The story

Carthaginian Government

Carthaginian Government

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The government of Carthage was based on a system of elected officials accountable to a popular assembly. Unlike its founding city, Tyre in Phoenicia, Carthage did not have a monarchy but its politics was dominated by an aristocratic elite which was composed of competing clans and which held all important political, judicial, and military positions. As in other contemporary ancient cultures participation in political life and the popular assembly of the city was limited to those who held citizenship – indigenous and free males. Although the system was praised by such noted figures as Aristotle, some of the exact workings of the Carthaginian government have remained elusive, a situation further confused by Greek and Roman writers using their own familiar terminology to describe the political institutions of Carthage.


The most powerful office in the Carthaginian government was held jointly by two magistrates elected annually known as suffetes (Latinized from the Punic sptm or shophetim and conventionally translated as 'judges'). These had replaced the initial system of monarchy sometime in the early 7th century BCE, and so their association with purely judicial matters may too have widened in political scope as the office evolved. It is also possible that there was only one suffete in the first century or so of the new system. From the 5th century BCE electing two suffetes becomes standard, one leading the armed forces of Carthage when at war and the other running the government at home. Greek and Roman sources indicate that the suffetes operated in collaboration with the senate and were also concerned with civil lawsuits. Wealth and family background seem to have been the two most important factors in being considered eligible for the role. The position of suffete continued to exist even when North Africa became a Roman province and is recorded at least until the 2nd century CE.


Carthage, even under its earliest form of monarchy, had a senate composed of influential citizens. These members were known as drm or the 'great ones' and held the position for life. Just how these senatorial members were selected is unknown, but it is likely they numbered between two and three hundred. They met in a building in the marketplace of Carthage but also sometimes at the temple of Eshmun on the Byrsa hill. The suffetes would consult the senate on government policy – military, diplomatic, and financial matters - and if the two sides disagreed, then a deciding vote would be held in the popular citizen's assembly (see below). Also, if one suffete was not in agreement then, again, the assembly would be consulted.

The Government of Carthage was led by two suffetes who presided over a senate & citizen assembly.

We know that the senate decided on declarations of war, whether or not to send additional armies to support generals in the field, punishments for commanders who failed in their objectives, and whether to accept peace terms offered by the enemy. The senate also sent representatives with Hannibal's army in Spain and Italy and signed the commander's peace treaty with Macedon in 215 BCE. However, it is also true that commanders often acted quite independently when campaigning across the Mediterranean, which led the Athenian politician Isocrates to state that Carthage was "ruled by an oligarchy at home, by a king in the field" (Miles, 146).

Senior Officials

Certain senators were selected to special commissions. Aristotle describes these as consisting of 5 members (hence their name 'pentarchies') who acted as judges in law courts, but Punic inscriptions only mention a 10-man commission responsible for religious sites and a 30-man commission which supervised taxation. In addition, there was a state treasury (mhsbm) headed by a single treasurer (rb) who is mentioned in one inscription as imposing penalties on those merchants who failed to pay customs duties. Other important state officials were the head of the priests (rb khnm) and the head of the army (rb mhnt), the latter very often also being a suffete in important conflicts.

All of these positions were elected, and all seem to have had a limited term of office, with the exception of the general who served for the duration of a war. These limitations were, no doubt, to prevent individuals from becoming too powerful, but it does not seem to have curbed corruption. Bribery - for votes, favourable decisions, and access to high positions – and embezzlement were such a problem that Hannibal's first task on being elected suffete was to improve the endemic corruption which was crippling the state's finances. Corruption was not helped by the absence of a salary for state officials, a fact which also meant that such positions were only open to those with a source of private income.

Love History?

Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!

From the 5th century BCE a special branch of the senate composed of 104 members convened to assess the military performance of commanders on completion of their campaign. We imagine that the number is derived from 100 senators plus the two suffetes, the treasurer and the head of the priests. Senatorial membership of the council of 104 was for life. It was responsible for deciding the fate of generals and admirals who failed in a campaign with punishments ranging from fines to crucifixion.

Another important group of officials was those administrators selected to govern the provinces controlled by Carthage. Allied cities such as Utica and Cadiz, and subject territories in North Africa were allowed a high degree of political autonomy except in military matters and foreign affairs. In return for Carthage's protection they did have to pay tribute in money, arms, and men for military service. Regional officials would have supervised this and collected such additional taxes as custom duties.

