In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Punic Carthage

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Punic Dictionaries and Grammars
  • Conference Proceedings
  • Journals
  • Prosopography
  • Coinage
  • Early Carthage
  • The Archaeology of the Punic City
  • Punic Culture
  • Trade and Economy
  • Atlantic Exploration
  • Agriculture
  • The Military
  • Art
  • Religion
  • The Tophets and Child Sacrifice
  • Government and Society
  • Carthage and Imperialism
  • Carthage and the Western Greeks
  • Carthage and Its North African Neighbors
  • Carthage and Rome
  • The Punic Wars
  • The Barcids in Spain
  • Hannibal
  • Carthage’s Destruction
  • Carthage after 146 bce

Classics Punic Carthage
Richard Miles
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0192


Founded in the 8th century BCE on the North African littoral by Phoenician settlers from Tyre, Carthage had by 500 BCE become the major naval and commercial power in the central and western Mediterranean. Carthage also came to wield considerable influence over a Punic bloc consisting of old western Phoenician colonies as well as new Carthaginian foundations across North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearics, and southern Spain. Carthage’s overseas involvement, which some scholars view as a form of imperialist expansion, led it into frequent military conflict on the island of Sicily with the powerful Greek city of Syracuse, and later with the rising regional power, Rome. The First Punic War (264–241 BCE) against the Romans eventually led to Carthage’s defeat and, with it, the loss of its overseas assets and near bankruptcy. Peace, however, between the two states was short-lived. By the late 220s BCE relations had once more reached breaking point, mainly over the military activities of the Carthaginian Barcid clan in southern Spain. The Second Punic War (218–201 BCE) is best known for the military exploits of the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who after crossing the Alps with his army inflicted a number of heavy defeats on the Roman legions, and had the opportunity to capture the city of Rome itself. The conflict, however, concluded with another Carthaginian defeat and the imposition of an extremely exacting set of conditions and reparations. By the 160s BCE, however, Carthage was on course for another successful economic comeback. An influential faction within the Roman Senate was sufficiently concerned about this renaissance to start actively seeking justification for carrying out Carthage’s final destruction. In 146 BCE, after a brutal three-year siege, Roman forces under the general Scipio Aemilianus broke through Carthage’s defenses. Once the city had been completely brought under Roman control, Roman forces began to carry out the Senate’s orders that the city should be razed to the ground and rendered uninhabitable. Despite a curse on any future attempts to build on the site, a new Carthage eventually rose there. After a few false starts, the emperor Augustus built Colonia Iulia Concordia Carthago as a symbol of the peace and concord that his regime promised. Carthage became the capital of the Roman province, Africa Proconsularis, and was regarded as one of the foremost cities of the empire, and later an important center of Christianity.

General Overviews

There are several good studies that provide a useful historical synthesis of Punic Carthage, taking account of archaeological, epigraphic, numismatic, and literary sources. Lancel 1995 is much admired because it introduced new archaeological data from the excavations that had taken place under the umbrella of the UNESCO “Save Carthage” campaign. Huss 1985 is particularly good on the Carthaginian constitution and politics but suffers from a lack of engagement with the archaeological evidence. Hoyos 2010 is a good, brief introduction to Punic Carthage. Dridi 2006 covers similar ground but in less detail than Hoyos 2010. Miles 2011 is a detailed but readable study that incorporates the most recent archaeological data and analysis from Carthage and the wider Punic Mediterranean world.

  • Dridi, Hédi. 2006. Carthage et le monde punique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    A brief guide to Carthage and the Punic world.

  • Hoyos, Dexter. 2010. The Carthaginians. New York: Routledge.

    Brief introduction to Punic Carthage.

  • Huss, Werner. 1985. Geschichte der Karthager. Munich: Beck.

    Detailed political history of Carthage, but makes little use of the archaeological material.

  • Lancel, Serge. 1995. Carthage: A history. Translated by Antonia Nevill. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    Particularly good on the archaeology and material remains of the city of Carthage. New edition with new maps, illustrations, and introduction by Richard Miles published in 2012 (London: Folio Society).

  • Miles, Richard. 2011. Carthage must be destroyed: The rise and fall of an ancient superpower. New York: Viking.

    The most recent comprehensive study of Punic Carthage and its role within the ancient Mediterranean World.

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