The city of Carthage played an important role in the ancient Mediterranean until it ultimately met its demise at the hands of the Roman Republic.


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Carthage Roman Amphitheater

This image shows the ruins of a Roman amphitheater in Carthage, Tunisia.

National Geographic Creative
This image shows the ruins of a Roman amphitheater in Carthage, Tunisia.

Carthage was an ancient Phoenician city located on the northern coast of Africa. Its name means “new city” or “new town.” Before the rise of ancient Rome, Carthage was the most powerful city in the region because of its proximity to trade routes and its impressive harbor on the Mediterranean.

At the height of its power, Carthage was the center of the Phoenician trade network. It eventually became the richest city in the entire Mediterranean region. It was full of extremely wealthy people and boasted a harbor containing over 200 docks.

As ancient Rome, which was Carthage’s neighbor in the Mediterranean, grew in power and expanded, a conflict between the two civilizations became inevitable. The rivalry between Carthage and Rome eventually erupted in the three Punic Wars, fought on land and sea.

Carthage did not fare well in the Punic Wars. In the first two, the city suffered some degree of failure. Carthage lost control of the island of Sicily after the first war and ceded even more territory after its defeat in the second war. Rome returned to lay siege to the city of Carthage during the Third Punic War. It took three years, but Carthage finally fell and was burned to the ground by Rome. The three Punic Wars were fought over the span of a hundred years.

Julius Caesar would reestablish Carthage as a Roman colony, and his successor, Augustus, supported its redevelopment. After several decades, Carthage became one of Rome’s most important colonies.

Today, the ruins of ancient Carthage lie in present-day Tunisia and are a popular tourist attraction.

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National Geographic Society
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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