Ancient Carthage was founded in 814 BC by colonists from the Phoenician city of Fez. According to an ancient legend, Carthage was founded by Queen Elissa (Dido), who was forced to flee from Fez after her brother Pygmalion, king of Tyre, killed her husband Sychaeus in order to seize his wealth.
Its name in Phoenician “Kart-Hadasht” means “New City”, perhaps in contrast to the more ancient colony of Utica.
According to another legend about the founding of the city, Elissa was allowed to occupy as much land as a bull’s hide would cover. She did a rather clever thing-taking possession of a large plot of land, cutting the skin into narrow straps. Therefore, the citadel built on this place was called Birsa (meaning “skin”).
Carthage was originally a small city, not unlike the other Phoenician colonies on the shores of the Mediterranean, except for the essential fact that it was not part of the Tyrian empire, although it retained spiritual ties with the mother country.
The city’s economy was based primarily on intermediary trade. The craft was poorly developed and did not differ in its main technical and aesthetic characteristics from the Eastern one. There was no agriculture. The Carthaginians had no possessions beyond the narrow space of the city itself, and they had to pay tribute to the local population for the land on which the city stood. The political system of Carthage was originally a monarchy, and the founder of the city was at the head of the state. With her death, probably the only member of the royal family who was in Carthage disappeared. As a result, a republic was established in Carthage, and power passed to the ten “princeps” who had previously surrounded the queen.
In the first half of the seventh century BC, a new stage in the history of Carthage begins. It is possible that many new settlers from the metropolis moved there because of the fear of an Assyrian invasion, and this led to the expansion of the city, which is attested by archaeology. This strengthened it and allowed it to move to more active trade — in particular, Carthage replaces Phoenicia proper in trade with Etruria. All this leads to significant changes in Carthage, the external expression of which is the change in the forms of ceramics, the revival of old Canaanite traditions, already left in the East, the emergence of new, original forms of art and craft products.
Already at the beginning of the second stage of its history, Carthage becomes such a significant city that it can begin its own colonization. The first colony was established by the Carthaginians around the middle of the seventh century BC on the island of Ebes off the eastern coast of Spain. Apparently, the Carthaginians did not want to oppose the interests of the mother country in Southern Spain and were looking for workarounds to Spanish silver and tin. However, Carthaginian activity in the area soon ran into the rivalry of the Greeks, who settled in the early sixth century BC in southern Gaul and eastern Spain. The first round of the Carthaginian-Greek wars was left to the Greeks, who, although they did not drive the Carthaginians out of Ebes, managed to paralyze this important point.
The failure in the extreme west of the Mediterranean forced the Carthaginians to turn to its center. They established a series of colonies to the east and west of their city and subdued the old Phoenician colonies in Africa. Having strengthened, the Carthaginians could no longer tolerate such a situation that they paid tribute to the Libyans for their own territory. The attempt to get rid of tribute is associated with the name of the general Malchus, who, having won victories in Africa, freed Carthage from tribute.
A little later, in the 60-50s of the VI century BC, the same Malchus fought in Sicily, the result of which was, apparently, the subjugation of the Phoenician colonies on the island. And after the victories in Sicily, Malchus crossed to Sardinia, but there he was defeated. This defeat was the reason for the Carthaginian oligarchs, who were too afraid of the victorious general, to sentence him to exile. In response, Malchus returned to Carthage and seized power. However, he was soon defeated and executed. The first place in the state was taken by Magon.
Magon and his successors had to face difficult challenges. To the west of Italy, the Greeks established themselves, threatening the interests of both the Carthaginians and some Etruscan cities. With one of these cities, Caere, Carthage was in particularly close economic and cultural contact. In the middle of the fifth century BC, the Carthaginians and the Tseretans formed an alliance against the Greeks who had settled in Corsica. Around 535 BC, at the Battle of Alalia, the Greeks defeated the combined Carthaginian-Ceretanian fleet, but suffered such heavy losses that they were forced to leave Corsica. The Battle of Alalia contributed to a clearer distribution of spheres of influence in the center of the Mediterranean. Sardinia was included in the Carthaginian sphere, which was confirmed by the treaty of Carthage with Rome in 509 BC. However, the Carthaginians were never able to completely capture Sardinia. A whole system of fortresses, ramparts, and ditches separated them from the territory of the free Sardis.
