The dawn of recorded history found Lebanon inhabited by a people who it would seem called themselves the Kena'ani (Akkadian: Kinahna), "Canaanites". Canaan was therefore earliest native name applied to the land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. In Hebrew the word kena'ani has the secondary, and apt, meaning of "merchant", a term which well characterizes the Phoenicians because the nature of the country and its location, forced the Phoenicians to turn to the sea, where they engaged in trade and navigation. The words Phoenicia and Phoenicians are thought to come from the Greek word meaning purple and refers to those Canaanites which traded in purple cloth and dye with the Greeks and lived in an area which had slightly larger borders than modern day Lebanon. It is also thought the word Phoenicia may have been derived from Phoenix, the son of Agenor, King of Tyre.
Phoenicia consisted of a mainly urban population living in a string of coastal towns and a heavily forested and mountainous hinterland. These coastal towns were to grow into cities and then into city-states. The Phoenician city-states were Ugarit, Aradus, Tripoli, Batrun, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre. Each of the coastal cities was an independent kingdom and had an elected council of elders to check the power of the king, these councils are the first example of democracy in history. Common interests made these cities form a Phoenician federation under the leadership of one of its cities. In the 16th century BC Ugarit headed the federation, Byblos in the 14th, Sidon in the 12th, Tyre in the 11th to the 9th and Tripoli in the 5th.
These ancient Lebanese left a monumental legacy. They invented the alphabet.
The Phoenician invention of the alphabet is without doubt the greatest
invention in the history of mankind. This achievement alone guaranties
them a unique place in history making them the world's greatest benefactors,
but the story didn't end there. The city of Byblos gave its name to the
Bible and the Tyrian princess Europa gave her name to Europe. The Phoenicians
excelled in producing textiles, in carving ivory, in working with metal,
stone and wood, and above all in making glass which they also invented.
They even built the temple of Solomon and mined tin in Cornwall. Masters
of the art of navigation, their ships of cedar ruled the seas, they were
the first people of sail past the 'Pillars of Hercules' and discover Atlantic,
another milestone in the history of man. The Phoenicians discovered the
North Star which the Greeks were to name the Phoenician Star in honour
of those that discovered it. and they founded colonies wherever they went
in the Mediterranean such as Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia,
Marseilles, Cadiz, and Carthage. Furthermore, their ships circumnavigated
Africa a thousand years before those of the Portuguese. Amongst other evidence,
Phoenician inscriptions have been found in Brazil to suggest that the Phoenicians
crossed the Atlantic thousands of years before Columbus. With the establishment
of trade routes to Europe and western Asia, Phoenicia was to acquire
wealth and position that rivalled Rome.
Byblos (Jbail), the oldest city in the world, goes back at least 9000 years. The rise and fall of nearly two dozen successive levels of human culture on this site makes it one of the richest archaeological areas in the world. Millennia ago Byblos was the commercial and religious capital of the Phoenician coast. Evidence of trade between Lebanon and Egypt goes back to pre-dynastic times. Before the Greeks knew it as the centre for papyrus trade from which books were made, the Egyptians knew it as a port from which cedar wood could be obtained. Mount Lebanon provided the treeless valley of the Nile with wood for palaces, temples, and boats. The area around Byblos has the narrowest coastal plain and un some places nearby the Mount Lebanon falls directly into the sea, facilitating the transport of cedar wood. Byblos also gave its name to the Bible and it was here that the first linear alphabet, ancestor of our alphabet, was invented. In 1922 the oldest alphabetic inscription was found on the 13th century B.C. coffin of King Ahiram. On the elaborate sarcophagus was engraved:
"Itobaal, son of Ahiram, King of Jbail, made this sarcophagus for Ahiram, his father, as his dwelling for eternity. And if king among kings or a governor among governors, raises war against Jbail and lays open this sarcophagus, the sceptre of his power will be broken, the seat of his royalty will be overthrown, and peace will reign again in Jbail. As for his posterity they shall be cut off by the sword"
Not without reason it can be claimed that this is the most important sentence ever recorded. They mark the beginning of a new era. These 22 Phoenician magic signs are considered to be the greatest invention of man. These ragged shapes allowed the Hebrews to record their immortal ethical and religious contributions and the Romans their legal heritage. Without the alphabet we may not have preserved Homer and Shakespeare's plays may have been acted but not recorded, even Gibbon may be said to owe everything to the people of Byblos.
