Western Civ. 1301
Located off the coast of North Africa, only ruins remain where the once thriving ancient metropolis of Carthage once stood. Starting out a little trade community, the established by the Phoenicians in 814 BCE, the city rapidly expanded in land, population and wealth. Carthage soon dominated the Mediterranean Sea with its supreme naval fleet. At the height of Carthage power, it was the wealthiest empire of its time. Carthage agriculture resources and geographical advantages aided in the rebuilding of city after military defeats. However, the brutal losses Carthage endured in Punic Wars with Rome lead to the fall one of the most influential trade empires on the east and west Mediterranean Sea. The City of Carthage was once the wealthiest empire of its time and managed to survived for hundreds of years because of strategic geographical advantage, vast network of trade, and their massive harbor.
The Phoenicians established many city-states to use as trading ports along Mediterranean coast after 3000 BCE. The Phoenicians dominated trade and had vast communication networks in the Mediterranean during 1200-800 BCE. The city-state of Carthage was established by the Phoenicians of Tyre in ninth century BC. The original purpose for the settlement of Carthage was to be used as a stopping port but it rapidly expanded thanks to its geographical advantage. The Phoenician merchants selected strategic locations for their settlements that were intended to protect trade. Carthage was built on a low hill terrain peninsula in the Gulf of Tunis; the natural harbor offered shelter for vessels and had a large population of fish. This settlement had easy access to the Mediterranean Sea and many agricultural resources. The city was naturally protected and could be defended easily making it a safe place to settle and expand. The Carthaginians travelled and traded with many countries leading to the growth of wealth of the city. The extensive Carthage harbor had “220 harbors, gleaming pillars which rose around it in a half-circle, and was decorated with Greek sculpture.” The expansion of trade turned the city of Carthage into major multicultural center. Masses of people flocked to the growing metropolis for the economic opportunity Carthage offered. The population of the city at the most prosperous times was around 400,000 citizens. The perfect geographical location allowed Carthage to become “the wealthiest and most prosperous of the Mediterranean” in just a few hundred years. Thanks to the perfect location, the “Carthaginians could dominate both seafaring trade and the overland trade with the African interior” . The trading ships voyaged daily to many Mediterranean ports, “while their navy, supreme in the region, kept them safe and, also, opened new territories for trade and resources through conquest” .
By 260 BCE the Carthaginian empire had “powerful navy, a mercenary army and, through tribute, tariffs, and trade. ” The variety of powerful resources made the empire an unstoppable force. The powerful empire imposed a non-trade treaty with Rome to eliminated trade competition. The weaker city state of Rome had no navy, so they had no choice but to comply with the treaty. However, by 270 BCE the Romans had main control over the Italian Peninsula. The Romans viewed the expanding city of Carthage as a growing threat. Sicily was a valuable region with many potential economic opportunities that was the middle of both empires. The Carthaginians were also aware of the threat that the Romans imposed onto their hold of Mediterranean trade power if the Romans seized Sicily. Conflict eventually erupted after Carthage aided the Mamertines of Messina in defeating Heiro II of Syracuse. However, the Carthaginians refusal to leave the island prompted the Mamertines to ask the Romans for assistants. The Romans advanced into Messina in 264 BCE marking the start of the First Punic War (264-241 BCE) for control the of Sicily. The Roman and Carthaginians armies were equally matched but Carthaginians navy fleet was supreme in the Mediterranean. If Rome wanted any chance of a victory, they would need to become a major naval force. The Romans quickly constructed hundreds of ships, however they knew little of battles at sea. The invention of the “loading board ” allowed the Romans fight as if they were on land, which they would be more successful with. The loading board brought immediate triumph to the Romans, they unexpectedly defeated the massive naval Carthaginian fleet in 260 BCE at the battle of Mylae. The progressing Roman naval force continued to win a series of critical victories over Carthage, in 241 BCE the Carthaginians surrendered. Sicily became Rome’s fist providence, Carthage would eventually give up Corsica and Sardinia as well as going into the Mercenary War (241-237 BCE). Mercenary War was caused by the Carthaginian army demanded Carthage pay them for their efforts. General Hamilcar Barca brought victory to Carthage at the end of the Mercenary War.
After the unexpected defeat of the First Punic War, Carthage began rebuilding itself by expanding into Spain. The expansion eventually led to the legendary General “Hannibal to attacked the city of Saguntum, which was an ally of Rome.” This invasion began the Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War (218-201 BCE). Due to Rome’s supreme navel presences on the sea, Hannibal strategically led his army on land through Spain and across the Alps. Under Hannibal’s leadership, the Carthage army was victorious at the Battle of Ticinus and the Trebia River in the winter of 218 BCE. Another major victory at Lake Trasimene in June 217 BCE “where 15,000 Romans were killed and 10,000 captured.” With the success of the Carthage army, Hannibal successfully invaded Rome in 216 BC. However, the prevailing Romans gained control in Italy, Spain and North Africa that was a turning port in the war and lead to the defeat of Hannibal in 203 BCE. The weakened city of Carthage was only left with their territory in North Africa, massive war debts, and forced to give up its naval fleet. Once again Carthage suffered another major defeat and had to rebuild its self. In 157 BC, a member of the Roman senator known as Cato the Elder began to lead a campaign for the destruction of Carthage all together. Cato would even end every speech with “death to Carthage” to enforce his campaign. Cato gained support of the Roman empire and called for the elimination of Carthage. The Romans next goal was to completely crush Carthage forever. Tension between Carthage and the neighboring City of Numidia began in 149 B.C. Carthage broke its treaty with Rome by declaring war on Numidia, giving Rome the perfect reason to completely destroy the city. Roman demanded that Carthage should “unconditionally surrender, disband their army, hand over all arms, and release all prisoners. ” Rome also demanded that the Citizens of Carthage resettle in a new place completely. Carthaginians decided to defend the city marking the start of the Third Punic War (149-146). Carthage resisted the Romans seize at first but they were no match for the massive Roman navy. Under the leadership of general Scipio Aemilianus, the strategic Roman invasion in 147 BCE would lead to the final destruction of the city. The Romans constructed a siege wall around the city and its harbor. The Romans successfully created a naval blockade around the city to cut off their accesses to recourses. The Romans then “systematically attacked the fortified walls of Carthage near the harbor” . Carthage resources had been cut off, their defensive barriers were crumbling and with no naval fleet, the once powerful city was stranded. In 146 BCE the Romans invaded the once great city of Carthage, destroying everything in their path. After a week a destruction, the Carthaginians surrendered, the surving fifty-thousand citizens were sold into slavery. The powerful empire of Carthage had finally fallen after seven-hundred years. This final raid ended the Third Punic War, never again would Carthage be a threat to the Roman Empire. What was left of the once flourishing empire was now under the control of Roman Empire. In 112 BCE the ruins of the legendary City of Carthage was made into a new Roman Colony.
The Ancient Metropolis of Carthage manage to survive hundreds of years thanks to its immense trade network, strategic geographical position and easy assessable port. However, the consequences of the Punic Wars lead to the destruction of the Carthage empire. Each Punic War the Carthaginians became weaker so by the Third Punic War Carthage was more vulnerable than ever before. The deteriorate empire of Carthage was no match for the flourishing Roman Republic. The once impressive Carthage empire that used to represented prosperity and naval dominance is now left in ruins. However, the Carthaginians did leave a significant impact on the growth of civilization with the development of their immense trade networks and their quick rise from small town to one of the wealthiest empires of ancient times.