Ancient Carthage (City)Carthage - In 814 B.C. settlers from the Phoenician city of Tyre founded a colony in western North Africa. Legend has it that when they landed and met the indigenous people, known as Berbers, the Tyrian leader, Princess Elissa (later Queen Dido) asked if they could occupy some land until they were ready to continue their journey. The Berber leader, Iarbas, handed her an oxhide and told her they could have all the land the hide encompassed. She accepted and proceeded to cut the oxhide into thin strips and laid them end to end in a giant circle that surrounded a nearby hill. They named the hill Byrsa which means "hide". The true story of the founding is probably less colorful; likely intended to be little more than an outpost in order to allow Phoenician ships to re-supply as they traveled West.


But the location turned out to be an ideal spot and it quickly flourished. With a large natural harbor, protection from the south by desert and perfectly situated as a crossroads between East and West, it didn't take long for the outpost to become a metropolis. They named it Karthadasht, which means "new city". The Greeks called it Karchedon, which the Romans latinized into Carthago. Like so many Phoenician cities in the East, Carthage became an economic powerhouse, thriving on trade. After it's mother-city fell to King Nebuchadnezzar II in 573 B.C., Carthage essentially became an independent city-state and dominated Phoenician interests in the West. It built a strong navy to protect those interests. This brought it into conflict with the Greeks who, like the Phoenicians, were both expert sailors and colonizing the western Mediterranean (Magna Graecia). The series of conflicts, known collectively as the Greco-Punic Wars, lasted over 300 years and is considered the longest war between two nations in antiquity. However, neither empires' homelands were ever in any imminent danger from these wars, and Carthage would eventually face a much bigger threat from another growing empire; Rome.