All of the key political positions in Carthaginian government were dominated by a ruling elite. This aristocracy was characterised and dominated by opposing families (mizreh), notably the Barcids and Magonids. Nevertheless, for enterprising citizens, especially rich merchants, there was the possibility to join this aristocracy as wealth was the overriding factor for success in politics. On the other hand, the traditional elite was composed of those who could claim descent to the colony's founding fathers, and it is clear that genealogy was an important consideration. This perhaps explains the rather confusing repetition of names from generation to generation resulting in literally hundreds of Hannos, Hamilcars, and Hannibals.

Assembly & Citizenship

The popular assembly of Carthage was known as the 'm (pron. ham) which translates as 'the people'. They met in the market square of the city, and their main powers were to vote on issues proposed by the suffetes and senate, and the election of officials, including the suffetes, chief priest and treasurer, and military commanders. Qualification to attend the assembly, beyond holding citizenship, and the system of voting are not known.

Citizenship was reserved for males from the city of Carthage. Women, slaves, and foreigners could not enjoy citizen status. There are some indicators in the historical record that there may have been a second tier of citizens composed of former slaves and foreign artisans. The existence of two levels of citizenship, though, continues to be debated amongst historians. Citizens were organised into memberships (mizrehim) or family clubs which were distinguishable from each other via their devotion to a specific god, the profession of their members, or perhaps even composed of those who had fought together in battle. Such memberships regularly bonded through shared banquets.

Citizens of allied cities in North Africa had a similar or equal status to their counterparts at Carthage in regards to civil law. The status of those who lived in the smaller settlements of the areas under Carthaginian control is not known. More certain is that the level of integration of peoples into the Carthaginian empire was quite low with the consequence that in times of peril, such as the Punic Wars with Rome, many cities defected to the Roman side. Carthage exploited its colonies but made no real efforts to foster a sense of belonging in their allied and conquered states, which meant that when Carthage fell, so too did its empire.

Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not?

"It adds no small weight to all these considerations, to recollect that history informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a senate. Sparta, Rome, and Carthage are, in fact, the only states to whom that character can be applied. In each of the two first there was a senate for life. The constitution of the senate in the last is less known. Circumstantial evidence makes it probable that it was not different in this particular from the two others. "

I looked into this to see if new evidence had been found on whether or not the senate was for life and I found conflicting evidence. Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not?

10 Carthage

At its height, Carthage was a rival to the early Roman Empire and the dominant maritime power of the ancient world, controlling trade throughout most of the Mediterranean. Carthage was originally settled by Phoenician colonists from modern-day Jordan, but unlike the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians turned their back on monarchy and became a republic in the seventh century BC. [1]

The heads of state were the two suffetes who, much like the consular system in Rome, were elected for a 12-month term and held equal power to each other. Beneath them was a senate of around 200 to 300 people who, when selected, served for life. Unfortunately, the way they were selected is lost to history.

We do know, however, that the senate played an important role in Carthaginian government, with groups of senators being commissioned to manage aspects of the government, such as maintaining religious sites or collecting taxes. The senate also had to be consulted by the suffetes on matters relating to the state. The senate would vote on the issue, and if their decision disagreed with the two suffetes, or if the two suffetes disagreed with each other, the matter would be settled by the people&rsquos assembly.

The people&rsquos assembly met in the market square in Carthage itself, and any male of the city could vote. Since voting was open to any citizen who turned up (only males could be citizens), the size of the assembly would have varied wildly. The people&rsquos assembly also seems to have directly elected the two suffetes, meaning that the people had a large say in how they were governed in ancient Carthage. Unfortunately, though, it meant that people from elsewhere in the Carthaginian Empire had no say over how they were governed this might have been why, when Rome eventually conquered Carthage, the rest of the empire felt little desire to avenge them.


The Origins of Carthage

Mythologically Carthage was founded by a Phoenician princess and queen that went by the name Dido or Elissar. It all started when her husband Acerbas had been murdered by her brother Pygmalion.

Pygmalion and Dido shared the crown in the wishes of their late father King Mattan. Dido was married off to her uncle Acerbis, a high priest of Melqart.

