Tunisia - The Past - Punic

Essem

Moderator
Staff member
#1
Tunisia - The Past

Punic

Tunisia enters history proper with the Phoenicians, who developed a commercial empire and for this needed regular naval bases.

These they established at Outih (Utica), Hadrumetum (Sousse), Hippo Diarrhytus (Bizerte) and Thines (Tunis).

When the Assyrians invaded their homeland many Phoenicians fled westwards and the story of this refugee movement has crystallised round Dido.

Elissa was the sister of King Pygmalion of Tyre, who coveted her husband Acherbas' fortune. When Pygmalion had Acherbas killed, Elissa fled weith those Tyrians opposed to the king, first to Cyprus, then on to Tunisia.

Hereafter, history calls Elissa 'Dido'.

The immigrants founded Carthage (Kart Hadasht or New Capital) in 814 BC.

The local ruler Iarbus, the story goes, agreed to their occupying as much land as could be covered by the hide of a bull, whereupon dido's men killed the largest bull, cut it's hide into the thinnest shreds and stretched them all the way round what became the Hill of Byrsa (byrsa in Greek meaning hide).

Iarbus then set his sights on Dido. She declined, risked the survival of her people by rebuffing him and solved the dilemma by mounting the epic funeral pile.

It is Virgil, 700 years later, who pairs her with Aeneas, overlooking the fact that that to have called at Carthage, the Trojan hero must have lived to be over 400 years old!

There were centuries of rivalries with the Greeks, also seafaring and pressing westward, but Carthage flourished.

Monuments, tombs and tophets (crematoria) indicate that, at home, Carthagnian - Punic - control spread from present-day Tabarka to Sfax, and inland to Dougga and Makthar.

The Carthaginians built cities which the Romans were to inherit, and marked the countryside with the Levantine system of terracing, which today explains why the slopes of the Atlas look in places like those of the Lebanon.

Most of the archaeological evidence we have is of the Punic dead: the Romans obliterated almost every trace of Carthage, but the dead survived as a clue to the Punic way of life.

The tophets in Salammbo and Sousse contain the ashes of hundreds of murdered children, strangled in sacrifice to the gods in times of national or personal misfortune.

The 'spectacular' Punic Wars are the best known part of Carthage's past. The First Punic War (264-241BC) consisted mainly of naval engagements around Sicily: the Romans for the first time took to the waves and beat the veteran Punic fleet at Milazzo (Sicily). Rome triumphed again in 241 BC, forcing the Phoenicians out of Sicily and imposing heavy reparations.

Desperate for new sources of wealth, the Carthaginians turned to Spain. Within 20 years the Barcide rulers had established there an influential kingdom. From northern Spain, in the Second Punic War (218-201), Hannibal led his 59,000 men and 37 elephants over the Alps. He came close to taking Rome but was brought back to Africa by Scipio's advances and then defeated at Zama.

The Third Punic War is a pathetic story of forced suicide. For over half of the 2nd century BC, and with the help of the Berbers, Rome held Carthage in submission. She was regarded as a vassal state of Rome, but remained a thorn in Rome's side, and in the Roman Senate Cato called for her destruction.

In 149 BC the Senate ordered the Carthaginians to abandon their city and move inland. Predictably they refused. The Romans besieged them for almost 3 years. Strabo wrote that there were 700,000 inside the walls when the siege began: 50,000 were alive when it ended. For over 10 days the starving Carthaginians were slowly forced back up Byrsa Hill. Each house became a battleground. As the hand-to-hand combat forced the occupants upstairs, the Romans demolished or set fire to the rooms below. After 7 days of this the 50,000 survivors surrendered and were allowed to leave the burning city.

The holocaust closed in on the Temple of Eshmun, atop the Hill of Byrsa, where King Hasdrubal was encircled with his family and the remnants of his people. When the king asked Scipio for mercy, his people turned against him and set fire to the temple that sheltered them. The fighting then lulled.

Hasdrubal's wife Sophonisbe thanked Scipio for his clemency, cursed her husband as a coward and walked back into the flames.
 

KheeKhee

Well-Known Member
#2
How interesting and fascinating Essem, just wondered if you had any information (think it was Cas I asked earlier) did the Vikings ever have any influence in Tunisia? it seems not as far as I can tell, any thoughts or leads?
 

Essem

Moderator
Staff member
#3
Can't see any so far KheeKhee - next are the Romans, then Vandals and Byzantine, then Arab, then Spanish, Turkish, French, Allied & Axis, Tunisian.
 

KheeKhee

Well-Known Member
#4
Can't see any so far KheeKhee - next are the Romans, then Vandals and Byzantine, then Arab, then Spanish, Turkish, French, Allied & Axis, Tunisian.
Yes thanks Essem, me too no Vikings yet (my ancestors!) was curious earlier about the 'blondes' more likely Northern European? (Vandals).
 

huttan

Well-Known Member
#5
How interesting and fascinating Essem, just wondered if you had any information (think it was Cas I asked earlier) did the Vikings ever have any influence in Tunisia? it seems not as far as I can tell, any thoughts or leads?
It was a documenterary on tv about that they thought that vikings had moved/traveled over north africa....they had just made some new findings when digging in some parts.
 

KheeKhee

Well-Known Member
#6
It was a documenterary on tv about that they thought that vikings had moved/traveled over north africa....they had just made some new findings when digging in some parts.
oooh interesting Huttan, can you remember what documentary?
 

huttan

Well-Known Member
#7
oooh interesting Huttan, can you remember what documentary?
I wish I did remember...it was about vikings and how they moved around...acutally had no idea that they did hit UK that hard...and HOW they did it people must been horryfied...and then they talked about that new diggings in north africa had shown that they had been there too.
 
C

Cas

Guest
#8
We have lots of place names huttan that are reminders of Viking invasions all along our East coast and inland. My Dad we think has Viking blood, white blond hair, red sideburns, can be fiery lol was born on the North West coast. Where were the new diggings in Tunisia can you remember ? very interesting, how would they have reached there I wonder? long way round.
 

huttan

Well-Known Member
#9
Hi Cas, it was along the north coast...they didnt mention any citys..it was close to the beaches/sea area.Yeah they wore talking about invading the east side....its very far down there makes you wonder how they got there...
 
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