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Carthage is a town on the Gulf of Tunis, 12 miles northeast of Tunis, capital of tunisia. Carthage, founded by Tyre c. 841 b.c., long dominated the western Mediterranean, which it contested with Rome. Destroyed (146 b.c.) and rebuilt (29 b.c.) by Rome, it came under the vandals (439), Byzantium (533), and the Arabs (698); it was held by Spain (153574) but yielded to the Ottoman Turks and then became part of the French protectorate (1881), which gained its independence (1956).

Christianity was introduced into Carthage by a.d. 150, from both Rome and the East, and flourished quickly (more than 20 known basilicas); but it suffered repeatedly from persecution and heresy. The acts of the 12 Scillitan martyrs (d. July 17, 180) is the oldest document of Christian North Africa. Christian Latin letters in the area were distinguished by tertullian (who was inclined to montanism), minucius felix, arnobius the elder, lactantius, the poet Commodian (probably 3rd century), marius victorinus, Dracontius, fulgentius of ruspe, ferrandus, and, above all, augustine. Carthage's first known bishop, Agrippinus, presided over 70 bishops in a council (c. 220) that declared baptisms administered by heretics invalid. Carthage's greatest bishop, the martyr St. cyprian, from whose episcopacy (248258) dates Carthage's ecclesiastical primacy in Africa, condemned novatian but disputed with Rome about rebaptism; a council of 87 bishops under him defended the traditional African practice of rebaptism (256), which was not abandoned until the Council of Arles (314). Donatists, with their bishops, afflicted Carthage from 311 until after the time of St. Augustine, who studied in Carthage and became there an advocate of manichaeism. donatism was occasioned by the dissimulation of Bp Mensurius of Carthage in the persecution of Diocletian (303), by the unorthodox reconciliation of lapsi, and by the ever available dispute over rebaptism.

Pelagianism (see pelagius and pelagianism) appeared in Carthage in 411, the year a council of 286 Catholic and 275 Donatist bishops broke the strength of Donatism. Pelagianism was condemned in a council of more than 200 bishops held in 418 under Bishop Aurelius (391429), who had a codex of canons of the African Church compiled; the council's canons on original sin, grace, and the necessity of prayer show the influence of Augustine, Aurelius's close friend and collaborator. After the death of Aurelius, heterodox elements rose and sided with the Arian Vandals, who took Carthage (439), sacked Rome (455), and all but ended Carthage's ecclesiastical primacy in a persecution that had but few respites. victor of Vita describes the Vandal persecution. From 439 to 454 the see was vacant, Genseric installing an Arian bishop who was patriarch of the Vandal Church; as in other barbarian Arian Churches, neither the bishop nor his clergy had any influence in affairs of state. The Vandals used their vernacular in their liturgy, as opposed to the orthodox liturgy of Carthage, which was almost identical with that of Rome. Bishop Deogratias (454457), known for his charity to captives from the sack of Rome, was succeeded after 24 years by Eugene,

a saintly bishop also known for charity. Eugene was condemned to hard labor by the Vandals (484487) and then exiled to albi in France (496), where he died (505). There was no successor until 523.

Although Justinian rebuilt churches and protected orthodoxy, and although Carthage became a Byzantine exarchate along with ravenna, the city declined under Byzantine rule. Bishop Reparatus, because of his defense of the three chapters, was exiled to Asia Minor and died there (563). After Justinian's death (565) weak bishops could not prevent abuses by imperial officials and Catholics turned to Rome, which intervened even in administrative affairs. Christian refugees from the Arab conquest of Syria and Egypt brought monophysitism and monothelitism to Carthage c. 640. A council of 646 condemning Monothelitism is the last known event of the Church in Carthage before the Arab conquest (698). See north africa, early church in.

The Church survived after 698, though its status was inferior. A monk from the monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem found the Church of "Africa" suffering from the attacks of "tyrants" c. 850, and he continued to Spain in search of stipends for his monastery. In 990 Carthage sent its elected bishop to Rome for consecration, and popes wrote to bishops and the Church of Carthage (1053, 1073, and 1076), as well as to local rulers of North Africa concerning Christians there. constantine the african was born in Carthage (101020). After the Norman conquest of Sicily (106191) and the Almohad conquest of North Africa (1160), Christianity almost disappeared in Carthage. From the 13th century, Europe sought to regain Christian North Africa. St. louis ix of France died besieging Tunis (1270), which had replaced Carthage in importance. Christian merchants and mercenary troops in the region required chaplains. Trinitarians and Mercedarians ransomed Christian slaves. Franciscans and Dominicans carried on missionary work. Raymond lull's school for Arabic studies was in Tunis.

