Carthage

By Night_Raider

The city and therefore the beginnings of the empire of Carthage were founded in c. 814 BC. Carthage was located in North Africa on the eastern side of Lake Tunis, across from the center of modern-day Tunis, Tunisia. Carthage was founded by Phoenicia settlers from the city of Tyre (present day Sur, Lebanon.) The city of Carthage was, traditionally, founded by Queen Dido, and several myths have survived through Greek and Roman literature.

The city was heavily dependant on trade for its survival, and such quickly became a maritime power, establishing vast trade networks over the Mediterranean. Famous Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator was supposed to have sailed down the African coast as far as Sierra Leone in the early 6th century BC. At the same time, under the leader Malchus, the fledgling city began conquering both the coastal regions and the African interior. Carthage was the virtual center of commerce for the Mediterranean region by the 5th century BC, and they were rapidly becoming a military power in their own right. They had conquered all of the old Phoenician colonies and the Libyan tribes. At this point, the city now controlled all the territory in North Africa from modern day Morocco to the Egyptian border. Carthage's influence had also spread out into the Mediterranean, and they now controlled Sardinia, Malta, the Balearic Islands, and the western half of Sicily. The growing empire also had a foot hold in Spain (Iberia) by establishing a few colonies, although the colonies seceded in 410 BC.

It is common knowledge that Carthage was heavily dependant on its trade for survival. Being an offspring state of Tyre, they followed the parent-city's trade routes. Tartessos in Iberia was a very large trading partner of Carthage before it fell. The Iberian trading partners were significant sources of silver and, more importantly, tin ore, which could be used in the manufacturing of bronze. After the fall of Tartessos, Carthaginian trade fleets went to the north western Iberian cities and, later, further north into Cornwall in the British isles. Other ships went down the African coast as far as Senegal. Evidence has also proven that the Etruscan cities were firm trading partners and, in times, military allies.

Under the Phoenicians, Carthage was notorious for child sacrifice. Several famous scholars and philosophers such as Plutarch or Orosius mention this act. However, neither Livy nor Polybius do. Modern archeological excavations may actually confirm Plutarch's view, however. Between 400 BC and 200 BC, an estimated 20,000 urns were deposited in a child cemetery known as the Tophet. A less likely idea was that these were simply the urns of children who died naturally. There exists no text that can officially confirm the practice of child sacrifice, but they do represent an extensive religious system of priests and acolytes performing different types of functions for varying prices. Carthage's religious system was polytheistic, meaning it contained many gods. The supreme divine couple was that of Ba'al Hammon and Tanit. Unlike the majority of the population, priests were clean shaven. At the height of Carthage's cosmopolitan era, the city seemed to host a variety of divinities from neighboring Greece, Egypt, and the Etruscan city-states as well.

Greece was already an ancient power in the central Mediterranean. The empires of Carthage and Greece were rapidly expanding towards each other, and that was what inevitably lead to war, three of them in fact. In the First Sicilian War, Gelon, the tyrant of Syracuse, with partial Greek support, was attempting to unite the island of Sicily under his control. That same island lay right on Carthage's doorstep. The immanent threat Greece presented to Carthage could not be ignored and they soon went to war with Greece, possibly as part of an alliance with Persia. Carthage fielded its largest military force to date (although traditional accounts of 300,000 men are believed to be exaggerated, it must still have presented a formidable force) under the leadership of General Hamilcar. Hamilcar incurred devastating losses due to unfavorable weather en route to Sicily, however, and was defeated later on at the Battle of Himera. Hamilcar was either killed in the fighting, or committed suicide because of his shame. After this devastating loss, Carthage was severely damaged. The old government of nobilities was replaced by the Carthaginian Republic, much like that of Rome's.

