The Mediterranean and North African coast (with the exception
of Cyrenaica) entered the mainstream of Mediterranean history
with the arrival in the 1st millennium BC of Phoenician traders,
mainly from Tyre and Sidon in the eastern Mediterranean. The
Phoenicians were not looking for land to settle but for anchorages
and staging points on the trade route from Phoenicia to Spain,
a source of silver and tin. Points on an alternative route by
way of Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands also were occupied.
The Phoenicians lacked the manpower and the need to found large
colonies as the Greeks did, and few of their settlements grew
to any size. The sites chosen were generally offshore islands
or easily defensible promontories with sheltered beaches on which
ships could be drawn up. Carthage
-- Cartagine in italiano --(from
the Phoenician Kart-Hadasht, New City or Land, founded by Queen Elissar of Tyre), destined to be
the largest Phoenician colony and in the end an imperial power,
conformed to the pattern.
Tradition dated the foundation of Gades (modern
earliest known Phoenician trading post in Spain) to 1110 BC, Utica
(Utique) to 1101 BC, and Carthage to 814 BC. The dates appear legendary, and
no Phoenician object earlier than the 8th century BC has yet been found in
the west. At Carthage some Greek objects have been found, datable to
about 750 or slightly later, which comes within two generations of the traditional
date. Little can be learned from the romantic legends about the arrival of
the Phoenicians at Carthage transmitted by Greco-Roman sources. Though individual
voyages doubtless took place earlier, the establishment of permanent posts
is unlikely to have taken place before 800 BC, antedating the parallel movement
of Greeks to Sicily and southern Italy.
Phoenician colony at Tharros, Sardinia. Photo by kind courtesy of Pasquale Mereu from Karalis (Cagliari)
Material evidence of Phoenician occupation in the 8th century
BC comes from Utica, and of the 7th or 6th century BC from Hadrumetum
(Susah, Sousse), Tipasa (east of Cherchell), Siga
(Rachgoun), Lixus, and Mogador (Essaouira), the
last being the most distant Phoenician settlement so far known.
Finds of similar age have been made at Motya (Mozia) in Sicily,
Nora (Nurri), Sulcis, and Tharros (San Giovanni di Sinis), Bithia and Olbia in Sardinia, and Cádiz and Almuñécar
in Spain. Unlike the Greek settlements, however, those of the
Phoenicians long remained politically dependent on their homeland,
and only a few were situated where the hinterland had the potential
for development. The emergence of Carthage as an independent
power, leading to the creation of an empire based on the secure
possession of the North African coast, resulted less from the
weakening of Tyre, the chief city of Phoenicia, by the Babylonians
than from growing pressure from the Greeks in the western Mediterranean;
in 580 BC some Greek cities in Sicily attempted to drive the
Phoenicians from Motya and Panormus (Palermo) in the west of
the island. The Carthaginians feared that if the Greeks won the
whole of Sicily they would move on to Sardinia and beyond, isolating
the Phoenicians in North Africa. The successful defense of Sicily
was followed by attempts to strengthen limited footholds in Sardinia;
a fortress at Monte Sirai is the oldest Phoenician military building
in the west. The threat from the Greeks receded when Carthage,
in alliance with Etruscan cities, backed the Phoenicians of Corsica
in about 540 BC and succeeded in excluding the Greeks from contact
with southern Spain.
Venerable historical traditions
recount the Phoenician voyages to found new cities. Utica, on the Tunisian
coast of North Africa,
was reputedly founded in 1178 BC, and by 1100 BC the Phoenician
city of Tyre supposedly had a Spanish colony at Gadir (Cadiz).
Although intriguing, these historical traditions are unsupported
by evidence. Excavations confirm that the Phoenicians settled
in southern Spain after 800 BC. Their search for new commodities
led them ever farther westward and was the reason for their interest
in southern Spain's mineral wealth. The untapped lodes of silver
and alluvial deposits of tin and gold provided essential raw
materials with which to meet the increasing Assyrian demands
for tribute. By 700 BC silver exported from the Río Tinto
mines was so abundant that it depressed the value of silver bullion
in the Assyrian world. This is the background for Phoenician
interest in the far west.
