- William Nassau Weech,
- Brian Herbert Warmington
- and R. J. A. Wilson
- Near East
- Roman Material Culture
Carthage was founded on part of a large peninsula which stretched eastwards from lagoons into the gulf of Tunis; the isthmus linking it to the mainland further west is c. 5 km. (3 mi.) wide at its narrowest point. Scanty remains of houses of the last quarter of the 8th cent. bce have been found, at one point up to 350 m. (380 yds.) from the shore, suggesting that the settlement then was already of considerable size; but the original nucleus, if there really was a colony here a century earlier to correspond with the traditional foundation date, has yet to be found. Little is known of the archaic urban layout, but surface evidence and cemeteries to the north and west suggest that it covered at least 55 ha. (136 acres). Pottery kilns and metal-working quarters have been identified on its fringes, and the tophet, where child sacrifice to Baal and Tanit took place, has been located on the south; this was in continuous use from the later 8th cent. down to 146 bce. Substitution of animal for child was practised from the start: one in three archaic sacrifices in the sector excavated in the 1970s were of animals, declining to one in ten in the 5th/3rd cent. bce.
In the late 5th cent. massive fortifications, 5.20 m. (17 ft.) wide, were erected with projecting towers and gates; Livy (Epit. 51) says they were 32 km. (20 mi.) long. Substantial houses, some with peristyles and simple terrazzo or tessellated floors, are known from the Hellenistic period, when the city reached its greatest extent: a new area of housing was laid out on the slopes of the Byrsa hill soon after 200 bce, covering an archaic necropolis. Also to the last Punic phase belong the two artificial harbours to the south near the tophet, one rectangular (later adapted into an elongated hexagon), the other circular around a central island. The first was the commercial harbour, and the latter housed the warships of the Carthaginian navy: Appian reports a ship-shed capacity of 220 vessels here. Little is known of the disposition of the harbour(s) at an earlier date.
Roman Carthage has suffered greatly from stone-robbing, but the regular Augustan street grid centred on the Byrsa hill is known in detail, as well as the position of the principal public buildings, including the amphitheatre on the western outskirts, the circus on the south-west, the theatre, and the odeum. The 2nd cent. ce saw the apogee of the city's prosperity: a massive forum and basilica, the biggest known outside Rome, was erected on the Byrsa in Antonine times, and also Antonine is the huge and lavish bath-house down by the sea, designed on a symmetrical layout like the great imperial baths of Rome. It was probably to supply it that Carthage's 132-km. (82-mi.) aqueduct was constructed, the longest anywhere in the Roman world. The forum on the Byrsa is unlikely to have been the only one: recent work (since 1990) near the coast midway between the Antonine baths and the harbours, alongside the cardo maximus, has revealed part of what is probably the forum of the Augustan city; a Punic temple, perhaps that of Apollo mentioned by Appian as bordering the Punic agora, has been located below. The 4th cent. and later saw a rash of extramural church-building, and c.425 a massive new defensive circuit was erected on the landward side against the Vandal threat; despite it the city fell easily to the Vandals in 439. Several houses of the 5th and 6th cents. are known, when Carthage continued to prosper: survey work in the Carthaginian hinterland shows rural settlement at its densest in the 5th and 6th cents., matching and even outstripping that of the 2nd and 3rd cents.
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Gracchan and Augustan colonization:
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- Results of the UNESCO-sponsored excavations since 1973: J. G. Pedley (ed.), New Light on Ancient Carthage (1980).
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- S. Lancel (ed.), Byrsa 1–2 (1979–82).
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- A. Ennabli (ed.), Pour sauver Carthage (1992).
- Hinterland: J. A. Greene, Ager and Ἁrōsōt: Rural Settlement and Agrarian History in the Carthaginian Countryside (1990).