Carthage has such an interesting history. I remember the stories of my Greek/Latin teacher and the texts we had to translate about Carthage. I learned about it first from the Aeneid, the Latin text about the travels of Aeneas. He had fled from the burning city of Troy and was destined to found Rome. On his way, he arrived in Carthage, where queen Dido reigned. The goddess Juno made sure Aeneas and Dido fell in love with the help of Venus. She did this because there was a prophecy that said that Rome would destroy Carthage one day and Carthage was Juno’s favorite city. So Aeneas and Dido fell madly in love. But after a while, Mercury sends Aeneas a message from Jupiter that he has to leave, so he has no choice but to abandon Carthage and Dido. Dido is heartbroken. She predicts and eternal conflict between his people and hers and commits suicide as Aeneas is sailing away.
Another famous story about Carthage is one we’ve probably all heard of; the story of Hannibal. It is the third century B.C. and Rome and Carthage are at war. The first punic war took place at sea. The Romans won and consequently, the fleet of Carthage could only have 100 ships. Because of this, Carthage lost a big part of its trade. Hannibal wanted revenge, but he couldn’t attack Rome at sea anymore. He decided to attack by land, traveling first through Spain, the south of France and then through the alps with his whole army! Panic broke loose in Rome and for a reason. The phrase “Hannibal ad portas” (Hannibal is at the gate) became a common expression for something really threatening. He won the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C., which is considered one of the greatest defeats the Roman empire ever faced.
Eventually the Romans won anyway and Carthage had to sign a peace treaty that reduced their power. Not everyone thought Carthage should be punished this lightly. One senator, Cato the elder, kept saying after every speech “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (by the way, I think Carthage must be destroyed). Almost a century later, in the 140’s B.C., Carthage broke its peace treaty with Rome by defending itself against one of Rome’s allies that tried attacking Carthage and Rome saw this as an opportunity to finally destroy Carthage for good. Every last building was demolished and no one was to build anthing there ever again.
Under the emperor Augustus in the first century however, Carthage was rebuilt again. This is why there are still some remains in Carthage today from the Roman era. In the picture above, you see the remains of a typical Roman house, looking out over the modern city of Carthage. There are also still some remains from a huge bathhouse, which looked out over the Mediterranian Sea. You can only see the foundations, but they restored one column to show how high the bathhouse used to be. Only seeing the foundations is interesting as well though. It is impressing how much thought went into the design of tunnels underneath the bathhouse, where slaves made fires so that people could have warm feet and warm water.
We also visited the museum that had some remains from the Roman era. Compared to the museums in Rome, it’s not really spectacular, but it was nice to stroll around there for a bit. So if you’re interested in history, Carthage is a place that should be on your bucketlist!