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, ancient city, N Africa
Carthage (kärˈthĭj), ancient city, on the northern shore of Africa, on a peninsula in the Bay of Tunis and near modern Tunis. The Latin name, Carthago or Cartago, was derived from the Phoenician name, which meant “new city.”

The Rise of Carthage

Carthage was founded (traditionally by Dido) from Tyre in the 9th cent. B.C. The city-state built up trade and in the 6th and 5th cent. B.C. began to acquire dominance in the W Mediterranean. Merchants and explorers established a wide net of trade that brought great wealth to Carthage. The state was tightly controlled by an aristocracy of nobles and wealthy merchants. Although a council and a popular assembly existed, these soon lost power to oligarchical institutions, and actual power was in the hands of the judges and two elected magistrates (suffetes). There was also a small but powerful senate.

The greatest weakness of Carthage was the rivalry between landholding and maritime families. The maritime faction was generally in control, and about the end of the 6th cent. B.C. the Carthaginians established themselves on Sardinia, Malta, and the Balearic Islands. The navigator Hanno is supposed to have sailed down the African coast as far as Sierra Leone in the early 5th cent. The statesman Mago arrived at treaties with the Etruscans, the Romans, and some of the Greeks.

Sicily, which lay almost at the front door of Carthage, was never brought completely under Carthaginian control. The move against the island, begun by settlements in W Sicily, was brought to a halt when the Carthaginian general Hamilcar (a name that recurred in the powerful Carthaginian family usually called the Barcas) was defeated (480 B.C.) by Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse, in the battle of Himera. The Greek city-states of Sicily were thus preserved, but the Carthaginian threat continued and grew with the steadily increasing power of Carthage.

Hamilcar's grandson, Hannibal (another name much used in the family), destroyed Himera (409 B.C.), and his colleague Himilco sacked Acragas (modern Agrigento) in 406 B.C. Syracuse resisted the conquerors, and a century later Carthage was threatened by the campaign (310–307?) of the tyrant Agathocles on the shores of Africa. After his death, however, Carthage had practically complete control over all the W Mediterranean.

The Punic Wars and the Decline of Carthage

In the 3d cent. B.C. Rome challenged Carthage's control of the W Mediterranean in the Punic Wars (so called after the Roman name for the Carthaginians, Poeni, i.e., Phoenicians). The first of these wars (264–241) cost Carthage all remaining hold on Sicily. Immediately after the First Punic War a great uprising of the mercenaries occurred (240–238). Hamilcar Barca put down the revolt and compensated for the loss of Sicilian possessions by undertaking conquest in Spain, a conquest continued by Hasdrubal.

The growth of Carthaginian power again activated trouble with Rome, and precipitated the Second Punic War (218–201). Although the Carthaginian general was the formidable Hannibal, Carthage was finally defeated, partly by the Roman generals Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (see under Fabius) and Scipio Africanus Major, and partly by the fatal division of the leading families in Carthage itself, which prevented Hannibal from receiving proper supplies.

After Scipio had won (202) the battle of Zama, Carthage sued for peace. All its warships and its possessions outside Africa were lost, but Carthage recovered commercially and remained prosperous. Deep divisions among the Carthaginian political parties, however, gave Rome (and particularly Cato the Elder) the pretext to fight the Third Punic War (149–146 B.C.), which ended with the total destruction of Carthaginian power and the razing of the city by Scipio Africanus Minor.

Romans later undertook to build a new city (Colonia Junonia) on the spot in 122 B.C., but the project failed. A new city was founded in 44 B.C. and under Augustus became an important center of Roman administration. Carthage was later (A.D. 439–533) the capital of the Vandals and was briefly recovered (533) for the Byzantine Empire by Belisarius. Although practically destroyed by Arabs in 698, the site was populated for many centuries afterward.

