The Carthaginian Republic was a semitic civilization based around the Mediterranean Sea and at one point dominated most of Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. Originally a Phoenician colony Carthage outgrew and outlived her motherland and continued to prosper and thrive long after Cyrus the Great conquered the Phoenician mainland in 539 BC. Carthage eventually took on the roll as the motherland and conquered and/or absorbed every other major colony and dependency. Carthage's growing power and influence brought it into direct conflict with another rapidly growing power in the West Mediterranean: Rome.
Rome and Carthageclashed in a pair of wars known as the Punic Wars. Though defeated in the first war Carthage emerged victorious in the second war under the brilliant leadership of Hannibal Barca, who led a daring invasion of Ital which is most remembered when Hannibal's army crossed the Alps. He then defeated the Romans at three major battles at Trebia, Trasimene and Cannae. Following the defeat at Cannae Hanibal effectively destroyed the last force which could check his advance on Rome. He then utterly destroyed the city of Rome, thus removing it permanently from the world stage.
Carthage, now freed by Rome's destruction, proceeded to expand her territories through a series of wars against other major powers of the Mediterranean. Carthaginian expansion then turned north, annexing Gaul, Britannia and even a part of Germania before expansion came to a rapid halt after the disaster at Teutoberg. Following the end of expansion Carthage entered an unprecedented era of peace and tranquility which is commonly dubbed Pax Carthago. During Pax Carthago the arts and crafts expanded as the military, rather than expand, consolidated their hold over the various foreign lands they had conquered, thus ensuring no major wars against foreign powers.
Pax Carthago ended following the Year of Five Shofets. This was followed by the Great Celtic Uprising which, though effectively put down, severely weakened and de-stabilized the Republic. Various invasions from Barbarian tribes in the north such as the Huns, Visigoths and Vandals combined with the rising Sassanid Empire in the East put tremendous pressure on the Carthaginian military and economy, which collapsed under the stress. The Republic is said to have ended in 439 AD after the Vandals captured Carthage and incorporated it into their Kingdom of North Africa.
According to myth Carthage's first queen, Dido, fell in love with the Trojan hero Aenaeus (the Trojan who led the survivors of the Sacking of Troy away to find a new home). However, Aenaeus left Dido and in her misery she killed herself, cursing Aenaeus and his followers and declaring endless hate between Carthage and his descendents. Aenaeus allegedly went on to found Rome, and thus Dido's curse foreshadowed the Punic Wars, which would pit the two powers against one another for nearly a hundred years.
The Phoenicians, an ancient seafaring people, ringed the Mediterranean with their colonies in order to provide places where their trade ships could stop, resupply and rest. Carthage was one of these and was a major one as it was the closest colony to Sicily and Italy. Carthage became one of the most prosperous cities because of its location and its own naval power. The Phoenicians were conquered in 539 BC by Cyrus the Great, effectively ending their trade control over the Mediterranean.Carthagequickly moved into the vacant position left behind by their former motherlands and gradually absorbed and/or conquered the other colonies and dependencies. Carthage continued to thrive and prosper long after the Phoenicians' downfall and soon developed into one of the most powerful maratime nations in the West Mediterranean. Its rapidly expanding sphere-of-influence and power brought it into direct conflict with another rising power: Rome.
Rome and Carthage clashed violently in two wars known as the Punic Wars. The First Punic War started after a group of mercenaries (who called themselves the Mamertimes) took control of the city of Messina, slaughtering its men and forcing the women to become their wives. They ravaged the countryside until they were confronted by Hiero II, the tyrant of Syracuse. Distressed they appealed to Carthage and Rome, asking for protection against the Syracusans. Carthage acted first, sending a large amount of troops to act as a protective garrison in the city. However, when the Carthaginians began to negotiate with Hiero, the Mamertimes appealed to Rome and asked them for help in expelling the Carthaginians. The Romans were initially unwilling to aid a group of mercenaries who wrongfully captured a city, however, they did not want Carthage controlling Messina, the Sicilian city closest to the Italian homeland. After a long and lengthy debate the Romans sent aid to the Mamertimes and attacked the Carthaginian garrison, triggering a war. After 23 years of long, weary and desperate warfare the Romans finally triumphed. They forced Carthage to evacuate Sicily and the islands near it and to pay a large indemnity. With expansion east blocked and in need of a new source of wealth to pay the indemnity Carthage expanded west into Iberia, where they used the silver mines to rebuild their economy and military. It was here that the Barca dynasty established their stronghold.