Religious activity in Byblos centred around Adon Tammouz (Adonis in Greek) god of fertility and Ishtar (Aphrodite) the Lady of Byblos. According to legend, Tammouz was out hunting high up in Mount Lebanon at Afqa, the source of the Adonis river (Nahr Brahim) which meets the sea not far from Byblos, when he was killed by a wild boar. His blood drained into the river and turned it red. Ishtar, the lover of Tammouz, in her sadness and anger brought about winter made all plant life on earth languish. The other Gods allowed Tammouz out of the underworld for a few months each year to be with Ishtar. In return, Ishtar would allow the plants to blossom and the sun to shine. During the feast of Adonis, signalled by the Adonis river turning red, the women of Byblos, wild with joy on the return of Tammouz to Ishtar would sacrifice their virginity at the Ishtar's temples. To this day the river turns red but geologists have spoilt the story by pointing out that the red colour is not a result of blood but the red soil of Mount Lebanon in the Afqa region being washed into the river. The Phoenicians planted the Adonis cult throughout their colonies and in Lebanon it survived for centuries after Christ.
In the modern town, 36 kilometres north of Beirut, the Roman-medieval
port remains and is still in use and nearby are the extensive excavated
remains of the city's past which stretch from the Stone Age to the Crusader
Sidon is said to mean "fishing" or "hunting" and started life as a small fishing community around 3000 BC and became one of the three great Phoenician city-states, rivalling Byblos and Tyre as a naval power. Not only did Sidon make purple dye but it was also the centre of the glass making industry. Sidonian artisans were famed in antiquity and were extolled by Homer, his Iliad refers to 'embroidered robes, rich in the work of Sidonian women'. Sidon is perhaps the second oldest of the cities and its inhabitants founded Tyre. The author of Genesis 10 : 15 thought Sidon was the first born of Canaan and Joshua 19 : 28 styled it 'the great Zidon'.
The main god of Sidon was Eshmoun, the god of healing. A mosaic in the temple of Eshmoun depicting the god holding a staff around which a snake was wrapped gives us the modern international symbol for medicine.
Although Sidon like most other Phoenician cities tried not to get involved in military conflict preferring commerce to war, it was destroyed on more than one occasion. In 675 BC the city confronted the Mesopotamian Esarhaddon and was utterly devastated. The stones of its walls were even thrown into the see and its king was beheaded. Sidon was able to recover and under the Persians in Darius The Great's time, towards the end of the 6th century BC, it was the capital of the fifth Persian satrapy and a showplace of buildings and gardens. The Greco-Persian wars have been characterized as a contest between Phoenician and Greek naval powers. In the struggle between these two powers over two hundred Phoenician ships participated and even took part in world renowned battles such as Miletus (494 BC) and Salamis (480 BC). Sidon supplied a great many of these ships and their crews. For the Greco-Persian wars, a Greek historian awarded a prize of valour to the Athenians on the Greek side and 'to the Sidonians on the side of the barbarians'. Before the battle at Salamis, Xerxes held a council of war. His high esteem for the king of Sidon is seen by the place assigned to him at the meeting. Herodotus (8.67) tells us "First in place is the king of Sidon and next the king of Tyre." Among the kings and princes of Phoenicia who sail with Xerxes, Herodotus (7.98) records, were Tetramnestus, son of Anysus of Sidon, and Matten, son of Sirom (Hiram) of Tyre.
By 360 BC Greco-Phoenician relations had entered a new phase and the Phoenicians began to resent Persian rule. The Phoenician cities lead by Sidon declared independence which resulted in Artaxerxes III attacking Sidon. With 300,000 infantry, 30,000 horse, and 300 ships he moved against Sidon. Five hundred Sidonian notables tried to make peace but were executed by the Persian emperor, as was Tennes the king of Sidon. The people would not allow Sidon to fall into Persian hands and resolved to die as free men so they set fire to the city and the ships in the harbour. The Sidonians shut themselves in their homes and waited to be consumed by the flames. 40,000 are said to have thus perished and the few that survived were carried away into captivity.
Once the mistress of the sea, the city was now a heap of ashes. For
the second time in 300 years it had been wiped off the map. Although it
was rebuilt, Sidon would never again regain its former glory and
for the years that followed it lead a humble life. The town was conquered
by the Crusaders after a famous siege lasting 47 days, then retaken by
Saladin 70 years later. The Castle of the Sea, built by Crusaders in 1228,
guards the entry to the harbour. The Great Mosque, the ruins of the castle
of St Louis, the Phoenician temple to the god Eshmoun, and the burial grounds
with their catacombs and underground chambers, are all relics of Sidon's
Tyre was a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000 BC onwards through the Roman period.