Phoenician commerce was conducted by family firms of shipowners
and manufacturers who had their base in Tyre or Byblos and placed
their representatives abroad. This accounts for the rich
tombs of Phoenician pattern found at Almuñécar,
Trayamar, and Villaricos, equipped with metropolitan goods such
as alabaster wine jars, imported Greek pottery, and delicate
gold jewelery. Maritime bases from the Balearic Islands (Ibiza)
to Cadiz on the Atlantic were set up to sustain commerce in salted
fish, dyes, and textiles. Early Phoenician settlements are known
from Morro de Mezquitilla, Toscanos, and Guadalhorce and shrines
from Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar and the Temple of Melqart on
the island of Sancti Petri near Cadiz. After the fall of Tyre
to the Babylonians in 573 BC and the subjugation of Phoenicia,
the early prosperity faded until the 4th century. Many colonies
survived, however, and Abdera (Adra), Baria (Villaricos),
Carmona (Carmo), Gadir (Cadiz), Malaca (Málaga),
and Sexi (Almuñécar) thrived under the trading
system established by Carthage for the central and western Mediterranean.
Eivissa (Ibiza) became a major Carthaginian colony, and the island
produced dye, salt, fish sauce, and wool. A shrine with offerings
to the goddess Tanit was established in the cave at Es Cuyram,
and the Balearic Islands entered Eivissa's commercial orbit after
400 BC. In 237 BC, just before the Second Punic War, Carthage
launched its conquest of southern Spain under Hamilcar Barca,
founded a new capital city at Cartago Nova (Cartagena) in 228
BC, and suffered crushing defeat by the Romans in 206 BC.
The Colonies, Phoenicia's
Among the most outstanding colonies or trading posts which
the Phoenicians had established were the cities of Genoa,
where they went in with the Celts and established a flourishing
colony, and Marseille which they started as nothing more
than a trading post before it became fully Hellenized.
It is very probable that the tremendous colonial activity
of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians was stimulated in the 8th
to 6th centuries BC by the military blows that were wrecking
the trade of the Phoenician homeland in the Levant. Also, competition
with the synchronous Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean
cannot be ignored as a contributing factor.
The earliest site outside the Phoenician homeland known to
possess important aspects of Phoenician culture is Ugarit (Ras
Shamra), about six miles north of Latakia. The site was already
occupied before the 4th millennium BC, but the Phoenicians only
became prominent there around 1991-1786 BC.
According to Herodotus, the coast of Libya along the sea which
washes it to the north, throughout its entire length from Egypt
to Cape Soloeis, which is its furthest point, is inhabited by
Libyans of many distinct tribes who possess the whole tract except
certain portions which belong to the Phoenicians and the Greeks.
Tyre's first colony, Utica in North Africa, was founded
perhaps as early as the 10th century BC. It is likely that the
expansion of the Phoenicians at the beginning of the 1st millennium
BC is to be connected with the alliance of Hiram of Tyre with
Solomon of Israel in the second half of the 10th century BC.
In the following century, Phoenician presence in the north is
shown by inscriptions at Samal (Zincirli Hüyük)
in eastern Cilicia, and in the 8th century at Karatepe
in the Taurus Mountains, but there is no evidence of direct
colonization. Both these cities acted as fortresses commanding
the routes through the mountains to the mineral and other wealth
Cyprus had Phoenician settlements by the 9th century
BC. Citium, known to the Greeks as Kition (biblical Kittim), in the southeast
corner of the island, became the principal colony of the Phoenicians in Cyprus.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, several smaller settlements were planted as
stepping-stones along the route to Spain and its mineral wealth in silver
and copper: at Malta, early remains go back to the 7th century BC,
and at Sulcis and Nora in Sardinia and Motya in Sicily, perhaps a century
earlier. According to Thucydides, the Phoenicians controlled a large part
of the island but withdrew to the northwest corner under pressure from the
Greeks. Modern scholars, however, disbelieve this and contend that the Phoenicians
arrived only after the Greeks were established.
In North Africa the next
site colonized after Utica was Carthage
(near Tunis). Carthage in turn seems to have established (or,
in some cases, reestablished) a number of settlements in Tunisia,
Algeria, Morocco, the Balearic Islands, and southern Spain, eventually
making this city the acknowledged leader of the western Phoenicians.
