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Ancient Carthage (// KAR-thij; Punic: 𐤒𐤓𐤕𐤟𐤇𐤃𐤔𐤕, lit. 'New City') was an ancient Semitic civilisation based in North Africa. Initially a settlement in present-day Tunisia, it later became a city-state and then an empire. Founded by the Phoenicians in the ninth century BC, Carthage reached its height in the fourth century BC as one of the largest metropolises in the world. It was the centre of the Carthaginian Empire, a major power led by the Punic people who dominated the ancient western and central Mediterranean Sea. Following the Punic Wars, Carthage was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, who later rebuilt the city lavishly.
|c. 814 BC – 146 BC
Sign of Tanit,
the cultic or state insignia
|Punic, Phoenician, Berber, Numidian, Iberian, Ancient Greek
|Monarchy until c. 480 BC, republic led by Shophets thereafter
• Founded by Phoenician settlers
|c. 814 BC
• Independence from Tyre
|middle of the 6th century BC
|3,700,000–4,300,000 (entire empire)
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|History of Tunisia
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|History of Algeria
Regency of Algiers (16th–19th centuries)
French Algeria (19th–20th centuries)
Algerian War (1954–1962)
Carthage was settled around 814 BC by colonists from Tyre, a leading Phoenician city-state located in present-day Lebanon. In the 7th century BCE, following Phoenicia's conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Carthage became independent, gradually expanding its economic and political hegemony across the western Mediterranean. By 300 BC, through its vast patchwork of colonies, vassal states, and satellite states, held together by its naval dominance of the western and central Mediterranean Sea, Carthage controlled the largest territory in the region, including the coast of northwest Africa, southern and eastern Iberia, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Malta, and the Balearic archipelago. Tripoli remained autonomous under the authority of local Libyco-Phoenicians, who paid nominal tribute.
Among the ancient world's largest and richest cities, Carthage's strategic location provided access to abundant fertile land and major maritime trade routes. Its extensive mercantile network reached as far as west Asia and northern Europe, providing an array of commodities from all over the ancient world, in addition to lucrative exports of agricultural products and manufactured goods. This commercial empire was secured by one of the largest and most powerful navies in the ancient Mediterranean, and an army composed heavily of foreign mercenaries and auxiliaries, particularly Iberians, Balearics, Gauls, Britons, Sicilians, Italians, Greeks, Numidians, and Libyans.
As the dominant power of the western Mediterranean, Carthage inevitably came into conflict with many neighbours and rivals, from the Berbers of North Africa to the nascent Roman Republic. Following centuries of conflict with the Sicilian Greeks, its growing competition with Rome culminated in the Punic Wars (264–146 BCE), which saw some of the largest and most sophisticated battles in antiquity. Carthage narrowly avoided destruction after the Second Punic War, but was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC after the Third Punic War. The Romans later founded a new city in its place. All remnants of Carthaginian civilization came under Roman rule by the first century AD, and Rome subsequently became the dominant Mediterranean power, paving the way for its rise as a major empire.
Despite the cosmopolitan character of its empire, Carthage's culture and identity remained rooted in its Canaanite heritage, albeit a localised variety known as Punic. Like other Phoenician peoples, its society was urban, commercial, and oriented towards seafaring and trade; this is reflected in part by its notable innovations, including serial production, uncolored glass, the threshing board, and the cothon harbor. Carthaginians were renowned for their commercial prowess, ambitious explorations, and unique system of government, which combined elements of democracy, oligarchy, and republicanism, including modern examples of checks and balances.
Despite having been one of the most influential civilizations of antiquity, Carthage is mostly remembered for its long and bitter conflict with Rome, which threatened the rise of the Roman Republic and almost changed the course of Western civilization. Due to the destruction of virtually all Carthaginian texts after the Third Punic War, much of what is known about its civilization comes from Roman and Greek sources, many of whom wrote during or after the Punic Wars, and to varying degrees were shaped by the hostilities. Popular and scholarly attitudes towards Carthage historically reflected the prevailing Greco-Roman view, though archaeological research since the late 19th century has helped shed more light and nuance on Carthaginian civilization.
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