The Congregation for the propagation of the faith sent Capuchins (1624) and Vincentians (1645) to Carthaginian Africa. The Vincentians, chaplains of French consuls, were regarded as vicars by the Holy See, as if the See of Carthage still existed. Jean le vacher, vicar apostolic (165066), was succeeded by Italian Capuchins (who cared for French, Italians, and Maltese) as provicars under the Vincentian Vicariate of algeria and tunisia (in Algiers). In 1741 Carthage was made a vicariate apostolic. A chapel of St. Louis in Carthage (1839), French sisters (1840) who expanded beyond Carthage, and Brothers of the Christian Schools (1855) were followed by White Fathers (1875), who carried the apostolate to the Muslims. Under the French protectorate, Carthage was restored as a metropolitanate without suffragans (1884) and primate of Africa (1893) under Cardinal Charles M. A. lavigerie. The Church was governed by a concordat between France and the Holy See (18941964) until the See was suppressed, made titular, and replaced by a prelacy nullius of Tunis comprising the same jurisdiction (Tunisia).

Bibliography: p. monceaux, Histoire littéraire de l'Afrique chrétienne, 7 v. (repr. Brussels 1963). h. leclercq, L'Afrique chrétienne (2d ed. Paris 1904); Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 2.2: 21902330. g. lapeyre, L'Ancienne église de Carthage, 2 v. (Paris 1933). c. courtois, "Histoire de l'Afrique du Nord des origines à la fin du MoyenÂge," Revue historique 198 (1947) 228249; Les Vandales et l'Afrique (Paris 1955). g. lapeyre and a. pellegrin, Carthage latine et chrétienne (Paris 1950). p. hubac, Carthage (Paris 1952). j. ferron and g. lapeyre, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 11: 11491233. p. kawerau, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 3:116061. a. stuiber et al., Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 6:14. g. bardy and e. jarry, Catholicisme, 2:602607. Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. (Stuttgart 1893), suppl. 10:957992.

[e. p. colbert]


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The destruction of Carthage in 146 bce ended the Third Punic War (149–146). It the violent anticlimax to more than a century of conflict between Rome and Carthage, the two most powerful states in the western Mediterranean. Rome's grim treatment of the Carthaginians and their city, while not entirely unprecedented as a postscript to Roman conquest, stands out as an extraordinary and calculated act of brutality.

Rome and Carthage had not always been enemies, but conflicting Roman and Carthaginian imperial interests resulted in the First Punic War (264–241) and the Second Punic War (218–201). In the latter war, the Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy and brought Rome to the brink of defeat. However, Rome's ultimate victory left it the unrivalled power in the western Mediterranean. Carthage was forced to accept severe terms, including a large indemnity paid annually for fifty years and the loss of all overseas territories. Moreover, Carthage agreed not to wage war outside of Africa and, within Africa, only with Rome's permission.

Carthage also agreed to restore to Masinissa (the king of neighboring Numidia and a Roman ally since 206) all the territory that he or his ancestors had once possessed. Masinissa consistently raided or seized Carthaginian territory, claiming that the lands once belonged to his family. Each time, Carthage either acquiesced or dutifully sought Roman arbitration, and each time, the Romans sided with Masinissa.

Despite the loss of territory and military power, Carthage remained a prosperous city. A Roman embassy, which included the powerful senator, Cato the elder, visited Carthage in 153 and returned home impressed by the size and wealth of the city. After this visit, Cato reportedly began concluding all of his speeches in the Senate with the phrase "Carthage must be destroyed." In one speech Cato presented a number of Carthaginian figs to the senate. He warned his audience, amazed at the figs' size and freshness, that the country that produced them lay only a short distance from Rome. Cato's views probably reflected the popular Roman sentiment that Carthage was to be feared. This fear may have grown stronger after Carthage paid off its indemnity in 151.