Tyre, built on an island and the neighbouring mainland, was probably originally founded as a colony of Sidon to the north and was mentioned in Egyptian records of the 14th century BC as being subject to Egypt. It became independent when Egyptian influence in Phoenicia declined and soon surpassed Sidon as a trade centre, developing commercial relations with all parts of the Mediterranean world. In the 10th and 9th centuries Tyre probably enjoyed primacy over the other cities of Phoenicia and was ruled by kings whose power was limited by a merchant oligarchy. In the 9th century BC colonists from Tyre founded in northern Africa the city of Carthage, which later became Rome's principal rival in the West. The town is frequently mentioned in the Bible as having had close ties with Israel. Hiram, King of Tyre, constructed two ports and a temple on the mainland sector of the city. Hiram also furnished building materials for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem which the Tyrian built (10th century). The notorious Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, was the daughter of Ethbaal "King of Tyre and Sidon".
Greek mythology holds that the daughter of King Agenor of Tyre, Europa, was loved and abducted by Zeus. The king sent out his four sons, Phoenix, Cadmus, Cilix, and Thasus in serach of her with orders not to return until she had been found. Europa and Zeus had three sons, Rhadamanthys, Minos, and Sarpedon. One of her children, Rhadamanthys, became one of the judges of the dead in the underworld, Minos was king of Crete for whom Daedalus built the labyrinth to contain the Minotaur, and Sarpedon was king of Lycia and was slain by Patroclus while fighting on behalf of the Trojans. Europa's brothers, unable to find her, were to settle in foreign lands, Cilix in Cilicia , Thasus in the island of Thasos, Cadmus in various places including the island of Thera, before settling in Boeotia where he founded Thebes and named the entire continent Europa after his sister. In this way many stettlements were founded and the Alphabet was distributed. From (5.58-61) Herodotus, The Histories, we find:
'The Phoenicians who came with Cadmus - amongst whom were the Gephyraei - introduced into Greece, after their settlement in the country, a number of accomplishments, of which the most important was writing, an art till then, I think, unknown to the Greeks. At first they used the same characters as all the other Phoenicians, but as time went on, and they changed their language, they also changed the shape of their letters. At that period most of the Greeks in the neighbourhood were Ionians; they were taught these letters by the Phoenicians and adopted them, with a few alterations, for their own use, continuing to refer to them as the Phoenician characters - as was only right, as the Phoenicians had introduced them.'
For much of the 8th and 7th centuries the town was subject to Assyria, and for almost 13 years (585-573) it successfully withstood a prolonged siege by the Babylonian King Nebuchadrezzar II. Between 538 and 332 it was ruled by the Achaemenian Kings of Persia. In this period it lost its hegemony in Phoenicia but continued to flourish. Probably the most famous episode in the history of Tyre was its resistance to the army of the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, who took it after a seven-month siege in 332, using floating batteries and building a causeway to gain access to the island. After its capture, 10,000 of the inhabitants were put to death, 2000 being crucified on the beach, and 30,000 were sold into slavery. Over the centuries, the causeway silted up, turning the island city of Tyre into a peninsula.
Tyre was subsequently under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt and in 200 became part of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom; it finally came under Roman rule in 68 BC. It was often mentioned in the New Testament and it was in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast. Tyre was famous in Roman times for its silk products and for a purple dye extracted from snails of the genus Murex. By the 2nd century AD it had a sizeable Christian community, and the Christian scholar Origen was buried there (c. 254). Under Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, Tyre grew prosperous as part of the kingdom of Jerusalem, a crusader state in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who died on the Third Crusade, was buried in its cathedral (1190). Captured and destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town never recovered its former importance.
The silted up harbour on the south side of the peninsula has been excavated by the French Institute for Archaeology in the Near East, but most of the remains of the Phoenician period still lie beneath the present town.
Beirut was built on the largest rocky promontory of the coast at the near centre of the country. Later it would become capital of the modern nation, but in ancient times its deep harbour and central location were not so apparent and the city was overshadowed by more powerful neighbours. Its earliest name was "Birot", a Semitic word meaning "well", or "source". When the city-states of Sidon and Tyre began to decline in the first millennium BC, Berytus, as it was then called, acquired more influence, but it was not until Roman times that it became an important port and cultural centre with its famed Roman Law School. Berytus became the base of the fleet for the eastern Mediterranean. The city was designated Julia Augusta Felix (happy) Berytus in honour of the daughter of Augustus, and later Septimius Severus made it a full colony and so enjoyed self government and exemption from poll and land tax.