The Phoenician people were more fond of Dido than Pygmalion because of Acerbas being associated with Melqart as High Priest so, in turn, Pygmalion murdered him to have the crown on his own. Later on, Dido fleed from the kingdom of Tyre with other people who either feared or hated her brother, Pygmalion. They sailed away until they reached the coast of Northwest Africa (Tunisia) and had rented the land from the Berber people in exchange for 50 pieces of gold per year.

As of now, Carthage had been established at around 814 BC with Dido making plans of making a port then expand. Later on, Barbas, a Berber king who had made a deal on Dido's rent on the land had declared his love for her and when she had rejected him. He made plans to destroy the early city-state of Carthage but Dido threw herself on a pyre, releasing her dying breath.

As of now, Carthage had been established at around 814 BC with Dido making plans of making a port then expand. Later on, Barbas, a Berber king who had made a deal on Dido's rent on the land had declared his love for her and when she had rejected him. He made plans to destroy the early city-state of Carthage but Dido threw herself on a pyre, releasing her dying breath.

Historically: Carthage was founded by Phoenicians in the 9th century BCE at the Northwest of Africa, it was created to facilitate trade from the city of Tyre.

Independence From Phoenicia, Punic Wars

Carthage then grew into a wider republic and an empire for trading throughout the Mediterranean. By this time, Carthage received it's independence from Phoenicia by the end of the 7th century BCE and ended up being one of the leading commercial centers in the Western Region of the Mediterranean.

Due to a problem between a commercial network in Sicily, this unsurprisingly starts the First Punic War between the Roman Republic and Carthage. At the end of the First Punic War, the Romans had charged Hamilcar Barca with a huge amount of money and this sets off Hannibal Barca being mad and starting off the Second Punic War. in the Second Punic War, Hannibal crosses the Alps and introducing the Romans to the elephants. And this is where he also gets to show his genius in Battle of Lake Trisemene and at the Battle of Cannae.

In the Third Punic War, Cato the Elder had declared "Carthago Delenda Est!" Which means "Carthage must be destroyed." And thus, Carthage was burned down and destroyed by the Roman Republic and this went on for 3 years (149-146 BCE) until Carthage had met it's doom and became ruins of its thriving civilization. Carthage was later rebuilt however and made a roman city until the vandals took it

Carthage's Constitution

Carthage's Constitution: prototype of what the ancient Greeks and Romans called a "mixed constitution".

In his Politics, the Macedonian scientist and philosopher Aristotle of Stagira (384-322) describes the constitution ofCarthage. He focuses on the common Greek distinctions between democracy, oligarchy/aristocracy, and monarchy. He argues that Carthage is an aristocracy with both oligarchic and democratic tendencies.

The translation of pages 1272b24-1273b25 of the Politics was made by Benjamin Jowett.

[1272b24-1273b25] The Carthaginians are considered to have an excellent form of government, which differs from that of any other state in several respects, though it is in some very like the Spartan. Indeed, the Spartan, Cretan, and Carthaginian states closely resemble one another and are very different from any others.

Many of the Carthaginian institutions are excellent. The superiority of their constitution is proved by the fact that the common people remain loyal to it. The Carthaginians have never had any rebellion worth speaking of, and have never been under the rule of a tyrant.

Among the points in which the Carthaginian constitution resembles the Spartan are the following: The common tables of the clubs answer to the Spartan phiditia, and their magistracy of the Hundred-Four to the ephors but, whereas the ephors are any chance persons, the magistrates of the Carthaginians are elected according to merit - this is an improvement. They have also their kings note [Aristotle refers to the two suffetes. Sparta had two kings.] and their Gerousia, or council of elders, who correspond to the kings and elders of Sparta. Their kings, unlike the Spartan, are not always of the same family, nor that an ordinary one, but if there is some distinguished family they are selected out of it and not appointed by seniority - this is far better. Such officers have great power, and therefore, if they are persons of little worth, do a great deal of harm, and they have already done harm at Sparta.

