History of Tunisia: Carthaginians and Romans

History of Tunisia: Carthaginians and Romans Last updated on Monday 26th April 2010

In ancient times Tunisia was part of the mighty Carthaginian Empire. Its chief city, Carthage, was reputedly founded in 814BC by Phoenician traders, who had previously established several small trading posts along the North African coast. The site of Carthage, which became the largest and most famous of these Phoenician settlements, is thought to have been slightly to the north-east of the modern city of Tunis.

The Carthaginian Empire dominated most of North Africa, as well as parts of the Iberian Peninsula, Sardinia and Sicily. By the third century BC, however, trouble was brewing for the Carthaginians, in the shape of the fast-expanding Roman Empire.

Although Rome had signed several treaties with Carthage and recognised its power, the Roman leaders watched closely for an opportunity to overthrow it. War clouds gathered and three bloody struggles -- the Punic Wars -- were fought. In the third and last of these, which took place in 149-146BC, the Carthaginians were completely defeated and the city of Carthage destroyed by Scipio's army.

Carthaginian territory, roughly corresponding to modern Tunisia, was made a Roman province known as "Africa Vetus". As a province of Rome, the land was intensively cultivated and provided the Romans with wood, wool, olive oil and wheat. The region's prosperity grew, and a large number of cities spread across the province. Many archaeological sites today bear witness to the splendour of both pre-Roman and Roman Carthage.

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