The school of Roman law, which probably was founded by Septimius Severus, lasted until the destruction of Berytus itself by a sequence of earthquakes, tidal wave, and fire in the mid-6th century. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, both natives of Phoenicia, taught as professors at the law school under the Severans. Their judicial opinions constitute well over a third of the Pandects (Digest) contained in the great compilation of Roman law commissioned by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD. The school made Berytus the leading intellectual seat of the empire .
After Roman power waned, Greek influence dominated the Byzantine period
beginning in the 4th century. Later, the Crusaders held the city for some
200 years. It was only at the end of the 19th century, after 400 years
of Ottoman rule, that Beirut began to develop and modernize.
Tripoli (Trablous), some of 85 km north of Beirut and the second largest
city in Lebanon, shares the long history of the Levantine coast. It was
founeded by inhabitants of the Phoenician cities of Sidon and Tyre
and Arados - hence the name "Tripolis", meaning "triple city". The first
parliament ever to convene in the Middle East met in the Phoenician city
The Acropolis of Baalbeck, in the Beqaa valley 85 Kilometres from Berytus, is the largest and best preserved corpus of Roman architecture in the world. Its temples, dedicated to Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were built in the second and third centuries AD. The ruins present a majestic ensemble: two temples, two courtyards preceded by propylaea (ceremonial entrances) and a boundary wall upon which Arab architecture has left its traces. Six immense columns still soar upwards from the holy place where the Temple of Jupiter once stood.
The Beqaa valley is the old "Coele Syria" of the Latins, the granary
of ancient Rome. This great fertile plateau, 176 km long and 15 km wide,
was in times past a route for caravans from the east and north. Traces
have been found of the many peoples who have passed here. Some merely came
through - Egyptians, Hittites, Persians, crusading Franks. Others lingered
and settled -- the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines Caesarea
Caesarea Maritima (Qisarya), 55 km (34 mi) north of Tel Aviv, Israel, was an ancient city of Palestine. Originally a small Phoenician port, it was rebuilt between 22 and 10 BC by Herod the Great, who renamed the site for the emperor and made it a major port. Caesarea is best called quasi-Phoenician
Caesarea became the seat of the Roman governor of JUDEA in AD 6 and played an important part in early church history. Pontius Pilate resided here, and in the Book of Acts the work of Philip, Peter, and Paul at Caesarea is described. Both EUSEBIUS and ORIGEN worked at Caesarea. After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Caesarea became the most important city in Palestine; by the 6th century its population may have reached 100,000. The city's subsequent decline was hastened when the Persians and the Arabs sacked it early in the 7th century. Last occupied during the period of the Crusades, it was abandoned after its destruction by the Mamluks in 1265. An aqueduct and a theatre from Herod's time are still standing today.
Archaeological excavations between 1950 and 1961 revealed the main features
of the city as described by the 1st-century historian Josephus, restored
the extensive fortifications built by the Crusaders, and unearthed an inscription
of Pontius Pilate. Investigations by underwater archaeologists in the 1980s
confirmed Josephus's description of the harbour with its two massive breakwaters.
North Africa and Spain
The Mediterranean and North African coast (with the exception of Cyrenaica) entered the mainstream of Mediterranean history with the arrival in the 1st millennium BC of Phoenician traders, mainly from Tyre and Sidon in the eastern Mediterranean. The Phoenicians were not looking for land to settle but for anchorages and staging points on the trade route from Phoenicia to Spain, a source of silver and tin. Points on an alternative route by way of Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands also were occupied. The Phoenicians lacked the manpower and the need to found large colonies as the Greeks did, and few of their settlements grew to any size. The sites chosen were generally offshore islands or easily defensible promontories with sheltered beaches on which ships could be drawn up. Carthage (from the Phoenician Kart-Hadasht, New City), destined to be the largest Phoenician colony and in the end an imperial power, conformed to the pattern.
Tradition dated the foundation of Gades (modern Cádiz; the earliest known Phoenician trading post in Spain) to 1110 BC, Utica (Utique) to 1101 BC, and Carthage to 814 BC. The dates appear legendary, and no Phoenician object earlier than the 8th century BC has yet been found in the west. At Carthage some Greek objects have been found, datable to about 750 or slightly later, which comes within two generations of the traditional date. Little can be learned from the romantic legends about the arrival of the Phoenicians at Carthage transmitted by Greco-Roman sources. Though individual voyages doubtless took place earlier, the establishment of permanent posts is unlikely to have taken place before 800 BC, antedating the parallel movement of Greeks to Sicily and southern Italy.