The Carthaginians, led by rulers and generals from the Magonid family, fought hard on all fronts: in Africa, Spain and Sicily. In Africa, they subdued all the Phoenician colonies there, including ancient Utica, which had long refused to become part of their power, waged war with the Greek colony of Cyrene, located between Carthage and Egypt, repulsed the attempt of the Spartan prince Dorieus to establish himself east of Carthage, and drove the Greeks out of their cities that had arisen to the west of the capital. They also launched an offensive against the local tribes. In a stubborn struggle, the Magonids managed to subdue them. Part of the conquered territory was directly subordinated to Carthage, forming its agricultural territory-Chora. The other part was left to the Libyans, but was subject to the strict control of the Carthaginians, and the Libyans had to pay heavy taxes to their masters and serve in their army. The heavy Carthaginian yoke more than once caused powerful uprisings of the Libyans.
In Spain, at the end of the sixth century BC, the Carthaginians took advantage of the Tartessian attack on Hades to intervene in the affairs of the Iberian Peninsula under the pretext of protecting their half-blood city. They captured Hades, which did not want to peacefully submit to its “savior”, which was followed by the collapse of the Tartessian power. The Carthaginians in the early fifth century BC established control over its remnants. However, an attempt to extend it to Southeastern Spain provoked strong Greek resistance. In the naval battle of Artemisia, the Carthaginians were defeated and were forced to abandon their attempt. But the strait at the Pillars of Hercules remained under their rule.
At the end of the VI — beginning of the V century BC, Sicily became the scene of a fierce Carthaginian-Greek battle. Having failed in Africa, Dorieus planned to establish himself in the west of Sicily, but was defeated by the Carthaginians and killed.
His death was the occasion for the Syracusan tyrant Gelon to go to war with Carthage. In 480 BC, the Carthaginians, having entered into an alliance with Xerxes, who was advancing on Balkan Greece at that time, and taking advantage of the difficult political situation in Sicily, where some of the Greek cities opposed Syracuse and went to an alliance with Carthage, launched an offensive on the Greek part of the island. But in the fierce battle of Himera they were completely defeated, and their general Hamilcar, the son of Mago, was killed. As a result, the Carthaginians barely held on to the previously captured small part of Sicily.
The Magonids also attempted to establish themselves on the Atlantic coasts of Africa and Europe. To this end, two expeditions were undertaken in the first half of the fifth century BC.:
Thus, in the middle of the V century BC, the Carthaginian state was formed, which at that time became the largest and one of the strongest states of the Western Mediterranean. It consisted of —
This power was a complex phenomenon. Its core was Carthage itself, with its territory directly subordinate to it — Hora. Hora was located directly outside the city walls and was divided into separate territorial districts, governed by a special official, each district had several communities.
With the expansion of the Carthaginian empire, the Chora sometimes included non-African possessions, such as the part of Sardinia captured by the Carthaginians. Another component of the power was the Carthaginian colonies, which supervised the surrounding lands, were in some cases centers of trade and craft, and served as a reservoir for absorbing the “surplus” population. They had certain rights, but were under the control of a special resident sent from the capital.
The empire included the old colonies of Tyre. Some of them (Hades, Utica, Kossura) were officially considered equal with the capital, while others legally occupied a lower position. But the official position and true role in the power of these cities did not always coincide. Thus, Utica was almost completely subordinate to Carthage (which later led more than once to the fact that this city, under favorable conditions for it, took an anti-Carthaginian position), and the legally inferior cities of Sicily, in whose loyalty the Carthaginians were particularly interested, enjoyed significant privileges.
The empire consisted of tribes and cities that were subject to Carthage. These were the Libyans outside of Chora and the subordinate tribes of Sardinia and Spain. They were also in different positions. In their internal affairs, the Carthaginians needlessly did not interfere, limiting themselves to taking hostages, enlisting in military service, and a rather heavy tax.
The Carthaginians also ruled over the “allies”. They were managed independently, but were deprived of foreign policy initiative and had to supply contingents to the Carthaginian army. Their attempt to evade submission to the Carthaginians was regarded as a rebellion. Some of them were also subject to taxes, and their loyalty was guaranteed by hostages. But the farther away from the borders of the state, the more independent the local kings, dynasties and tribes became. All this complex conglomerate of cities, peoples, and tribes was overlaid with a grid of territorial divisions.
The creation of the empire led to significant changes in the economic and social structure of Carthage. With the advent of land holdings, where the estates of the aristocrats were located, a variety of agriculture began to develop in Carthage. It gave even more products to the Carthaginian merchants (although often the merchants themselves were rich landowners), and this stimulated the further growth of Carthaginian trade. Carthage is becoming one of the largest shopping centers in the Mediterranean.