Rome's justification for the Third Punic War came when the aging Masinissa again invaded Carthaginian territory in 150 and Carthage chose to resist the invasion without first seeking arbitration from Rome. The Carthaginians may have simply grown frustrated with Rome's consistent support of Masinissa over the previous half-century and decided to risk war rather than concede more territory to its enemy. Alternatively they may have believed the war indemnity stipulated by the treaty of 201 was paid, that they were no longer bound by the treaty and could pursue independent foreign policy. Whatever the case, the Numidians badly defeated the Carthaginian army, which fought under the command of Hasdrubal. The Carthaginians immediately condemned Hasdrubal to death, then sent an embassy to Rome to publicly disavow the actions of Hasdrubal and to seek arbitration over the dispute with Masinissa.

The Roman response was calculated and duplicitous. In fact, the Roman historian Appian claims that the Roman senate had had begun to seek a pretext to attack Carthage soon after Cato had returned from his visit to the city three years earlier, though the veracity of the statement is questionable. In any case, the Roman senate had already begun to prepare for an invasion of Africa by the time the Carthaginian embassy arrived. The senate blamed Carthage for the impending war and warned that it could be avoided only if Carthage "satisfied the Roman people" (Appian, 1972, p. 74). The next year (149), the Roman senate declared war and ordered a fleet and army to gather in Sicily, preparatory to invading Africa. The Carthaginians sent another embassy to the Roman senate in a desperate attempt to avoid conflict. The Romans responded that the Carthaginians could retain their lands in Africa and would be allowed to live under their own laws. To gain this concession, however, they were ordered to hand over 300 hostages—children from aristocratic families—within thirty days to the Roman generals in Sicily and obeyed Rome "in other ways" (Appian, 1972, p. 76).

The Carthaginians were suspicious, but they complied with this demand. The Roman generals then sent word that they would provide further conditions once the Roman army landed in Utica (a harbor town in north Africa). Carthage sent an embassy to meet the Roman generals in Utica, at which point the generals demanded that the Carthaginians turn over all stockpiled weapons and siege machines. Only after the Romans collected these weapons did they reveal their final conditions for peace: the Carthaginians must abandon their city and resettle at least ten miles from the sea. The city itself would be razed, except for its shrines and graves. Carthage rejected these terms, and the Romans began to prosecute the war.

The Third Punic War lasted longer than Rome expected, though there was little doubt as to the outcome. After a lengthy siege the Romans, under the command of Scipio Aemilianus, forced the city to surrender, but only after a great many women, children, and elderly had been killed or wounded when Scipio ordered residential buildings set on fire to clear a path to the citadel. Fifty thousand men, women, and children were sold into slavery. Roman soldiers looted the city for several days, after which a board of ten Roman senators oversaw the systematic destruction of the city. Carthage was burned to the ground and buildings were razed. The story that the Romans sowed salt on the fields to prevent crops from growing is a later invention.

What drove the Romans to extreme barbarity in this case is a matter of debate. Cato's speech about the wealth of Carthaginian territory, Carthage's economic resilience, and Rome's demand that the Carthaginians resettle away from the sea all suggest that commercial factors may have influenced Rome's policy toward Carthage. After the war, Carthaginian territory was reorganized as the province of Africa, and in 122 the Romans tried to establish a colony on the site of Carthage. However, this decision was reached long after the destruction of Carthage and was very controversial, suggesting that colonization had not been the foremost reason for Roman actions in 146.

Roman politics and the desire for glory certainly contributed to its treatment of Carthage. After the war, Scipio Aemilianus's popularity soared and he was awarded the title Africanus for defeating Rome's rival. Finally, one should not underestimate Roman hatred of Carthage, fear (even if unfounded), and desire to avenge the destruction wrought by Hannibal in the Second Punic War. According to Appian, the Romans who poured into the streets to celebrate the news of Carthage's destruction were still mindful of Hannibal's war.

Finally, it is worth considering to what degree the treatment of Carthage was typical of contemporary Roman military and diplomatic procedure. On the one hand, Roman brutality throughout the Mediterranean appears to have increased in the second century bce. For example, in 146 Rome razed the city of Corinth and enslaved its population. On the other hand, Rome's apparent long-term policy of weakening Carthage and its calculated manipulation of the treaty of 201 are not typical of its treatment of other conquered rivals. This underscores the degree to which Roman fear, hatred, and desire for revenge may have been important motivating factors in the decision to wipe out Carthage both physically and symbolically.