Material evidence of Phoenician occupation in the 8th century BC comes from Utica, and of the 7th or 6th century BC from Hadrumetum (Susah, Sousse), Tipasa (east of Cherchell), Siga (Rachgoun), Lixus, and Mogador (Essaouira), the last being the most distant Phoenician settlement so far known. Finds of similar age have been made at Motya (Mozia) in Sicily, Nora (Nurri), Sulcis, and Tharros (San Giovanni di Sinis) in Sardinia, and Cádiz and Almuñécar in Spain. Unlike the Greek settlements, however, those of the Phoenicians long remained politically dependent on their homeland, and only a few were situated where the hinterland had the potential for development. The emergence of Carthage as an independent power, leading to the creation of an empire based on the secure possession of the North African coast, resulted less from the weakening of Tyre, the chief city of Phoenicia, by the Babylonians than from growing pressure from the Greeks in the western Mediterranean; in 580 BC some Greek cities in Sicily attempted to drive the Phoenicians from Motya and Panormus (Palermo) in the west of the island. The Carthaginians feared that if the Greeks won the whole of Sicily they would move on to Sardinia and beyond, isolating the Phoenicians in North Africa. The successful defence of Sicily was followed by attempts to strengthen limited footholds in Sardinia; a fortress at Monte Sirai is the oldest Phoenician military building in the west. The threat from the Greeks receded when Carthage, in alliance with Etruscan cities, backed the Phoenicians of Corsica in about 540 BC and succeeded in excluding the Greeks from contact with southern Spain.
Venerable historical traditions recount the Phoenician voyages to found new cities. Utica, on the Tunisian coast of North Africa, was reputedly founded in 1178 BC, and by 1100 BC the Phoenician city of Tyre supposedly had a Spanish colony at Gadir (Cadiz). Although intriguing, these historical traditions are unsupported by evidence. Excavations confirm that the Phoenicians settled in southern Spain after 800 BC. Their search for new commodities led them ever farther westward and was the reason for their interest in southern Spain's mineral wealth. The untapped lodes of silver and alluvial deposits of tin and gold provided essential raw materials with which to meet the increasing Assyrian demands for tribute. By 700 BC silver exported from the Río Tinto mines was so abundant that it depressed the value of silver bullion in the Assyrian world. This is the background for Phoenician interest in the far west.
Phoenician commerce was conducted by family firms of ship owners and
manufacturers who had their base in Tyre or Byblos and placed their representatives
abroad. This accounts for the rich tombs of Phoenician pattern found at
Almuñécar, Trayamar, and Villaricos, equipped with metropolitan
goods such as alabaster wine jars, imported Greek pottery, and delicate
gold jewellery. Maritime bases from the Balearic Islands (Ibiza) to Cadiz
on the Atlantic were set up to sustain commerce in salted fish, dyes, and
textiles. Early Phoenician settlements are known from Morro de Mezquitilla,
Toscanos, and Guadalhorce and shrines from Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar and
the Temple of Melqart on the island of Sancti Petri near Cadiz. After the
fall of Tyre to the Babylonians in 573 BC and the subjugation of Phoenicia,
the early prosperity faded until the 4th century. Many colonies survived,
however, and Abdera (Adra), Baria (Villaricos), Carmona (Carmo), Gadir
(Cadiz), Malaca (Málaga), and Sexi (Almuñécar) thrived
under the trading system established by Carthage for the central and western
Mediterranean. Eivissa (Ibiza) became a major Carthaginian colony, and
the island produced dye, salt, fish sauce, and wool. A shrine with offerings
to the goddess Tanit was established in the cave at Es Cuyram, and the
Balearic Islands entered Eivissa's commercial orbit after 400 BC. In 237
BC, just before the Second Punic War, Carthage launched its conquest of
southern Spain under Hamilcar Barca, founded a new capital city at Cartago
Nova (Cartagena) in 228 BC, and suffered crushing defeat by the Romans
in 206 BC.
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 Marseilles 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, re-established) 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.
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.
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 Dido, who fled from her brother Pygmalion (the name of a historical king of Tyre). The inhabitants were known to the Romans as Poeni, a derivation from the word Phoenikes (Phoenicians), from which the adjective Punic is derived.
The date of the foundation of Carthage was probably exaggerated by the Carthaginians themselves, for it does not agree with the archaeological data. Nothing earlier than the last quarter of the 8th century BC has been discovered, a full century later than the traditional foundation date.
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. Some of the earliest tombs have been found there, though nothing remains of Carthage's domestic and public buildings.
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.