The Second Punic War started after Hannibal Barca sacked and destroyed the city of Saguntum, a Roman ally in Iberia that had been attacking Carthaginian allies. In response the Romans gave the Carthaginians an ultimatum: Hand over Hannibal Barca or face war with Rome. Carthagechose the latter and Hannibal took the initiative by taking a large army along the southern coast of Gaul, through the alps and invaded Italy. There he defeated the Romans thricely at Trebia, Trasimene, and at Cannae. After Cannae he effectively destroyed the last army which could stop his advance on Romeand he besieged and sacked the city (POD). Carthage had emerged victorious.
Expansion and Consolidation
Following the destruction of Rome Carthage was the sole dominant power in the Western Mediterranean. However, Carthage was far from done with expanding her domain. Under the leadership of the Barca dynasty the Carthaginians expanded their realm into Greece,Syria,Italy, and Egypt. Carthage defeated all the major powers of the Mediterranean, including several Hellenistic kingdoms such as Syracuse, Ptolymaic Egypt, the states of Magna Graecia, Macedon, the ancient Greek city-states, and the Seleucid Empire. Following the Apollonian War Carthage had proven its military dominance over the Greeks and their allies as well as establishing hegemony over the Mediterranean. Carthage then turned its attention north, defeating and annexing Gaul, Britannia, and parts of Germania. However, expansion north was abruptly halted after the disastrous Battle of Teutoberg Forest. Following the end of Carthaginian expansion the leaders turned to consolidation, focusing on securing their hold over the lands they had conquered rather than expanding the borders even more. This era of consolidation is commonly referred to as Pax Carthago.
Pax Carthago (meaning Carthaginian Peace) is the name given to a two century era of peace and tranquility experienced by the Carthaginian Republic. During this time the Carthaginian military leaders, rather than expand the boundaries of the Republic even further, decided to instead consolidate their hold and "Carthaginize" the lands they had conquered. The arts and crafts flourished during Pax Carthago along with other interests such as navigation, architecture, cartography and much more. Economic success coupled with minimal military expansion led to large surpluses of wealth, which meant that wealth could be directed towards other branches besides military, such as navigation and architecture. Various settlements were seeded across conquered lands which required architects and artists to help decorate and develop. The large amounts of architecture and art suddenly needed led to a spike of architectural and artistic learning. These settlements rapidly developed into thriving cities with so many architects and artists working on them, further expanding the glory of the Republic. During this time military expansion was kept to a minimum so wealth could be distributed to other branches and interests of the Republic. A main interest of Carthage that was heavily invested in was exploration. During Pax Carthago more than 20 expeditions were launched into the AtlanticSea, which discovered a large amount of new territory. A few expeditions are believed to have reached portions of North America (mainly Greenland, Iceland, and Canada.) Mainly expeditions were launched to navigate and map the coasts of Africa, which several did, even capturing gorillas and bringing them back to the Republic. Pax Carthago came to an abrupt end with the Year of the Five Shofets
Decline and Fall
Pax Carthago ended after the Year of the Five Shofets, which saw a period of civil strife and turmoil. The disastrous destabilization of the government during the Year of the Five Shofets resulted in a near complete halt of trade as dozens of miles of roads and bridges were destroyed during the civil wars, meaning it became harder for merchants to sell their wares. Trade also suffered as travel became unsafe due to a lack of military protection. With the loss of trade and a major component of the economy the idea of Pax Carthago was lost forever. Another direct result of the Year of the Five Shofets was the Great Celtic Uprising, a revolt in which the provinces of Iberia, Gauland Britannia seceded from the Republic and formed the "United Celtic Chiefdoms." Though the rebellion was effectively put down it wore out the already tired military and put enormous strain on the weak economy. Following the Great Celtic Uprising was a series of barbarian intrusions into Carthaginian land. These were mainly germanic tribes crossing the Rhine to ravage/settle Gaul and fleeing from the Huns. In the East, the Sassanids were also making intrusions into Carthaginian lands, raiding and pillaging Syria, Anatolia and even Egypt. The Carthaginian military was not strong enough to defend the two fronts at once and often had to make a settlement with one foe to combat the other. To combat both foes the Carthaginians were forced to raise more troops, which caused hyperinflation throughout the Republic. To make up for the amount of money needed to raise the troops the Shofets merely cut down on the amount of silver in the standard drachma, instead using cheaper metals such as copper or bronze. This made the drachma, which had been the traditional Carthaginian currency, nearly useless and most transitions were carried out through barter. The Carthaginian economy was crippled beyond repair, and as such the vast amounts of troops needed to defend the Republic could not be paid and so many deserted. This left the Republic weak, vulnerable and exposed to foreign invaders. The deathknell of the Republic came after a Germanic Tribe, the Vandals, pillaged and ravaged their way down through Gaul and into Iberia. They then crossed into North Africa and made their way East, pillaging and looting as they went. They defeated the last Carthaginian Army to stop their advance at the Battle of Tunis Fork and sieged Carthage. After two weeks and facing starvation and a disease ridden death, the Carthaginians surrendered the city. This is commonly considered the end of the Carthaginian Republic.