SEE ALSO Ancient World


Appian (1972). "Punic Wars." In Appian's Roman History in Four Volumes, Loeb Classical Library, tran. Horace White. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Astin, A. E. (1967). Scipio Aemilianus. Oxford: Clarendon.

Caven, Brian (1980). The Punic Wars. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Goldsworthy, Adrian (2000). The Punic Wars. London: Cassell.

Lancel, Serge (1995). Carthage: A History, trans. Antonia Nevill. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

Polybius (1992). The Histories in Six Volumes. Loeb Classical Library, trans. W. R. Paton. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Scullard, H. H. (1980). A History of the Roman World, 4th edition. London: Routledge.

Michael P. Fronda


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Type of Government

The North African city of Carthage was a distinctive amalgam of empire, republic, and oligarchy (rule of the few), with the oligarchic features predominating.


Located near the modern city of Tunis, Tunisia, Carthage was founded by traders from Phoenicia (modern Lebanon) in the ninth century BC. Maritime trade was the source of its power, and the determination to protect its trade routes motivated its foreign policy and imperial expansion. By the end of the sixth century BC there were Carthaginian trading posts from the Mediterranean coast of Libya to the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Fish, wine, textiles, raw metals, and slaves were among the most lucrative commodities. Except for the nomadic Berbers, the Carthaginians did not make much effort to colonize or control the peoples of these areas, but they did not hesitate to sink any vessel trading in the western Mediterranean without their sanction. Competition over Sicily soon brought them into conflict with Rome. Between 264 and 146 BC the two powers fought three major wars; these conflicts, called the Punic Wars, ended with the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC and its rebirth as a Roman colony.

Government Structure

Much of the knowledge about the government structure in Carthage comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC), who admired its simplicity and order. At the summit were two annually elected coexecutives known (in Latin) as suffetes. As candidacy was restricted to the wealthiest families, elections in Carthage did not represent democracy so much as oligarchy. As a rule, the citizenry was consulted only when it was in the elite’s interest to do so. Besides its executive powers, the oligarchs controlled all aspects of government administration through a senate of elders, thirty of whom also belonged to an inner cabinet. The most distinctive feature of oligarchic rule in Carthage was the judicial board of 104 members, who met to examine the actions of military generals and other officials.

Political Parties and Factions

The judicial board seems to have been part of a larger and generally successful effort to avoid military dictatorships. Unlike its rival Rome, Carthage did not have a citizen army, relying instead on mercenaries and a small corps of professional officers. Every effort was made to keep the army out of politics. It must have been a constant concern nevertheless, for mercenaries were notoriously unreliable. Their presence in the countryside, where decades of indifferent treatment had aroused widespread hostility toward the city, evoked a constant fear of rebellion. In contrast, the urban masses seem to have been relatively quiet, and the priesthood did not assert itself as strongly as it did in Egypt and in other states farther east.

Major Events

Though Rome and Carthage were allies for a time in the early third century BC, the island of Sicily was so rich and so close to both that conflict was perhaps inevitable. The First Punic War (264–241 BC) ended with Carthage’s withdrawal from Sicily. Tensions remained, however, and the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) began with Hannibal’s (247–183 BC) invasion of northern Italy from a Carthaginian base in Spain, but ended with a Roman victory at Zama, Carthage’s withdrawal from Spain, and Rome’s withdrawal from Africa. Roman distrust of Carthage remained, however, and on a slim pretext Rome launched the Third Punic War with an invasion in 149 BC. Carthaginian resistance ended three years later with the thorough destruction of the city.


In AD 429 a Vandal army from Spain crossed the Mediterranean and began pillaging the Carthaginian outposts of North Africa. Many local Berbers joined them; the resulting union of natives and undisciplined soldiers was precisely the kind of alliance the city elders had feared for so long. After a brief peace, the Vandals turned toward Carthage itself, sacking it in 439. They remained until a Byzantine army drove them out a century later. A Moslem army took the city once more at the end of the seventh century.

Ben Khader, Aïcha Ben Abed, et al.. Carthage: A Mosaic of Ancient Tunisia. New York: American Museum of Natural History in association with Norton, 1987.