Carthage had recovered from its losses by 410 BC under a series of successful rulers. The empire had conquered much of modern day Tunisia. They also founded new settlements in North Africa and strengthed some of their older ones. Furthermore, the empire sponsored Mago Barca's journey across the Sahara Desert and Hanno the Navigator's journey down the African coast. Hannibal Mago - grandson of Hamilcar - made preparations to reclaim Sicily, while at the same time expeditions were led into Morocco and Senegal, and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Hannibal Mago led the campaign into Sicily in 409 BC, beginning the Second Sicilian War. Hannibal successfully conquered some of the smaller Greek settlements such as Selinunte (the ancient Selinus) and Himera. Syracuse, however, remained untouched. After his victories, Hannibal returned to Carthage to enjoy the spoils of his victories. In 405 BC, Hannibal led a second campaign into Sicily to gain the entire island from the Greeks. This action, however, turned out to be a complete disaster. During the siege of Agrigentum, plague ravaged the Carthaginian army and the great general Hannibal Mago died from it. Himilco, Hannibal's successor, successfully extended Hannibal's campaign by breaking a Greek siege, capturing the city of Gela, and repeatedly defeating the army of Dionysius, the new tyrant of Syracuse. However, he too fell ill with the plague and was forced to obtain peace before returning to Carthage. Dionysius regained his strength and broke the peace treaty by attacking the Carthaginian stronghold of Motya in 398 BC. Himilco responded to this attack by leading yet another expedition into Sicily, one that would ultimately reclaim Motya and Messina. He finally laid siege to Syracuse itself and it was a very successful siege throughout 397 BC. Himilco's forces collapsed, however, in 396 BC after plague again ravaged the army. Carthage now had an obsession with conquering Sicily now and, after 60 years of skirmishes between Greek and Carthaginian forces, Carthage had bee n pushed entirely into the southwest corner of the island and an uneasy peace reigned.

Agathocles, the new tyrant of Syracuse, seized the city of Messene (present day Messina, Italy) in 315 BC. He invaded the last Carthaginian holdings in Sicily and laid siege to Akragas, breaking the peace agreement and beginning the third and final Sicilian War. Hamilcar, grandson of Hanno the Navigator, led the resistance force and met with success. By 310 BC he controlled all of Sicily and had laid siege to Syracuse. Agatholcles led an expedition of 14,000 men to mainland Carthage in the hopes that it would lead to Carthage recalling its forces from Syracuse. This part was successful. To meet the new threat, Hamilcar and most of the Carthaginian army was called back to help defend Carthage. Agathocles' army was eventually defeated in 307 BC, but Agathocles himself escaped and returned to Sicily. He was able to negotiate a peace treaty that would maintain Syracuse as a stronghold to Greek power on the island.

Between the years of 280 BC and 275 BC, Pyrrhus of Epirus fought two campaigns in an effort to extend Greece's rule over the central Mediterranean. One was against the emerging power of the Roman Republic in an effort to defend the Greek colonies in southern Italy, and the other in an attempt to take Sicily from Carthaginian control. Both campaigns were unsuccessful. Power shifted in the Mediterranean as Greece was now reduced to its toehold in Sicily, while the growing ambitions and strength of Rome brought it into conflict with Rome for the first time.

As it had with the Greeks, the two Mediterranean powers inevitably clashed, leading to the Punic Wars. Undoubtedly the most famous campaign in any of the three Punic Wars was made by Hannibal Barca, Carthage's greatest general ever. Hannibal took an army of about 40,000 soldiers, marched over the Pyrenees, Rhone River, and the Alps to the foothills of the Alps in Italy. He defeated several Roman armies before he was recalled to Africa to defend from an invasion by Scipio Africanus the Elder. After peace was negotiated, Hannibal immediately set out refining Carthage's constitution, setting their finances on a sounder basis, and reducing corruption within the empire. Rome, however, charged him with working to break the peace, and after years of fleeing and hiding, killed himself by ingesting poison.

The Third Punic War left Carthage severely weakened. The city of Carthage was completely destroyed by the Roman Army under the command of Scipio Africanus Minor. Roman soldiers went from house to house, slaughtering all the occupants and enslaving any survivors. The city was razed and the harbor burned to the ground. Following the Battle of Carthage, Roman soldiers are said to have sowed the farmland with salt, although nowadays, this is strongly debated. the Carthaginian empire was annexed into the Roman empire.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire lead a campaign to recapture the city of Carthage. During the middle ages, what was left of Carthage was overrun by both Arab armies and Islamic armies originating from the Middle East and Egypt.

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthage

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