CARTHAGE. About 1,000 years before the birth of Christ the. venturesome Phoenicians planted on the edge of the region now called Tunis, in northern Africa, the city of Carthage, which became the com mercial queen of the western Mediterranean until overthrown by its powerful rival, Rome.
According to tradition, Carthage was founded by Queen Dido, who had fled from Tyre in Phoenicia.
The inhabitants about Carthage agreed to give her as much land as could be compassed by an ox-hide.
Dido cut the hide into small strips and thus sur rounded a large area on which she founded the city.
There, according to Vergil's Aeneid', the Trojan warrior Aeneas visited her, on his wanderings after the fall of Troy (see Aeneas).
The advantageous situation of Carthage gave it unrivaled commercial opportunities, and it became a large and splendid city, with docks and piers teeming with ships and merchandise. Behind these the city spread far inland, with spacious markets and busy manufacturing quarters humming with slave industry.
The trade of Carthage was carried to all parts of the known world. Her colonies sprang up in northern Africa, in Spain, and in the islands of the Mediter ranean; and her ships controlled the inland sea.
After Rome had gained the mastery of Italy, that city soon came into conflict with Carthage; for without the permission of Carthage, as one of her officers boasted, " no Roman might even wash his hands in the Mediterranean." As a result there began the series of conflicts known as the Punic Wars, between Rome and Carthage, which lasted for more than a hundred years. The first war (264-241 B.c.) was fought in Sicily and ended in the withdrawal of the Carthaginians from that island and the payment of an indemnity to Rome.
The second Punic war (218-201 B.c.) is sometimes called the war with Hannibal, from that great Carthaginian general (see Hannibal). He invaded Italy from Spain, crossing the Alps with a train of elephants and performing prodigies of valor. Al though he crushingly defeated the Romans at Cannae, the subject Italians failed to come to his support.
In the end he was recalled to Africa, where the Roman Scipio Africanus was attacking Carthage itself.
This war ended with yet more severe terms for Car thage, including her withdrawal from Spain and the surrender of her navy.
The third war (149-146 B.c.) was caused by the jealousy of Rome at signs of reviving commercial and maritime strength in Carthage. After a heroic resistance, in which Carthaginian women cut off their hair to make bowstrings for the catapults or hurling machines, their city was taken. For some years the harsh Roman senator Cato had ended every one of his speeches—no matter what the subject—with the words, " Carthage must be destroyed" (Delenda est Carthago). This policy was now adopted, and Carthage was razed to the ground.
A city was later built on the same site by Augustus and became the Roman seat of government in Africa.
When the Vandals overran the region, Carthage became their capital ; but when the Arabs captured it in 647 it was again destroyed. Today only a few miserable hamlets and ruins mark the site.