Bullard, Reuben G. “The Berbers of the Maghreb and Ancient Carthage.” In Africa and Africans in Antiquity, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001.

Lancel, Serge. Carthage: A History. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1995.


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CARTHAGE , ancient city in North Africa near the modern Tunis; founded in the 9th century b.c.e. by Phoenicians. There is no evidence of Jews in Carthage during the Punic period (before 146 b.c.e.); on the other hand, a number of modern scholars maintain that the expansion of the Phoenicians from Tyre and Sidon owed something of its impetus to the collaboration of Hebrews from the Palestinian hinterland. Substantial Jewish settlement is known only from the time of the Roman Empire. Its existence is shown from inscriptions (mainly on tombstones) and from literary sources, especially those of the Church Fathers. The majority of Jewish inscriptions from Carthage (discovered in a cemetery excavated near the city) show that the language of its Jews was Latin, although a few inscriptions are in Hebrew. The *menorah is common, and some of the tombs are decorated with wall paintings. The city is also mentioned in the Talmud. Of particular interest is the paradoxical statement: "From Tyre to Carthage the nations know Israel and their Father who is in heaven, but from Tyre westward and from Carthage eastward the nations know neither" (Men. 110a). "Africans" (Carthaginians) are also described as disputing with Israelites the title to the ownership of Ereẓ Israel. The Septuagint translates "Tarshish" by Karhadon (= Carthage). The Jews of Carthage and its surroundings were most probably originally emigrants whose number grew, particularly after the disasters in Ereẓ Israel (in 70 and 132–5) and in Egypt (in 115–117). Some scholars maintain that in the Mediterranean area there was intensive proselytizing activity among the Phoenician populace, who felt particularly close to Judaism and who attached themselves to Judaism after their political decline. By this means the Phoenicians preserved their Semitic identity and were not assimilated by the Roman-Hellenistic culture which they hated. This view, though interesting, is highly problematical. Nevertheless, the possibility of successful Jewish proselytizing there cannot be dismissed. With the spread of Christianity the status of the Jews began progressively to deteriorate. The hatred of the Christians stemmed partly from the influence exercised by the Jewish religion in Carthage and the surrounding area, where there were many Judaizing sects and proselytes. Tertullian and Augustine give a few details about the Jews in Carthage, whose situation particularly deteriorated in the days of Justinian when the regulations issued against heretics affected them also. As a result synagogues were seized and converted into churches and many Jews fled. It is possible that in that period, under the influence of the exiled Jews, a number of North African pagan tribes became converted. The Moslem conquest ended the importance of Carthage and the center of Jewish life in the area passed to *Kairouan.


Monceaux, in: rej, 44 (1902), 1–28; N. Slouschz, Hebraeo-Phéniciens et Judéo-Berbères (1908); idem, La civilisation hébraïque et phénicienne à Carthage (1911); Juster, Juifs, 1 (1914), 208, n. 8; G. Rosen, Juden und Phoenizier (19292); Mieses, in: rej, 92 (1932), 113–35; 93 (1932), 53–72, 135–56; 94 (1933), 73–89; Baron, Social2, 1 (1952), 176, 374; Y. Levi, Olamot Nifgashim (1960), 60–78; M. Simon, Recherches d'histoire judéo-chrétienne (1962), 30–87.

[Uriel Rappaport]


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Carthage Ancient port on a peninsula in the Bay of Tunis, n Africa. It was founded in the 9th century bc by Phoenician colonists. It became a great commercial city and imperial power controlling an empire in North Africa, s Spain and the w Mediterranean islands. The rise of Rome in the 3rd century resulted in the Punic Wars and, in spite of the victories of Hannibal, ended with the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War (149–146 bc). It was resettled as a Roman colony, and in the 5th century ad was the capital of the Vandals.


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Carthage an ancient city on the coast of North Africa near present-day Tunis. Founded by the Phoenicians c.814 bc, Carthage became a major force in the Mediterranean, and came into conflict with Rome in the Punic Wars. It was finally destroyed by the Romans in 146 bc; at the time it was decreed that the destruction should be complete, with no houses or crops surviving (see delenda est Carthago), although in the 1st century bc it was to be refounded by Julius Caesar. A Carthaginian peace is a peace settlement which imposes very severe terms on the defeated side.

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