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Carthage

Carthage (from the Phoenician[?] Kart-Hadasht, the "New City"), also known as Qrthdst, was a city in north Africa located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis[?], across from the center of modern Tunis in Tunisia. It remains a popular tourist attraction.

Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists from Tyre in 814 BC (see Dido for the foundation myths). It became a major rival to the Roman Republic for the domination of the western Mediterranean in the 4th century B.C.E.. A series of three conflicts known as the Punic Wars between the two started in the 3rd century BC and ended in Rome's favor and with Carthage destroyed.

The site was too well-chosen to waste, however, and a new city grew up there and became the second largest city in the western half of the Roman Empire and the metropolitan city of the Roman Province of Africa. Augustine of Hippo finished his education there before moving on to the city of Rome. In the 5th century Carthage was captured by the Vandals and became the capital of their short-lived kingdom. After a failed attempt in the 5th century, it was re-captured by the "Romans" of the Byzantine Empire in 533.

Carthage under the Phoenicians was notorious to its neighbors for child sacrifice. Plutarch (ca. A.D. 46 - 120) mentions the practice, as do Tertullian, Orosius and Diodorus Siculus. Livy and Polybius do not.

Modern archeological excavations could be taken to confirm Plutarch's view. In a single child cemetery called The Tophet[?] an estimated 20,000 urns were deposited between 400 BCE and 200 BCE. The urns contained the charred bones of newborns and in some cases the bones of fetuses and 2-year-olds, indicating that if the baby was stillborn, the youngest child would be sacrificed by the parents.

Ruins of Carthage

Phoenician Settlers

Punic Wars

Late Antique Carthage

References

  1. Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice and Sacrificial Monuments in their Mediterranean Context, by Shelby Brown. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.


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