Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Carthage, an ancient town of North Africa, near the modern town of Tunis, and at that point of the coast which approaches most closely the island of Siciiy. Its position was so favourable that not only was it the great maritime city which for so long carried on a life and death struggle with Rome, but after its destruction it was chosen by Julius Caesar as a place for colonisation, and rose to be of great importance in the empire. Little is known of its early history beyond the legendary account - utilised by Virgil - of its foundation by Dido, and its being an off-shoot of Tyre, a view which seems borne out by the fact that Carthage used to send tithes of its revenue to the Temple of Melkart at Tyre. Even the etymology of the name is disputed, some thinking that it means "new city." As early as the sixth century B.C. Carthage had risen to great power, and possessed much of the N. coast of Africa, together with Sardinia, part of Sicily, the Balearic Isles, and Malta, besides haying possessions in Spain and Gaul. She appears to have resembled England in this, that she looked on her vast possessions chiefly as a means of increasing her commerce, and it was her commerce that was her vulnerable point.

The history of Carthage falls naturally into three periods: The first from 880 B.C. for about 400 years, during which time she consolidated her African empire, and made the peoples of Northern Africa along a coast-line of about 2,000 miles her tributaries; the second from 480 to 264 B.C., the chief interest of which centres around her struggle for the possession of Sicily; and the third, from 264 B.C. - the period of her life and death struggle with Rome for the dominion of the seas, and so of the world - down to her destruction by Scipio in 146 B.C., and her reduction to the condition of a province of the Roman Empire. The chief source of our knowledge of the government of Carthage comes from the Romans, who were not much given to studying the races they conquered. Tradition said that they originally had kings, but the earliest authentic accounts of their constitution seem to show that they were governed by a senate of aristocratic and oligarchical tendencies, whose deliberations were in some sort controlled and carried into effect by officers whose duties closely corresponded with those of the Roman consuls. There was also a democratic element in the senate, which gradually became predominant, and of which Hannibal and his family were the fruits. When in 480 the Carthaginians determined to get possession of Sicily at the time that Xerxes was invading Greece, the city was at the zenith of her prosperity. Her commerce was almost worldwide, her galleys visited the Canaries, Madeira, and perhaps America. They came north to Portugal, Gaul, and Britain, and even sought for amber in the Baltic, they brought elephants' tusks and gold-dust from Central Africa, and caravans brought them the spoils of the East African coast and the Indian seas. But from this moment dates their decline. Sicily proved a tougher foe than they thought, and eventually carried the war into their own territory, being aided by internal dissensions and revolt, and by the readiness of the tributary races, who were attached by no sentiments of patriotism, to join any foe who menaced Carthage. This struggle also brought them face to face with the iron-willed race that was destined to overthrow them; and the third and most exciting period of the history of Carthage was taken up by the wars, which were called by the Romans the Punic wars, and which fall more naturally under the head of Roman history, since it is from the Roman historians that we chiefly derive the history of the struggle, and even our knowledge of the life and career of the great Carthaginian patriot and general, Hannibal. For years after its destruction Carthage lay in ruins, and most people are acquainted with the picture - verbal or other - of Marius seated among the ruins of Carthage. Though Julius Caesar did not live to see the fruits of his foresight, his Carthaginian colony flourished apace, and in the time of Augustus was once more the most flourishing city of Africa. In the third and fourth centuries after Christ Carthage rivalled Rome in splendour, and was of great importance in the history of the early Christian Church. Taken by Vandals of the fifth century, and by Belisarius in the sixth, Carthage still remained on till the invasion by the Arabs, when it was burnt by Hassan in 698. Its site is now occupied by a few Arab villages, and the fields of clover and corn that surround them.

Little is really known of the religion and character of the people of Carthage, and that little is chiefly from information derived from their enemies. Their religion resembled in general features that of the Phoenicians at large, and is said to have been of a cruel and sombre type. They are said by the Romans to have been treacherous and untrustworthy, and that to a degree that made their name proverbial, but perhaps "Punica Fides" in a Roman mouth had as much significance as "perfide Albion" in the mouth of a Frenchman.