Today's Carthage

There are hardly any remains of the ancient Carthage, although a few Punic cemeteries, shrines, and fortifications have been discovered. Most of the ruins that remain are from the Roman period, including baths, an amphitheater, aqueducts, and other buildings. Louis IX of France (St. Louis) died there while on crusade. A chapel in his honor stands on the hill that is traditionally identified as Byrsa Hill, site of the ancient citadel. The Lavigérie Museum is also there.


See B. H. Warmington, Carthage (2d ed. 1969); T. A. Dorey and D. R. Dudley, Rome against Carthage (1971); N. Davis, Carthage and Her Remains (1985); R. Miles, Carthage Must Be Destroyed (2011).


, city, United States
Carthage. <1> City (2020 pop. 15,522), seat of Jasper co., SW Mo., on the Spring River; inc. 1873. Its gray marble quarries are the largest of their kind, and Carthage marble is a major product. Machinery and electronic products are also made. Carthage was the scene of a Confederate victory on July 5, 1861; the city was burned but rebuilt after the war. Of note are the log-cabin courthouse (1842) and the George Washington Carver National Monument, site of Carver's birthplace, at nearby Diamond. <2> Town (2020 pop. 6,569), seat of Panola co., NE Tx.. Founded in 1847, Carthage was the home of former slave and Union Sgt. Milton M. Holland, the first Texan to win the Medal of Honor. It was an agricultural center that grew slowly, spurred by the arrival of the railroad in 1888. A major oil field was discovered there in the 1930s, making it a key producer of petroleum in the state. The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame (1988) is located there, as is Panola Community College. Both country singers Jim Reeves and Tex Ritter were native to the area.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Phoenician Qart hadasht literally “new town”), a slave-owning city-state in North Africa, which subjugated a significant part of coastal North Africa, the southern part of Spain, and a number of islands in the Mediterranean Sea from the seventh to the fourth century b.c. Phoenician colonists from the city of Tyre founded Carthage in 825 b.c. Owing to its convenient geographic location, Carthage soon became a major trade center. The city also maintained close contacts with the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, Italy, and Tartessus.

Carthage was an oligarchical state, with power in the hands of groups of the commercial-agricultural aristocracy, who continually fought with each other for superiority and influence. Legislative power belonged to the council of ten (which was changed to the council of 30 in the middle of the fifth century b.c.) and the council of elders (which was expanded in the middle of the fifth century b.c. from 100 to 300 members). Supreme executive power was held by two elected suffetes (magistrates). The council of 104 was created to control the magistrates and particularly the military leaders. The magistrates were elected on the principle of “nobility and wealth.” The popular assembly did not play a significant role; it assumed power only in the case of disagreement between the magistrates, having the right in such a case not only to discuss the proposals introduced by the magistrates but also to introduce its own measures. Sources mention bribery and corruption as characteristic features of political life in Carthage.

Large-scale agriculture based on the use of slaves was widely developed. In handicraft production, half-slave producers were exploited along with the slaves. Besides the private workshops, there were state facilities where the labor of state slaves was exploited. The agricultural population of the territories subject to Carthage were obligated to pay a tax of one-tenth of the grain harvest. The exploitation of the subject peoples provoked frequent uprisings. The Phoenician colonies (Utica, Hippo, Leptis Magna, Leptis Minor) that were part of Carthage’s empire had a social and political structure resembling that of Carthage and, apparently, enjoyed internal autonomy. They were obliged to pay a duty tax on their trade.

In 534 b.c., Carthage, in alliance with the Etruscans, defeated the Phocaean Greeks at the battle of Alalia. Later, Carthage destroyed Tartessus. As a result of these victories, Carthage consolidated its supremacy in the western Mediterranean and its monopolistic position in the area’s trade. However, after suffering a defeat at the hands of the Greeks in the battle of Himera (c. 480 b.c.), Carthage was forced to halt its offensive against the Greeks for a long time. In the middle of the fifth century b.c., Carthage subjugated the Libyan agricultural population of North Africa. By this time, the empire that Carthage had created included North Africa, western Sicily, southern Spain, and Sardinia.