Most of the defects or deviations from the perfect state, for which the Carthaginian constitution would be censured, apply equally to all the forms of government which we have mentioned. But of the deflections from aristocracy and constitutional government, some incline more to democracy and some to oligarchy. The kings and elders, if unanimous, may determine whether they will or will not bring a matter before the people, but when they are not unanimous, the people decide on such matters as well. And whatever the kings and elders bring before the people is not only heard but also determined by them, and any one who likes may oppose it now this is not permitted in Sparta and Crete. That the magistrates of five who have under them many important matters should be co-opted, that they should choose the supreme council of One Hundred, and should hold office longer than other magistrates (for they are virtually rulers both before and after they hold office) - these are oligarchic features their being without salary and not elected by lot, and any similar points, such as the practice of having all suits tried by the magistrates, and not some by one class of judges or jurors and some by another, as at Sparta, are characteristic of aristocracy.

The Carthaginian constitution deviates from aristocracy and inclines to oligarchy, chiefly on a point where popular opinion is on their side. For men in general think that magistrates should be chosen not only for their merit, but for their wealth: a man, they say, who is poor cannot rule well - he has not the leisure. If, then, election of magistrates for their wealth be characteristic of oligarchy, and election for merit of aristocracy, there will be a third form under which the constitution of Carthage is comprehended for the Carthaginians choose their magistrates, and particularly the highest of them -their kings and generals- with an eye both to merit and to wealth.

But we must acknowledge that, in thus deviating from aristocracy, the legislator has committed an error. Nothing is more absolutely necessary than to provide that the highest class, not only when in office, but when out of office, should have leisure and not disgrace themselves in any way and to this his attention should be first directed. Even if you must have regard to wealth, in order to secure leisure, yet it is surely a bad thing that the greatest offices, such as those of kings and generals, should be bought. The law which allows this abuse makes wealth of more account than virtue, and the whole state becomes avaricious.

For, whenever the chiefs of the state deem anything honorable, the other citizens are sure to follow their example and, where virtue has not the first place, their aristocracy cannot be firmly established. Those who have been at the expense of purchasing their places will be in the habit of repaying themselves and it is absurd to suppose that a poor and honest man will be wanting to make gains, and that a lower stamp of man who has incurred a great expense will not. Wherefore they should rule who are able to rule best. And even if the legislator does not care to protect the good from poverty, he should at any rate secure leisure for them when in office. It would seem also to be a bad principle that the same person should hold many offices, which is a favorite practice among the Carthaginians, for one business is better done by one man.

The government of the Carthaginians is oligarchic, but they successfully escape the evils of oligarchy by enriching one portion of the people after another by sending them to their colonies. This is their panacea and the means by which they give stability to the state. Accident favors them, but the legislator should be able to provide against revolution without trusting to accidents. As things are, if any misfortune occurred, and the bulk of the subjects revolted, there would be no way of restoring peace by legal methods.

Carthaginian Government - History

The Colonies, Phoenicia's Diaspora

Among the most outstanding colonies or trading posts which the Phoenicians had established were the cities of Genoa , where they went in with the Celts and established a flourishing colony, and Marseille which they started as nothing more than a trading post before it became fully Hellenized.

It is very probable that the tremendous colonial activity of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians was stimulated in the 8th to 6th centuries BC by the military blows that were wrecking the trade of the Phoenician homeland in the Levant. Also, competition with the synchronous Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean cannot be ignored as a contributing factor.

The earliest site outside the Phoenician homeland known to possess important aspects of Phoenician culture is Ugarit (Ras Shamra), about six miles north of Latakia. The site was already occupied before the 4th millennium BC, but the Phoenicians only became prominent there around 1991-1786 BC.

According to Herodotus, the coast of Libya along the sea which washes it to the north, throughout its entire length from Egypt to Cape Soloeis, which is its furthest point, is inhabited by Libyans of many distinct tribes who possess the whole tract except certain portions which belong to the Phoenicians and the Greeks.

Tyre's first colony, Utica in North Africa, was founded perhaps as early as the 10th century BC. It is likely that the expansion of the Phoenicians at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC is to be connected with the alliance of Hiram of Tyre with Solomon of Israel in the second half of the 10th century BC. In the following century, Phoenician presence in the north is shown by inscriptions at Samal (Zincirli Hüyük) in eastern Cilicia , and in the 8th century at Karatepe in the Taurus Mountains, but there is no evidence of direct colonization. Both these cities acted as fortresses commanding the routes through the mountains to the mineral and other wealth of Anatolia.

