Carthage - Phoenician and Roman Colony in Tunisia

The Phoenician Colony in North Africa

Roman Ampitheater at Carthage
Roman Ampitheater at Carthage. Justin derpa2013

Carthage was a Phoenician colony located in what is now the country of Tunisia about 15 kilometers from the capital city of Tunis. Carthage (originally Qart Hadasht or "new city" in Punic, and spelled variously as Kart Hadasht, Qrthdst, and Carthago) was founded by Phoenicians on the coast of Tunisia in North Africa. The location on a point of land extending into the deepest part of the navigable bay of the Gulf of Tunis, was carefully chosen, at a nearly ideal harbor on the western Mediterranean Sea.


According to Velleicus Paterculus, a first century AD Roman historiographer, Carthage was founded in 814 BC by Phoenician refugees from Tyre. A famous Classical story is that their leader Queen Dido claimed Byrsa hill for the Phoenicians, by getting the locals to agree to giving her the amount of land an ox hide (brysa in Greek) could cover, and then by cutting the hide into a long strip to measure out a much larger location.

Hunt (2009) points out that the location in north Africa on the southern coast of the Mediterranean is a springboard into the trade lanes; its proximity to Sicily (only about 200 kilometers) is very useful; and the land formation of a protected bay sheltered ships in inclement weather. The Phoenicians, as master sailors, had many fortress cities in Levantine ports such as Tyre, Sidon and Byblos, as well as Karpaz in Cyprus, Motya in Sicily and Cartagena in Spain.

Archaeology and Architecture

Intact elements of the Roman occupation are still standing, and excavations have identified archaeological remains from the Punic, Roman, Byzantine and Vandal occupations. Excavations in the suburb of Hamman Lif revealed mosaics dated to the earliest Roman settlement about 50 BC.

The Tophet of Carthage is a ritual cemetery, believed by most scholars to be the location of the remains of human and animal sacrifices.

Carthage was sacked at the end of the Punic Wars by Rome in 146 BC and then colonized again in 105 BC by Augustus.

Francis W. Kelsey is probably the archaeologist most commonly associated with Carthage, for his excavations there in the 1920s. Publication of the excavations at Carthage by the British Mission were published in the 1990s.


Hunt P. 2009. The Locus of Carthage: Compounding Geographical Logic. African Archaeological Review 26(2):137-154.

Hurst HR, and Roskams SP. 1994. Excavations at Carthage: The British Mission. Sheffield: University of Sheffield Press.

Iacovou M. 2008. Cultural and Political Configurations in Iron Age Cyprus: The Sequel to a Protohistoric Episode. American Journal of Archaeology 112(4):625-657.

Wilson RJA. 1996. Carthage. In: Fagan B, editor. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Also Known As: Kart Hadasht, Qrthdst ('New Town'), Carthago