Leptis Magna, a titular see of Tripolitana was founded by the Sidonians in
a fine and fertile country, it was the most important of the three towns which
the Tripoli Confederation (Libya toay). The remains of the ancient Phœnician
town are still visible, with the harbour, quays, walls, and inland defence,
it look like Carthage. This city subsequently became the centre of
a Greek city, Neapolis, of which most of the monuments are buried under sand.
Notwithstanding Pliny (Nat. Hist., V, xxviii), who distinguishes Neapolis from
Leptis, there is no doubt, according to Ptolemy, Strabo, and Scyllax, that
they should be identified. Leptis allied itself with the Romans in the war
against Jugurtha. Having obtained under Augustus the title of civitas it seems
at that time to have been administered by Carthaginian magistrates; it may
have been a municipium during the first century of the Christian Era and erected
by Trajan into a colony bearing the name of Colonia Ulpia Trajana, found on
many of its coins. The birthplace of Septimius
Severus, who embellished it
and enriched it with several fine monuments, it was taken and sacked in the
fourth century by the Libyan tribe of Aurusiani (Ammianus Marcellinus, XXVIII,
vi) and has never since completely recovered. It was at that time the seat
of the military government of Tripolitana.
Phoenician KART-HADASHT, Latin CARTHAGO, great city of antiquity,
traditionally founded on the north coast of Africa by the Phoenicians
of Tyre in 814 BC. It is now a residential suburb of the city
of Tunis. Its Phoenician name means New Town or Land.
A brief treatment of ancient Carthage follows. For full treatment,
see North Africa: History.
Various traditions concerning the foundation of Carthage were
current among the Greeks, who called the city Karchedon; but
the Roman tradition is better known because of the Aeneid,
which tells of the city's foundation by the Tyrian princess Elissar
or Elyssa (Dido in Greek), who fled from her brother Pygmalion
(the name of a historical king of Tyre who ruled a century after
Hiram). The inhabitants were known to the Romans as Poeni, a
derivation from the word Phoenikes (Phoenicians), from which
the adjective Punic is derived. According the Greek historian
Timaeus (c. 356-260 B.C.), Carthage was founded in 814 B.C. by
a Elyssa who gathered up the royal treasury and a group of supporters
and traveled to Cyprus, another Phoenician colony. Thereafter
she traveled to North Africa where present day country of Tunis
The site chosen for Carthage in the centre of the shore of
the Gulf of Tunis was ideal: the city was built on a triangular
peninsula covered with low hills and backed by the Lake of Tunis
with its safe anchorage and abundant supplies of fish. The site
of the city was well protected and easily defensible. On the
south the peninsula is connected to the mainland by a narrow
strip of land. The ancient citadel, the Byrsa, was on a low hill
overlooking the sea. It is said, the local Berber permitted Elyssa
and her people to have as much land at that which could be covered
with a single oxhide. Hence, she was supposed to have cut an
oxhide into thin strips and encircled the hill. Some of the earliest
tombs have been found there, though nothing remains of Carthage's
domestic and public buildings. Byrsa means fortress in Phoenician.
Byrsa in Greek and Latin mean hide from which bourse or stock-market,
and purse are derived.
The standard of cultural life enjoyed by the Carthaginians was probably far
below that of the larger cities of the classical world. Punic interests were
turned toward commerce. In Roman times Punic beds, cushions, and mattresses
were regarded as luxuries, and Punic joinery and furniture were copied. Much
of the revenue of Carthage came from its exploitation of the silver mines
of North Africa and southern Spain, begun as early as 800 BC.
From the middle of the 3rd century to the middle of the 2nd
century BC, Carthage was engaged in a series of wars with Rome
called the Punic Wars. These wars,
which are known as the Punic Wars, ended in the complete defeat
of Carthage by Rome. When Carthage finally fell in 146 BC, the
site was plundered and burned, and all human habitation there
Phoenicians from the city of Tyre
dwell all round memphis, and the whole place is known by the name of "the camp of
the Tyrians." Within the enclosure stands a temple, which
is called that of Venus the Stranger.
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DATE (Christian and Phoenician):
year 4758 after the foundation of Tyre