Cyprus had Phoenician settlements by the 9th century BC. Citium, known to the Greeks as Kition (biblical Kittim), in the southeast corner of the island, became the principal colony of the Phoenicians in Cyprus. Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, several smaller settlements were planted as stepping-stones along the route to Spain and its mineral wealth in silver and copper: at Malta , early remains go back to the 7th century BC, and at Sulcis and Nora in Sardinia and Motya in Sicily , perhaps a century earlier. According to Thucydides, the Phoenicians controlled a large part of the island but withdrew to the northwest corner under pressure from the Greeks. Modern scholars, however, disbelieve this and contend that the Phoenicians arrived only after the Greeks were established.

In North Africa the next site colonized after Utica was Carthage (near Tunis). Carthage in turn seems to have established (or, in some cases, reestablished) a number of settlements in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Balearic Islands, and southern Spain, eventually making this city the acknowledged leader of the western Phoenicians.

Leptis Magna, a titular see of Tripolitana was founded by the Sidonians in a fine and fertile country, it was the most important of the three towns which formed the Tripoli Confederation (Libya toay). The remains of the ancient Phœnician town are still visible, with the harbour, quays, walls, and inland defence, which make it look like Carthage. This city subsequently became the centre of a Greek city, Neapolis, of which most of the monuments are buried under sand. Notwithstanding Pliny (Nat. Hist., V, xxviii), who distinguishes Neapolis from Leptis, there is no doubt, according to Ptolemy, Strabo, and Scyllax, that they should be identified. Leptis allied itself with the Romans in the war against Jugurtha. Having obtained under Augustus the title of civitas it seems at that time to have been administered by Carthaginian magistrates it may have been a municipium during the first century of the Christian Era and erected by Trajan into a colony bearing the name of Colonia Ulpia Trajana, found on many of its coins. The birthplace of Septimius Severus, who embellished it and enriched it with several fine monuments, it was taken and sacked in the fourth century by the Libyan tribe of Aurusiani (Ammianus Marcellinus, XXVIII, vi) and has never since completely recovered. It was at that time the seat of the military government of Tripolitana.

Phoenician KART-HADASHT, Latin CARTHAGO, great city of antiquity, traditionally founded on the north coast of Africa by the Phoenicians of Tyre in 814 BC. It is now a residential suburb of the city of Tunis. Its Phoenician name means New Town or Land.

A brief treatment of ancient Carthage follows. For full treatment, see North Africa: History.

Various traditions concerning the foundation of Carthage were current among the Greeks, who called the city Karchedon but the Roman tradition is better known because of the Aeneid , which tells of the city's foundation by the Tyrian princess Elissar or Elyssa (Dido in Greek), who fled from her brother Pygmalion (the name of a historical king of Tyre who ruled a century after Hiram). The inhabitants were known to the Romans as Poeni, a derivation from the word Phoenikes (Phoenicians), from which the adjective Punic is derived. According the Greek historian Timaeus (c. 356-260 B.C.), Carthage was founded in 814 B.C. by a Elyssa who gathered up the royal treasury and a group of supporters and traveled to Cyprus, another Phoenician colony. Thereafter she traveled to North Africa where present day country of Tunis is.

The site chosen for Carthage in the centre of the shore of the Gulf of Tunis was ideal: the city was built on a triangular peninsula covered with low hills and backed by the Lake of Tunis with its safe anchorage and abundant supplies of fish. The site of the city was well protected and easily defensible. On the south the peninsula is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. The ancient citadel, the Byrsa, was on a low hill overlooking the sea. It is said, the local Berber permitted Elyssa and her people to have as much land at that which could be covered with a single oxhide. Hence, she was supposed to have cut an oxhide into thin strips and encircled the hill. Some of the earliest tombs have been found there, though nothing remains of Carthage's domestic and public buildings. Byrsa means fortress in Phoenician. Byrsa in Greek and Latin mean hide from which bourse or stock-market, and purse are derived.

The standard of cultural life enjoyed by the Carthaginians was probably far below that of the larger cities of the classical world. Punic interests were turned toward commerce. In Roman times Punic beds, cushions, and mattresses were regarded as luxuries, and Punic joinery and furniture were copied. Much of the revenue of Carthage came from its exploitation of the silver mines of North Africa and southern Spain, begun as early as 800 BC.

