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The city of Carthage was the centre of the ancient Carthaginian civilization. The city developed from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC into the capital of an ancient empire.

Native Libyans and settling Phoenicians in Carthage mixed in different ways including religion and language, and created the Punic language and culture.

Carthage became a large and rich city due to maritime trade and thus a major power in the Mediterranean.

At its peak, Carthage, ruled over 300 other cities around the western Mediterranean.

Following the Third Punic War, the city of Carthage was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC.


Though initially a kingdom, like Rome, Carthaginian government developed into an oligarchal republic.

At the head of the Carthaginian state were two annually elected, not hereditary, Suffets. The two Suffets were elected annually from among the most wealthy and influential families and ruled collegially.

The aristocratic families were represented in a supreme council known as the council of the elders. This council supervised the treasury and foreign affairs.

A range of more junior officials and special commissioners oversaw different aspects of governmental business such as public works, tax-collecting, and the administration of the state treasury.

The City

At the heart of the city of Carthage was its harbour and a citadel on top of a hill.


Byrsa was the walled citadel above the harbour in ancient Carthage. It was also the name of the hill it rested on. The citadel dominated the city below and formed the principal military installation of Carthage.


The Carthiginians, like their predecessors the Phoenicians, were essentially a maritime trading culture. After the conquest of Tyre, Carthage became the dominant trading partner in the southern parts of the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

The trade was primarily in wine, ceramics and metals. Carthage was renowned for its excellent vintages. The ores for their metal ware came primarily from the southern part of the Iberian peninsula.


The Carthaginians spoke Canaanite and followed a predominantly Canaanite religion. This religion was a direct continuation of the polytheistic Phoenician religion of the Levant, with significant local modifications.

It was an organzied religion and had a caste of temple priests and acolytes performing different types of functions, for a variety of prices.


The military of Carthage was one of the largest military forces in the ancient world. Although the navy was always its main military force, the army acquired a key role in the spread of Carthaginian power over the native peoples of northern Africa and southern Iberian Peninsula.

The Carthaginian military was a combined arms force, which provided for light and heavy infantry, siege engines, skirmishers, light and heavy cavalry, as well as war elephants and chariots.

Supreme command of the military was held by professional military generals who were appointed directly by the Carthaginian Senate.

Its military battled the Greeks over control of the island of Sicily. These encounters influenced the development of the Carthaginian weapons and tactics, causing Carthage to adopt the Greek-style hoplite soldier fighting in the phalanx formation.

Sacred Band

The Sacred Band was an elite unit of the Carthaginian army. The unit consisted exclusively of the sons of the noble Carthaginian citizens. As a unit of heavy spearmen, the unit was placed in the center of the army formation immediately behind the row of elephants and protected by auxiliary wings of mercenaries and cavalry. With their elite status, members of the Sacred Band received the best equipment in the Carthaginian army. Their weapons and training were similar to those of the Greek hoplites: heavy spear, sword, hoplon shield, and bronze greaves, helmet, and breastplate.


Carthage relied heavily on mercenaries. Most of these mercenaries were recruited from Africa and the Iberian pensula.

War Elephants

Carthaginian forces also employed war-elephants, both within Africa and during overseas operations, including campaigns in Iberia and most famously the invasion of Italy. These beasts were the now-extinct North African elephant, and the Indian elephants used by the Seleucids.


The navy of Carthage was one of the largest in the Mediterranean, using serial production to maintain high numbers at moderate cost. The sailors and marines of the Carthaginian navy were predominantly recruited from the Phoenician citizenry.