There is a large number of subordinate population, located at different levels of the social ladder. At the very top of this ladder stood the Carthaginian slave-owning aristocracy, which formed the top of the Carthaginian citizenship — the “people of Carthage”, and at the very bottom — the slaves and the groups of dependent population close to them. Between these extremes, there was a whole gamut of foreigners, “Meteks”, so-called” Sidonian men ” and other categories of incomplete, semi-dependent and dependent population, including residents of subordinate territories.
There was a protopostavleniye of Carthaginian citizenship to the rest of the population of the state, including slaves. The civil collective itself consisted of two groups —
Despite the division into two groups, the citizens acted together as a close-knit natural association of oppressors, interested in exploiting all the other inhabitants of the power.
The material basis of the civil collective was community property, which appeared in two guises: the property of the entire community (for example, an arsenal, shipyards, etc.) and the property of individual citizens (land, workshops, shops, ships, except for state, especially military, etc.). Along with the community property, there was no other sector. Even the property of the temples was placed under the control of the community.
In theory, the civil collective also had the full power of the state. We do not know exactly what positions were held by the Malchus who seized power and the Magonids who came after him to rule the state (sources in this regard are very contradictory). In fact, their position seems to have resembled that of the Greek tyrants. Under the leadership of the Magonids, the Carthaginian power was actually created. But then it seemed to the Carthaginian aristocrats that this family had become “too heavy for the freedom of the state”, and the grandsons of Mago were expelled. The expulsion of the Magonids in the middle of the fifth century BC. This led to the establishment of a republican form of government.
The highest power in the republic, at least officially, and at critical moments, in fact, belonged to the People’s Assembly, which embodied the sovereign will of the civil collective. In fact, the leadership was carried out by oligarchic councils and magistrates elected from among the rich and noble citizens, primarily two sufets, in whose hands the executive power was held for a year.
The people could only intervene in the affairs of government in the event of disagreements among the rulers, such as arose during periods of political crises. The people also had the right to choose, although very limited, councillors and magistrates. In addition, the “people of Carthage” were tamed in every possible way by the aristocrats, who gave them a share of the benefits of the existence of the power: not only the “powerful”, but also the “small” profited from the maritime and commercial power of Carthage, from the “plebs” people were recruited to supervise subordinate communities and tribes, a certain benefit was given by participation in wars, because with a significant mercenary army, citizens were still not completely separated from military service, they were also represented at various levels of the land army, from the rank and file to the commander, and especially in the navy.
Thus, in Carthage, a self-sufficient civil collective was formed, with sovereign power and based on communal property, next to which there was neither a royal authority standing over citizenship, nor an extra-communal sector in socio-economic terms. Therefore, we can say that here there was a polis, that is, such a form of economic, social and political organization of citizens, which is characteristic of the ancient version of the ancient society. Comparing the situation in Carthage with the situation in the metropolis, it should be noted that the cities of Phoenicia itself, with all the development of commodity economy, remained within the eastern version of the development of ancient society, and Carthage became an ancient state.
The formation of the Carthaginian polis and the formation of the state were the main content of the second stage of the history of Carthage. The Carthaginian power arose during the fierce struggle of the Carthaginians with both the local population and the Greeks. The wars with the latter were clearly imperialist in nature, for they were fought for the seizure and exploitation of foreign territories and peoples.
The second half of the fifth century BC marks the beginning of the third stage of Carthaginian history. The power was already established,and now it was about its expansion and attempts to establish hegemony in the Western Mediterranean. The main obstacle to this was originally the same Western Greeks. In 409 BC, the Carthaginian general Hannibal landed in Motia, and a new round of wars in Sicily began, which lasted with interruptions for more than a century and a half.
Initially, success leaned towards Carthage. The Carthaginians subdued the Elymians and Sicanians of western Sicily and launched an offensive against Syracuse, the most powerful Greek city on the island and the most implacable enemy of Carthage. In 406, the Carthaginians besieged Syracuse, and only the plague that began in the Carthaginian camp saved the Syracusans. The peace of 405 BC secured the western part of Sicily to Carthage. However, this success proved to be fragile, and the border between Carthaginian and Greek Sicily always remained pulsating, moving back to the east, then to the west as the success of one side or the other.
The failures of the Carthaginian army almost immediately responded to the aggravation of internal contradictions in Carthage, including powerful uprisings of Libyans and slaves. The end of the V — first half of the IV century BC was a time of sharp clashes within the country, both between individual groups of aristocrats, and, apparently, between the “plebs” involved in these clashes and aristocratic groups. At the same time, the slaves rose up against the masters, and the subordinate peoples against the Carthaginians. And only with calming down within the state, the Carthaginian government was able to in the middle of the IV century BC. resume external expansion.