From the middle of the 3rd century to the middle of the 2nd century BC, Carthage was engaged in a series of wars with Rome called the Punic Wars. These wars, which are known as the Punic Wars, ended in the complete defeat of Carthage by Rome. When Carthage finally fell in 146 BC, the site was plundered and burned, and all human habitation there was forbidden.

Phoenicians from the city of Tyre dwell all round memphis, and the whole place is known by the name of "the camp of the Tyrians." Within the enclosure stands a temple, which is called that of Venus the Stranger.

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in this site do not necessarily represent nor do they necessarily reflect those of the various authors, editors, and owner of this site. Consequently, parties mentioned or implied cannot be held liable or responsible for such opinions.

This is to certify that this website, is NOT in any way related to, associated with or supports the Phoenician International Research Center,, the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) or any other website or organization foreign or domestic. Consequently, any claims of association with this website are null.

The material in this website was researched, compiled, & designed by Salim George Khalaf as owner, author & editor.
Declared and implied copyright laws must be observed at all time for all text or graphics in compliance with international and domestic legislation.

Contact: Salim George Khalaf, Byzantine Phoenician Descendent
Salim is from Shalim, Phoenician god of dusk, whose place was Urushalim/Jerusalem
"A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia" &mdash Encyclopedia Phoeniciana

This site has been online for more than 22 years.
We have more than 420,000 words.
The equivalent of this website is about 2,200 printed pages.

Polybius, Histories

Hide browse bar Your current position in the text is marked in blue. Click anywhere in the line to jump to another position:

This text is part of:
Search the Perseus Catalog for:
View text chunked by:
Table of Contents:

Carthage Compared with Rome

Rome fresher than Carthage

1 The Carthaginian Suffetes are always called βασιλεῖς by the Greek writers: see 3, 33, note Herod. 7, 165 Diod Sic. 14, 53 . Aristotle [Pol. 2, 11] , in contrasting the Spartan and Carthaginian constitutions, mentions with approval that, unlike the Spartan kings, those at Carthage were elected, and were not confined to a particular family.

2 See Bosworth Smith, Carthage and the Carthaginians, p. 26 ff.

Robert B. Strassler provided support for entering this text.

This text was converted to electronic form by professional data entry, Running heads in Walbank&aposs reprint have been converted to chapter titles, and titles have been added, usually from the marginal notes, for chapters without them. Some pages have notes of the form "line X: A should read B," which I believe are Walbank&aposs they have "resp=fww". Summaries of missing sections are encoded as inline notes with "resp=ess." A very few unidentified quotations are marked in notes with "resp=aem" (the markup editor) Citations are marked using Perseus abbreviations. and has been proofread to a high level of accuracy.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.


Expedition of the Carthaginians into Sicily under Hanno. Grecian Cities in Sicily under the Government of single Chiefs. Application for Interference of Corinth in the Affairs of Sicily. Circumstances of Corinth. Timoleon appointed to manage the, Corinthian Interest in Sicily

F ortunately for the Grecian interest in Sicily, the Carthaginian government, whether prevented by domestic troubles, or ingaged by greater views elsewhere, made no use of the opportunities which the weakness necessarily incident to an administration of a man of the character of the younger Dionysius, and the distractions which followed the expedition of Dion, for prosecuting by arms any views of ambition there. Its policy, meanwhile, or at least the conduct of its officers, was liberal and able. The attachment even of the Grecian towns in the western parts was conciliated and it appears, from Diodorus, that those towns shared little in the ruin, which Plutarch has represented as so universally sweeping over the iland. Since the decay of the great naval force which the first Dionysius raised, the Carthaginians had held complete command of the sea and this, in the divided state of the Greeks, produced by Dion's expedition, would be perhaps more advantageous to a commercial people than any extension of territorial command.

Tribes of Hispania

Along with the following tribes, the people of Hispania had a great deal of influence from Phoenician (Carthaginian), Greek and Roman settlements.

The Lusitani - Were a group of warlike tribes who, despite defeats, resisted Roman domination until their great leader, Viriatus, was killed (139 BC). In the 1st century BCE they joined in supporting Sertorius, against the government in Rome. The Lusitani lived in what is now Portugal.