At the end of the fifth century b.c., Carthage renewed the struggle for Sicily, which it conducted with varying success against Syracuse for about 100 years. By the third century B.C. almost all of Sicily except Syracuse was under its power. Sicily was the main objective of the struggle between Carthage and Rome during the First Punic War (264–241 b.c.). After suffering defeat both in Sicily itself and on the sea, Carthage was forced to relinquish Sicily to Rome as well as pay Rome a considerable indemnity. Riots among the mercenaries, from whom the Carthaginian government had withheld payment after the conclusion of the war, triggered a major uprising of the Libyan peasantry (241–238 b.c.), in which runaway slaves also took part. Carthage suppressed this revolt with great difficulty.

In the 230’s and 220’s b.c., power in Carthage passed into the hands of a democratic group led by Hamilcar Barca, who advocated renewing the war with Rome. Between 237 and 219 b.c., the Carthaginians not only reestablished their economic and military power but also significantly extended their domains in Spain (up to the Iberus River) under the command of Hamilcar Barca (until 229 b.c.), Hasdrubal (until 221 b.c.), and Hannibal. The siege and capture of the city of Saguntum, a Roman ally, led to the Second Punic War (218–201 b.c.). In the war, the Romans and the Carthaginians waged a struggle for supremacy in the western Mediterranean and for dominance in trade and navigation. By invading Italy and inflicting a series of crushing defeats on the Romans (the most important of which was the battle at Cannae in 216 b.c.), Hannibal created an immediate threat to Rome’s existence. However, he was unable to retain the initiative. The Romans massed their forces for a retaliatory strike and carried the war to Africa. After the defeat at Zama (202 b.c.), the Carthaginians were compelled to conclude a peace treaty with Rome, which deprived Carthage of its possessions in Spain and also prohibited Carthage from waging war without Rome’s consent.

In 149 b.c. the Romans, fearful of the growth of Carthage’s economic power, began the Third Punic War (149–146 b.c.), as a result of which Carthage, after a three-year siege, was completely destroyed and its inhabitants sold into slavery. Part of the Carthaginian territory was transferred to the Numidians, and the rest became the Roman province of Africa. Excavations have been conducted in North Africa since the 1850’s.

The art of Carthage, Phoenician in origin, was influenced by the art of ancient Egypt and Greece. Majestic buildings were constructed in the city (multistoried houses, temples, mausoleums), mostly of stone and sun-dried brick. One of the few surviving buildings is the mausoleum of Ateban in Dougga (Thugga—200 b.c.; architect, Abarish), a towerlike structure topped by a pyramid. The art of Punic Carthage can be judged from items found in burials near the city; jewelry, clay lamps, vessels, statuettes, grimacing masks, and sarcophagi with relief depictions of human figures.


Mashkin, N. A. “Karfagenskaia derzhava do Punicheskikh voin.” Vest-nik drevnei istorii, 1948. no. 4.
Mashkin, N. A. “Poslednii vek punicheskogo Karfagena.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1949 [no.] 2.
Shifman, I. Sh. Vozniknovenie Karfagenskoi derzhavy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Meltzer, O. Geschichte der Karthager, vols. 1–3. Berlin, 1879–1913.
Gsell, St. Histoire ancienne de l’Afrique du Nord, vols. 1–4, 3rd and 4th eds. Paris, 1920–29.
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Picard, G., and C. Picard. The Life and Death of Carthage … London, 1968.
Warmington, B. H. Carthage. London [1960].
Cagnat, R. Carthage, Timgad, Tébessa et les villes antiques de I’Afrique du Nord, 3rd ed. Paris, 1927.
Cintas, P. Céramique punique. Paris, 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an ancient city state, on the N African coast near present-day Tunis. Founded about 800 bc by Phoenician traders, it grew into an empire dominating N Africa and the Mediterranean. Destroyed and then rebuilt by Rome, it was finally razed by the Arabs in 697 ad
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005