hill is the National Museum of Carthage holding a collection of the artefact found across the site and include Punic statues, steles, urns, jewellery and ornaments and displays a Roman mosaic on the floor of the main hall.


Museum_Carthage

Carthage_Museum_Interior


Also on Byrsa Hill is the residential district from Punic times. 


Punic_to_Roman_Steps

Leading up some steps is the forum, which in Roman times was the market place and where politicians would address the people.

Statue_Forum_Carthage
Carthage_Roman_Forum












The politicians would have statues of themselves which were made to enable the heads to be changed so that when someone died only the head had to be replaced.


The theatre was built into a hillside facing the sea by the Romans in the 2nd century and has a seating capacity for 5,000 spectators. It has been rebuilt extensively so that it is difficult to determine what is original and what is new. The reason is that the theatre is still in use and shows are held regularly.



Immediately adjoining the theatre is the Park of the Roman Villas with its well-built roads and many with an open-air courtyard surrounded by a portico.

Carthage_VillasRoads_Carthage











Not much remains of the 2nd-century Roman Amphitheatre as only the oval, its massive foundations and a few underground rooms remain, the terraces standing above it which would have been five-story and have a seating capacity for 50,000 spectators have been removed for the stone. The arena could have been flooded for mock naval battles.

St. Augustine lectured in the arena and the marble column commemorates those who were martyred there during the persecution of the Christians in AD 202.

Amphitheatre_Carthage



Below ground is a tunnel, at the end of which is a small chapel.


Amphitheatre_Chapel_Carthage



On the opposite side of the street from the amphitheatre, are the La Malga cisterns, built by the Romans to store water, only 15 of the original 24 cisterns remain.


La_Malga_Cisterns_Carthage


Antonine Baths were the largest baths in North Africa and the third-largest in the Roman world covering an area of 35 000 square metres. As well as the normal cold, warm and hot rooms it incorporated outdoor pools, a sun terrace and a series of steps leading down to the sea.  

Construction began on them under Emperor Hadrian in AD 146 though they were not completed until AD 162 in the reign of Antoninus Pius, hence the name of Antonine Baths. 
 

Antonine_Baths_Carthage


Lower_Hall_Antonine_Baths


Tombs can also be seen, the ones from the Punic times both constructed and being dug during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE.

Punic_Tombs_Carthage



Carthage became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.





To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.



Additional information can be found on Encyclopaedia Britannica



 

              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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