The Celtiberians or "Celts of Iberia" - In Roman times the Celtiberians were composed of the Arevaci, Belli, Titti, and Lusones. The Arevaci dominated the neighboring Celtiberian tribes from the powerful strongholds at Okilis (modern Medinaceli) and Numantia. The Belli and the Titti were settled in the Jalon valley, the Sierra del Solorio separating them from the Lusones to the northeast.

The Iberians - Settled in the southern and eastern sections of what is now Spain, from which the entire peninsula got its name. Iberian applied to all tribes that settled by the 5th century BC between the Iberus River and the Huelva River. The most important of the Iberian tribes were the Bastetani, who occupied the Almeria and mountainous Granada regions. To the west of the Bastetani were the Turdetani who were the regions most powerful. The Turdetani tribes were located around the Guadalquivir River valley and were greatly influenced by the Greeks in the Emporion and Alicante regions. Towards the southeast greater influence was found from the Malaca, Sexi, and Abdera.

Carthage was founded as a Phoenician colony near modern Tunis. After the fall of its mother-city Tyre in 585 BCE, Carthage became the leader of the Phoenician colonies in the west and founded an informal but powerful empire, which is known for its almost perennial struggle against the Greeks of Sicily and the Romans.

Carthage was an example of one of the earliest forms of democracy. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, wrote on Carthaginian politics and deemed it one of the best governing systems, along with some Greek states. The republic of Carthage is possibly the first democracy in the world,” Belkhodja said.

Causes of the Punic Wars

          The Punic Wars were a chain of three conflicts that started in 264 BC and ended in 146 BC. These wars were clashes between the Roman Republic and the Empire of Carthage. They took place in the western Mediterranean Sea and Sicily, along with small parts of North Africa. Carthage and Rome began as neighboring nations with a friendly treaty, but ended with the total destruction of the Empire of Carthage. You may be wondering what could have happened between them to conclude with so much devastation. Well, the answers are here, in the causes of the Punic Wars.

First Punic War

          To fully understand why these hostilities took place it is necessary to be aware of the background and history of the two rival realms, Rome and Carthage. Carthage was a larger and richer kingdom with an excellent navy, while the Roman Republic had a strong government, strategic military, and a vast number of loyal citizens. Both Rome and Carthage wanted to own the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily. This plentiful land with rich soil could expand either nation’s empires. Also, with Rome’s quickly swelling population of over 400,000 people, they were in desperate need of more living space. Carthage, on the other hand, could use this land to add to its already massive amount of money by farming or using it as an island for fishing and trading throughout the Mediterranean. Tension, which is generally what causes conflicts, was mounting in both of these countries in the 260s. These were the causes of the First Punic War.


          After 23 years of brutal fighting and tens of thousands of lives lost on both sides, Rome came out of the war victorious, due to the leadership of Marcus Atilius Regulus, and gained control and ownership over Sicily. After this struggle had concluded, Rome assembled a treaty to be signed by Carthage. This treaty was very complicated with numerous political consequences. It involved Carthage paying Rome 200 talents for 50 years, totaling 10,000 talents. Also, it stated that all Roman prisoners of war be returned without ransom, but Carthage was charged a hefty fine for each of the prisoners that the Romans had taken captive. Finally, it forbade Carthage from fighting with any of Rome’s allies. When drafting this treaty, the Roman government could not comprehend how much of their population wouldn’t live through the colossal warfare that was to come.

Second Punic War

          50 years after the First Punic War, Carthage had paid off their entire 10,000 talent fee. They then believed that this meant that the treaty was expired. Numidia, an ally of Rome, had frequently raided Carthage because in the treaty Carthage had agreed not to retaliate. Carthage was outraged that the Numidians had been allowed to invade their nation, and in return, Carthage assembled a small army to attack Numidia without Roman permission. This was the opportunity Rome was waiting for. Though many Roman senators wanted harmony, or a good rationalization for confrontation, they couldn’t ignore the fact that Carthage had broken the treaty. This was the reason for war that they wanted. When Rome gained knowledge of this unauthorized violence they initiated the building of the greatest army of ancient times. The primary and most important cause of what is now known as the Second Punic War, or the Hannibalic War, was this pact made 50 years previously, and that the Romans believed that the Carthaginians had broken it.