Political Assemblies and Ranks
Shofets, Governors, Censors, Quastors, Aediles, and Tribunes
A Shofet was the highest ranking official in the Republic. Two were elected from the Council of Elders and each served for a term of two years. A Shofet could only serve two terms in a row and had to wait a period of six years if they wanted to run again after two terms. While they were in Carthagethe Shofets would administer civil law in the city and maintain near absolute power. Abroad they usually commanded armies and led them into battle while maintaining power. Usually one Shofet always remained in Carthage while the other was abroad leading troops so that one Shofet could always be at the Senate meeting. Governors were usually Senators assigned to govern a province by a Shofet or the Senate. This could be a reward or a punishment; assignment to a wealthy or border province meant that one could expand their wealth in a wealthy province or expand their glory in a border province by defeating foreign invaders. However, being assigned to an impoverished province or a "boring" province would be a punishment. If the Senate voted, however, a Senator could be recalled from a province back to Carthage. In their provinces Governors could lead armies if they chose to or could order invasions. Every six years two censors would be elected to an eighteen month term to conduct a census. During this time they could enroll citizens into the Senate or take people out of the Senate. Quastors were the financial members of the government and often dealt with the fiscal problems of the Republic, dealing with currency production and the treasury. Aediles were assistants to government officials, dealing with the more tedious matters of government. Proletariat Tribunes were the elected representative of the Proletarians, the non-aristocratic members of the Republic.
Council of Elders/Carthaginian Senate
Carthage was originally governed by a gathering of aristocratic family members. These family members ruled most of the land in and around Carthage and were the ruling class of the Republic. However, as Carthage expanded and more and more nobles were added to the aristocracy the Council of Elders ancient form of open debate became obsolete with such a large amount of people, and so they were reorganized into a Senate based on the Roman counterpart. The Senate passed decrees and other ordinances which were officially "advice" to the Shofets. Usually, however, Shofets obeyed and passed these decrees.
Council of One-Hundred Forty
The Council of One-Hundred Forty was a council of 140 magistrates drawn from the richest aristocrats of the Republic. Officially they were a committee of officials to judge the decisions and mistakes made by both military and government leaders. However, as the Republic grew, they turned into a group of tyrants with near absolute-power. Adding to their tyrannical power was the fact that their terms of office were unlimited, so they could resign as they wished. More so the titles were hereditary, meaning certain families could occupy an office of high power for hundreds of years and that the people outside the Council had no influence on them at all as they could not even elect council members. Under the reforms of Hannibal Barca he managed to reduce the term served by a Council member to one year. Further reforms enacted by the Senate reduced the power of the Council until the Carthaginian Civil War, after which the Council was dissolved and replaced by the Proletariat Judiciary.
The Proletariat Judiciary was formed after the Carthaginian Civil War to give power to the non-aristocratic citizens of Carthage. The Proletariat Judiciary had the power to protect proles from the Senate and to veto certain Senate decrees. The formation of the Judiciary ushered in a system of checks and balances between the high-class senate and the low-class Proles. Officials elected by the Judiciary were known as Proletarian Tribunes and attended Senate meetings to represent the Proletarians.
Before Hieron Reforms
Before the Hieron Reforms the Carthaginians relied upon a system of hiring foreign mercenaries to fight for them abroad and at home. This usually meant recruiting locals in Africa, then attempting to recruit warriors from populations in the foreign lands they were fighting in. This was incredibly costly though and often led to mercenary rebellions, such as the Mercenary Wars. Not only were they very expensive but the mercenaries also did not fight as a cohesive army, usually specific ethnic units fought together and had their own specific weaknesses and strengths. In order to create a more efficient standing army Hiero Barca II, a Shofet at the time, created a series of reforms which reshaped the army.
After Hieron Reforms
After the Hieron Reforms the Carthaginian army was divided into units called Drachions. These Drachions consisted of seven thousand men who traveled together as a unit. Throughout the Republic the weapons and training of the Drachions were standardized, making the Drachions a cohesive units with the same strengths and weaknesses. The Drachions also enlisted professional soldiers who served for a period of twenty years, meaning that over time they gained experience and became veterans in warfare. The new system also meant that soldiers could be easily deployed as they were always ready for battle instead of the previous system in which conscriptors had to find mercenaries and negotiate a proper price. These reforms made the Carthaginians a very strong fighting force which dominated the world militarily for nearly 600 years.
