The ancient ruins of Carthage lie on the edge of the city of Tunis, capital of Tunisia. Today it is a suburb of Tunis but it was once one of the most famous cities in the Mediterranean. One reason for its fame was the legendary Carthaginian general Hannibal. He it was who led an army of 40,000 men and 300 elephants through Spain and France before crossing the Alps and winning several battles against the Romans in 218 BC. Occupying part of Southern Italy, he continued to fight against Rome for 15 years but was never able to reach Rome itself. Eventually a Roman counter-attack against Carthage forced him to return home. He was defeated in battle by Scipio Africanus, who had studied Hannibal’s tactics and added some more of his own.
Hannibal later went into voluntary exile, eventually arriving in Lybissa in today’s Turkey. Here, at the age of 65, he committed suicide by taking poison.
Today, the archaeological complex can easily be reached by train.
Capital city of the Phoenicians
Carthage was the capital city of the Phoenicians. According to the Roman poet Vergilius it was founded in 814 BC by the Phoenician princess Dido. During the 4th century BC the city was one of the most important in the area around the Mediterranean Sea and a serious rival to both Rome and Athens. As so often in history, this situation did not last for long. The city was virtually destroyed during the Punic Wars of 264-241 BC, 218-201 BC and 149-146 BC, fulfilling the famous words of Cato (Delenda est Carthago – We shall lay Carthage to waste). After a siege lasting three years the city was razed to the ground.
The city is rebuilt
In 44 BC Julius Caesar decided to rebuild the city, intending that it should become the capital of Roman Africa and an important centre of trade. In fact, the city was plundered by Vandals and Byzantines until, in 692 AD, it finally fell prey to the Arabs. Many buildings were demolished and the materials used for new Islamic structures in the Tunis medina where they stand to this day.
Excavations began in Carthage in 1857 and are still ongoing. In 1972 the area was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Translation Alun Harvey