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The Carthaginians

Carthaginian Elephants smash the Romans at the battle of Trebia

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Ancient Warfare

During the beginning of the last millenium BC, the phonecians began establishing colonies around the mediterranean to compete with the Greeks for trade. The most important Phonecian colony was founded in Tunis, North Africa, named Carthage around 800 BC. Although the home cities in Phonecia were repeatedly counquered and subjigated, the colony of Carthage prospered and expanded to become one of the great powers of the western mediterranean.

True the their Phonecian heritage, the Carthaginans became great seafarers, traders, and colonizers. There is some evidence that they circumnavigated Africa and very questionable evidence that they reached the Americas. They capitalized on the trade of the Iberian silver and British tin . Carthaginian settlments spread across the North African coast, into western Sicily, Sardinia, Corisca, Minorca, and much of spain(Modern Caragena in Spain was called Carthago Nova, or New Carthage) and the Portuguese Atlantic coast(with several trade posts and support harbors). During the fifth and fourth centuries BC they fought with the Greeks for trade and colonies, especially in Sicily. In the third century, they began a clashing with the rising power of Rome.

By tradition, Carthage was founded by Queen Dido, who had fled from the city of Tyre in Phoenicia after her husband was killed by her brother. Even in the days of legend there was a link with Rome, because Aeneas of Troy, the father to the Romans, was the lover of Dido and then abandoned her. In her grief she killed herself, cursing Aeneas and his descendants as she died.

Queen Dido

Carthage - the name means ‘new town’ - continued to flourish, a Phoenician colony that outgrew and survived its parent land. The Phoenicians - and their successors the Carthaginians - must be credited with the invention of glass, the bireme galley and with being expert traders thanks to their superb navigational skills. Even before the Greeks reached the Western Mediterranean, Carthage was a superbly wealthy city, thanks to its mastery of the seas. Carthaginian colonies - colonies of the original Phoenician colony - ringed the sea (modern Barcelona is named after the famous Barca family). Carthage was a maritime power, with only a relatively small landowning class to provide military land power. This, however, did not matter as long as Carthage continues to be wealthy. Its coffers paid for mercenaries in abundance when the city needed to go to war. And it is this wealth, mastery of trade and expansion along the Mediterranean coast towards Italy that brings Carthage into direct confrontation with the newly rising power of Rome. Now, perhaps, it is time for Dido’s curse to have its full effects on the children of Aeneas...

The Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage were fought to decide which power would dominate the western mediterranean. The first war(264-241BC) was fought over Sicily. The Romans were not a naval power but built fleets from scratch based on captured enemy ships. Their first two fleets defeated Carthaginian fleets but were later lost to storms. Their third fleet completed the defeat of the Carthaginians at sea. The Carthaginians were forced out of Sicily, and lost control of Corisca and Sardinia as well.

The Second Punic War(218-201 BC) was triggered by the famous general Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar. Hannibal swore to his father, before his death, to pursue and crush the Romans at all costs. He almost did so when he marched out of Carthago Nova, across Gaul, and into modern Italy through the Alps with a large, well-trained army accompanied by several elephant-shock cavalry. During his brilliant 16 year campaign, Hannibal defeated the Romans at The Battle of Trebia, The Battle of Trasimene and The Battle of Cannae.

Although Hannibal lacked the manpower to take Rome itself and did not take advantage of his huge victories on the mainland of Italy. Eventually the Romans decided to avoid Hannibal and focus on Carthage itself. Hannibal was called out to defend Carthage. The Romans finally ended the war at The Battle of Zama, the Romans completley destroyed the Carthaginian army.

Carthaginian soldiers recruited from among mediteranean cities

Carthage was forced to give up its overseas possesions, pay a large indemnity, reduce its fleet, and become subservient to Rome. By 150 BC the city had recovered and was seen again as a threat. When Carthaginans attacked Numidia, a Roman protectorate, the Romans responded by attacking Carthage once more. This time the city was destroyed utterly and its power broken. A symbolic furrow was plowed through the city and sown with salt to show that the city would not be allowed to revive.

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The Babylonians | The Ancient Choson | The Egyptians |The Hittites | The Minonians | The Persians |

The Phonecians | The Senate and People of Rome & The Roman Empire | The Greek Cities | The Carthaginians |

The Shang Dynasty | The Summerians | The Yamato