Carthage – Capital of the Carthaginian Empire

Related Articles

Carthage was the capital of the Carthaginian Empire, located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis in Tunisia.

The city was founded as a colony by the Phoenicians, an ancient Semitic-speaking thalassocratic civilisation that originated in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean. Although the foundation date is disputed, Timaeus of Taormina, a Greek historian places Carthage’s founding in 814 BC, a date that is generally accepted by historians.

Carthage was built on a peninsular, allowing the city to flourish from maritime trade as ships crossing the sea had to pass between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia. Two large harbours were constructed, one for harbouring a navy of some 220 warships whilst the other was solely for trading vessels.


The city was divided into four equally sized residential districts that were towered over by a high citadel called the Byrsa. Amenities included a theatre, marketplaces, temples, civic buildings, and a large necropolis.

Punic Carthage – Image Credit : damian entwistle

By the 5th century BC, Carthage had expanded its territories and conquered most of the surrounding Phoenician colonies including Hadrumetum, Utica, Kerkouane and Hippo Diarrhytus. Carthage then subjugated Libyan tribes, annexed most of Northwest Africa, and extended its influence into the Mediterranean. Many Greek city-states contested against Carthage for domination over the Western Mediterranean, leading to the Sicilian Wars that lasted from 600 to 265 BC.

With the emergence of the Roman Republic, a sustained rivalry ensured for the dominion of the western Mediterranean. The two powers differed massively in their method of Empire building or expansion.

The goal of Carthage was to protect the trade infrastructure with exclusive citizenship for Carthaginians. The Romans created an alliance system that expanded her lands, her citizen body and military manpower grew by absorbing territories into her sphere of influence whilst granting these new citizens certain rights.

Punic Carthage – Image Credit : damian entwistle

When the Romans attacked Carthaginian forces at Messana in 265 BC, this triggered the start of the three Punic Wars that would determine the course of Western civilisation. The fall of Carthage occurred at the end of the third Punic War in 146 BC, resulting with the end of Carthaginian power and the complete destruction of the city by Scipio Aemilianus.

In 120 – 130 BC Rome founded a new colony on the ruins of Carthage called Colonia Iunonia, but the Senate later abolished the colony. A new Roman city of Carthage was built again on the same land by Julius Caesar called Colonia Julia Carthago, growing into one of the largest cities in the western half of the Roman empire and reaching a population of over 500,000. By 29 BC, Colonia Julia Carthago was the centre of the Roman province of Africa and a “breadbasket” ranked in status alongside Alexandria and Antioch.

In AD 429, the Vandals under their King Genseric crossed into Africa and in AD 435 had defeated all Roman opposition, establishing the Vandal Kingdom and destroyed parts of Carthage (according to text by Victor Vitensis, an African bishop of the Province of Byzacena).

Roman Carthage – Image Credit : damian entwistle

After two failed attempts by the Byzantines to capture the city in the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire finally subdued the Vandals in the Vandalic War of AD 533–534.

Carthage became the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Africa and an exarchate state until it was conquered by Arab forces at the Battle of Carthage in AD 698 and the city was destroyed, becoming little more than an agricultural village for nine hundred years until the middle of the 20th century.

Header Image – Artists impression of Punic Carthage – Image Credit : Gordon Sinclair OY42576770

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Roman Villa of Tiberius and the Cave of Imperial Pleasure

The Villa of Tiberius is a ruined Roman villa complex located in the present-day town of Sperlonga, in the province of Latina on the western coast of Italy.

Archaeologists Excavate 1,600-Year-Old Burial Containing Ornate Treasures

Archaeologists excavating a burial ground have discovered a grave containing ornate grave goods from the 5th century AD, a period of instability during the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Settlements Associated With “Polish Pyramids”

Archaeologists conducting a detailed study of the area near the Kujawy megalithic tombs, dubbed the “Polish Pyramids”, have identified the associated settlements of the tomb builders.

Rocky Planet Discovered in Virgo Constellation Could Change Search For Life in Universe

A newly discovered planet could be our best chance yet of studying rocky planet atmospheres outside the solar system, a new international study involving UNSW Sydney shows.

Sungbo’s Eredo – The “Queen of Sheba’s Embankment”

Sungbo’s Eredo is one of the largest man-made monuments in Africa, consisting of a giant system of ditches and embankments that surrounds the entire ljebu Kingdom in the rain forests of south-western Nigeria.

Woolly Mammoths May Have Shared the Landscape With First Humans in New England

Woolly mammoths may have walked the landscape at the same time as the earliest humans in what is now New England, according to a Dartmouth study published in Boreas.

Prehistoric killing machine exposed

Judging by its massive, bone-crushing teeth, gigantic skull and powerful jaw, there is no doubt that the Anteosaurus, a premammalian reptile that roamed the African continent 265 to 260 million years ago - during a period known as the middle Permian - was a ferocious carnivore.

Noushabad – The Hidden Underground City

Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

Popular stories

Noushabad – The Hidden Underground City

Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

Ani – The Abandoned Medieval City

Ani is a ruined medieval city, and the former capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, located in the Eastern Anatolia region of the Kars province in present-day Turkey.

Interactive Map of Earth’s Asteroid and Meteor Impact Craters

Across the history of our planet, around 190 terrestrial impact craters have been identified that still survive the Earth’s geological processes, with the most recent event occurring in 1947 at the Sikhote-Alin Mountains of south-eastern Russia.

The Sunken Town of Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri, also called Paulopetri, is a submerged ancient town, located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.