Then the Carthaginians established control over the south-east of Spain, which they unsuccessfully tried to do a century and a half ago. In Sicily, they launched a new offensive against the Greeks and achieved a number of successes, once again finding themselves under the walls of Syracuse and even capturing their port. The Syracusans were forced to turn to their metropolis of Corinth for help, and an army arrived from there, led by the able general Timoleontos. The commander of the Carthaginian forces in Sicily, Hanno, failed to prevent the landing of Timoleon and was recalled to Africa, while his successor was defeated and cleared the harbor of Syracuse. Hanno, returning to Carthage, decided to use the situation that arose in this regard and seize power. After the coup failed, he fled the city, armed 20,000 slaves, and called the Libyans and Moors to arms. The rebellion was defeated, Hanno and all his relatives were executed, and only his son Gisgon managed to escape death and was expelled from Carthage.
However, soon the turn of affairs in Sicily forced the Carthaginian government to turn to Gisgon. The Carthaginians were severely defeated by Timoleon, and a new army was sent there, led by Gisgon. Gisgon formed an alliance with some of the tyrants of the Greek cities of the island and defeated some detachments of the army of Timoleon. This made it possible in 339 BC to conclude a relatively favorable peace for Carthage, according to which he retained his possessions in Sicily. After these events, the Gannonid family for a long time became the most influential in Carthage, although there was no question of any tyranny, as was the case with the Magonids.
The wars with the Syracusan Greeks went on with varying success. At the end of the fourth century BC, the Greeks even landed in Africa, threatening Carthage directly. The Carthaginian general Bomilcar decided to seize the opportunity and seize power. But the citizens turned against him, suppressing the rebellion. And soon the Greeks were repulsed from the Carthaginian walls and returned to Sicily. The attempt of the Epirus king Pyrrhus to oust the Carthaginians from Sicily in the 70s of the third century BC was also unsuccessful. All these endless and tedious wars showed that neither the Carthaginians nor the Greeks had the strength to take Sicily from each other.
The situation changed in the 60s of the third century BC, when a new predator, Rome, intervened in this struggle. In 264, the first war between Carthage and Rome began. In 241. it ended with the complete loss of Sicily.
This outcome of the war exacerbated the contradictions in Carthage and gave rise to an acute internal crisis there. Its most striking manifestation was a powerful uprising, in which hired soldiers took part, dissatisfied with the non-payment of the money owed to them, the local population, who sought to throw off the heavy Carthaginian oppression, slaves who hated their masters. The revolt unfolded in the immediate vicinity of Carthage, probably also covering Sardinia and Spain. The fate of Carthage hung in the balance. With great difficulty and at the cost of incredible brutality, Hamilcar, who had previously become famous in Sicily, managed to put down this revolt, and then went to Spain, continuing the “pacification” of the Carthaginian possessions. Sardinia, on the other hand, had to be given up, ceding it to Rome, which threatened a new war.
The second aspect of the crisis was the growing role of citizenship. The ordinary masses, to whom in theory the sovereign power belonged, now sought to turn theory into practice. A democratic “party” emerged, led by Hasdrubal. The split also occurred among the oligarchy, in which two groups stood out.
A wide circle of citizens were also interested in revenge, for whom the influx of wealth from the subordinate lands and from the monopoly of maritime trade was beneficial. So there was an alliance between the Barkids and the Democrats, sealed by the marriage of Hasdrubal with the daughter of Hamilcar. Relying on the support of democracy, Hamilcar managed to overcome the machinations of his enemies and go to Spain. In Spain, Hamilcar and his successors from the Barkid family, including his son-in-law Hasdrubal, greatly expanded the Carthaginian possessions.
After the overthrow of the Magonids, the ruling circles of Carthage did not allow the unification of military and civil functions in one hand. However, during the war with Rome, they began to practice similar practices, following the example of the Hellenistic states, but not at the national level, as it was under the Magonids, but at the local level. Such was the power of the Barkids in Spain. But the Barkids exercised their powers on the Iberian Peninsula independently. The strong reliance on the army, the close ties with the democratic circles in Carthage itself, and the special relations established by the Barkids with the local population, contributed to the emergence of a semi-independent Barkid power in Spain, essentially of the Hellenistic type.