          It is my belief that if this treaty had not been so complicated and limiting, the Second and Third Punic Wars wouldn’t have been necessary. If they had made it clear in the treaty that their contract did or did not expire in 50 years when the fine of 10,000 talents was paid, there would not have been quarreling about it. Also, if Rome had allowed Carthage freedom with whom they chose to fight, the Romans could not have assumed that Carthage had broken the treaty by attacking Numidia.

          Another cause of the most incredible war of ancient times was Hannibal Barca, considered Rome’s greatest enemy. Hannibal was the son of the commander Hamilcar Barca, a prominent military leader in the first of the three ancient conflicts. As a young boy, Hannibal swore an oath to destroy Rome. Hannibal was the reason that many now refer to the Second Punic War as the Hannibalic War. Carthage placed its hopes and lives in the hands of this brilliant military mastermind.

          Hannibal’s level of ambition was met by only one Roman, Publius Cornelius Scipio. These two great generals fueled each others’ desire for victory. Both constantly plotted their tactics, honing them to what they thought was perfection, absolutely undefeatable. Their persistent aspirations pushed the war to a new intensity. The dreams of these commanders and others like them, such as Quintus Fabius, were a final reason that the Second Punic War begun.  

          “The story is told that Quintus Fabius, the chief Roman envoy, lifted up a fold of his toga and said to the Carthaginian senate, “Here we bring you peace and war which do you choose?” “Give us either,” was the reply. “Then I offer you war,” said Fabius. “And this we accept,” shouted the Carthaginians.” (Morey, Outlines of Roman History)

          The 17 year long explosion of unmatched brutality and genius that followed this bold proclamation smoldered to a halt in 201 BC. Rome, the champion for the second time, was able to tighten their already powerful grip over Carthage.

Third Punic War

          Carthage attempted to construct several small armies throughout the succeeding years, but all were feeble challenges and Rome quickly swept through the land, annihilating them. The Carthaginians concluded that they must ask for peace or be obliterated. With this in mind, Carthage requested that Rome and Carthage have tranquility. Rome accepted their plan, but on a condition. They required 300 well-born Carthaginian children. Though the children they desired were presented to Rome, Rome continued to threaten them with war unless Carthage delivered all over their weapons and armor to them. Carthage granted this also. With Carthage weak, having no weapons and armor, and with Rome keeping 300 children hostage, Rome saw this as a perfect opportunity to strike and finally finish them. Rome asked the Empire of Carthage to do one more grim thing. They invited them to leave their city while the Roman soldiers burned it to the ground.

          Carthage understandable declined, and in 149 BC the last of the three Punic wars begun. Many historians agree that this war was very preventable and I have the same opinion. I believe this because Rome already had a substantial amount of control over the citizens and government of Carthage. Also, the Roman Republic was seeking an excuse and defense for why they needed to terminate the Carthaginians. If they had instead spent their efforts making peace with Carthage the two empires could have helped each other by being trading partners.

          During the course of the war that transpired, the Roman armies demolished the empire of Carthage and the survivors, approximately 50,000, were sold into slavery. The resources and hopes of the Empire of Carthage were completely depleted. Due to the lack of donations paid by citizens and allied nations to the government of Carthage, they were unable to produce sufficient funds to compensate for the high price to continue the naval power and military investment it would take to defeat Rome. However, Rome did have these types of donations and prevailed in the war once again. By 146 BC, three years after the beginning of the Third Punic War, only the crumbling ruins and salted ground of what was once the prosperous Empire of Carthage remained. The Romans sowed salt into the land of Carthage to prevent anything from growing in the future. The last of the three Punic Wars had ended.


          I feel that the Punic Wars were unnecessary and the outcome was appalling. On both the Roman and Carthaginian sides a myriad of presumably dignified, hardworking citizens were killed. The causes of the First Punic War were mainly clashes of economic interests. The main reasons for the Second or Hannibalic War were the ambition and pride of prominent military generals and a poorly configured political agreement. The Third Punic War was entirely avoidable was caused by Rome taking advantage of Carthage while they were weak. These were the main reasons for the Punic Wars.

Watch the video: Kαρχηδόνα - Τυνησία 1ο μέρος (June 2022).