The Carthaginian navy was the best in its day, using serial numbers to maintain high numbers at moderate cost. The navy, like the army, provided a stable profession and financial security for its sailors. The navy was recruited from citizens of mainly Phoenician ancestry, however, any citizen was eligible for recruitment. The navy's main role was defending trade routes from piracy and other navies. One of the most famous uses of the navy was clearing the Adriatic of pirates which had been plundering the coasts of Greece and Italy. The navy, in only forty days, captured over 500 pirate ships and 3000 pirates who were promptly forced into service for the Carthaginian navy or sold into slavery. Although the navy was as prominent as the Drachion the Drachion was more tempting as soldiers had the opportunity to gain loot from conquered lands while the navy had no way of looting unless they raided coastal towns.
Clothing and Dining
Carthaginians traditionally wore clothes adapted to keep people cool in the scorching heat. Men wore long dress-like robes to keep their body shaded and cool. To protect their heads men often wore turbans. Woman often wore more feminine robes that were nearly identical to modern day dresses. Boys under the age of 18 often wore simple poncho-like robes without a turban while older boys often wore traditional clothing. Members of the Senate only wore white robes with a purple streak to signify their rank while members of the Proletariat judiciary wore dark blue robes with a white streak. Shofets wore maroon robes to signify their rank while Proletariat Tribunes wore only stark white.
Carthaginian diets varied depending on the location of the city. Settlements in the north such as Gaul or Germania had very meat-inclined diets as deer and other animals were hunted there and used as food. In the provinces bordering the Mediterranean, however, (mainly Greece, Italy, and Africa) the diet was usually what is now known as the "Mediterranean Diet" as fish, shellfish and other sea foods were abundant. This resulted in a more lean fit people than their counterparts in the north, who were larger in muscle and fat. The staple drink throughout the Republic was the same however: wine. Wine was drank by all classes and was so amply produced that it could be purchased for a very cheap price. Drinking constantly, however, especially on an empty stomach, was looked down on as alcoholism.
Carthaginian food habits were relatively simple. Breakfast was usually around an hour after sunup and consisted of bread, cheese, fruits, and small amounts of wine. Lunch was the same with meat leftover from the night before. Dinner was usually where a feast could be held as large amounts of meat and drink were prepared.
The Carthaginians practiced Caanite religion they inherited from their Phoenician ancestors. The major God was Ba'al, the God of Storms and Thunder. For citizens each household acted as a private temple where one could pray to the gods and their ancestors at an alter. Every night one was supposed to put food at the alter to show respect and care for the gods and ancestors. Religion also entwined with business as certain ceremonies were traditionally needed to start a good business. For farmers one was supposed to have the God of Crop Fertility, Dagon, bless the land. Marriages were performed by priestesses of Kothorat. When starting a business a feast was to be held in honor of the god Kothor, God of Craftmanship.
Education originally was only used by the aristocratic families when they hired tutors to teach their young. However, as the Republic grew, several bills enacted by the senate created a model for public education. The Carthaginians built several academies in each town where any citizen, regardless of their employment or status, could attend classes teaching courses about a profession they yearned to be a part of. The tutors for these classes were paid by the government. These courses were not mandatory and often children of farmers could not attend due to their parents needing them on the farm. This led to farmers and those living outside the cities becoming uneducated while those who lived in the cities became incredibly well educated. This division between the peoples developed into two separate classes, the educated "city-dwellers" and the uneducated "hill people."
Social Class and Structure
The Carthaginian populace was divided into two peoples, the Aristocrats and the Proletariats (commonly referred to as Aristos and Proles.) In the early Republic the Aristos owned nearly all the farmland and held nearly absolute power of the Proles. This was accepted by the Proles until the rise of the Barca dynasty, which built their power on the Proles despite being an Aristo family themselves. The Proles and Aristos finally clashed in the Carthaginian Civil War, which resulted in the defeat of the Aristos and the expansion of Proletariat rights and power. Although the Proles had gained more power they still were not eligible for Senate nomination as Senators were traditionally elected from the Aristo class.
The center of social structure was a family, which was marked by blood relations or by legally constructed bonds. These bonds usually occurred after a man was adopted into the family either by marriage to a female or by being adopted as a heir. Loyalty was expected to be shown to the central family first, then the personal family second. The patriarch of the family, sometimes called the "Megalo Kefali" (head) was master over all families, extended and personal. This included wives, children and even slaves. He had the authority to divorce, disown and sometimes even to execute certain family members. He also was the only person who could authorize adopting an heir into the family.