Already Hamilcar considered Spain as a springboard for a new war with Rome. His son Hannibal provoked this war in 218 BC. The Second Punic War began. Hannibal himself went to Italy, leaving his brother in Spain. Military operations unfolded on several fronts, and the Carthaginian generals (especially Hannibal) won a number of victories. But the victory in the war remained with Rome.
The peace of 201 BC deprived Carthage of the navy, all non-African possessions and forced the Carthaginians to recognize the independence of Numidia in Africa, to the king of which the Carthaginians had to return all the possessions of his ancestors (this article placed a “time bomb” under Carthage), and the Carthaginians themselves had no right to wage war without the permission of Rome. This war not only deprived Carthage of its position as a great power, but also significantly limited its sovereignty. The third stage of Carthaginian history, which began with such happy omens, ended with the bankruptcy of the Carthaginian aristocracy, which had so long ruled the republic.
At this stage, there was no radical transformation of the economic, social and political life of Carthage. But certain changes still took place. In the IV century BC, Carthage began to mint its own coin. There is a certain Hellenization of a part of the Carthaginian aristocracy, and two cultures arise in Carthaginian society, as is typical of the Hellenistic world. As in the Hellenistic states, in some cases, civil and military power is concentrated in the same hands. In Spain, a semi-independent power of the Barkids appeared, whose leaders felt their kinship with the then rulers of the Middle East, and where a system of relations between the conquerors and the local population appeared, similar to that existing in the Hellenistic states.
Carthage had considerable areas of land suitable for cultivation. In contrast to other Phoenician city-states, Carthage developed large-scale agricultural plantation farms, where the labor of numerous slaves was exploited. The plantation economy of Carthage played a very important role in the economic history of the ancient world, since it influenced the development of the same type of slave economy, first in Sicily, and then in Italy.
In the sixth century B.C., or perhaps in the fifth century B.C., there lived in Carthage a writer and theorist of plantation slaveholding, Mago, whose great work was so famous that the Roman army besieging Carthage in the middle of the second century B.C. was ordered to preserve this work. And it was indeed saved. By decree of the Roman Senate, Mago’s work was translated from the Phoenician language into Latin, and then was used by all the agricultural theorists of Rome. For their plantation economy, for their craft workshops, and for their galleys, the Carthaginians needed an enormous number of slaves, selected by them from among the prisoners of war and purchased.
The defeat in the second war with Rome opened the last stage of Carthaginian history. Carthage lost its power, and its possessions were reduced to a small district near the city itself. The possibilities of exploiting the non-Carthaginian population have disappeared. Large groups of dependent and semi-dependent populations fell out of the control of the Carthaginian aristocracy. The agricultural territory was sharply reduced, and trade again became predominant.
If earlier not only the nobility, but also the “plebs” received certain benefits from the existence of the power, now they have disappeared. This, of course, caused an acute social and political crisis, which now went beyond the existing institutions.
In 195 BC, Hannibal, having become a sufet, carried out a reform of the state system, which struck at the very foundations of the former system with its domination of the aristocracy and opened the way to practical power, on the one hand, to the broad strata of the civilian population, and on the other — to demagogues who could take advantage of the movement of these strata. Under these conditions, a fierce political struggle unfolded in Carthage, reflecting sharp contradictions within the civil collective. At first, the Carthaginian oligarchy managed to take revenge, with the help of the Romans, forcing Hannibal to flee without completing the task he had begun. But the oligarchs could not keep their power intact.
By the middle of the second century BC, three political factions were fighting in Carthage. In the course of this struggle, Hasdrubal, who led the anti-Roman group, became the leading figure, and his position led to the establishment of a regime like the Greek junior tyranny. The rise of Hasdrubal startled the Romans. In 149 BC, Rome began the third war with Carthage. This time, for the Carthaginians, it was no longer a question of domination over certain subjects or hegemony, but of their own life and death. The war was practically reduced to the siege of Carthage. Despite the heroic resistance of the citizens, in 146 BC. the city fell and was destroyed. Most of the citizens died in the war, and the rest were taken into slavery by the Romans. The history of Phoenician Carthage is over.
The history of Carthage shows the process of transformation of the eastern city into an ancient state, the formation of a polis. And having become a polis, Carthage also experienced the crisis of this form of organization of ancient society. At the same time, it should be emphasized that we do not know what the way out of the crisis could be here, since the natural course of events was interrupted by Rome, which dealt a fatal blow to Carthage. The Phoenician cities of the metropolis, which developed under different historical conditions, remained within the eastern version of the ancient world and, having become part of the Hellenistic states, already in their composition moved to a new historical path.
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