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Carthage A Major Sea Power

Carthage was an ancient city port established by the Phoenicians. This particular port became so powerful that it was able to form its own unique kingdom independent of Tyre. Ancient Phoenician traders from Tyre created the port as a western hub for trade within the Mesopotamian Sea. Once Carthage was established as a trade colony in time it grew to become a major power within the Mesopotamian region. The city was established in 841 B.C. which is where it appears on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History.

One of the reasons why Carthage became so powerful was because of their ability to dominate the waterways of the Mesopotamian Sea. Carthage not only controlled oversea trade routes for commerce they also had one of the most powerful navies in ancient history.

The Carthage navy was powerful for a number of reasons. The first being is that Carthage had a naval force that was feared by many kingdoms and empires in the ancient world. This city-state had a vast number of ships that they could use immediately for warfare. Historical sources claim that the Carthaginians could place about 350 warships into the sea for the purpose of defence or to assault an enemy.

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Roman Ship from Carthage

Many Carthaginians were excellent seafarers and they knew how to sail and fight on the open waters of the Mesopotamia. A lot of the sailors were trained in basic naval functions and military tactics. The Carthaginians were considered the best sailors in the ancient world and they were a deadly force to contend with if they were engaged on the seas by an enemy. The Carthaginians used quadriremes and quinqueremes. These were three-decked ships that were powered by rowers and sails. They were used to ram enemy vessels or they shot long bolts at enemy boats with large sized bolts that resembled modern day harpoons. The use of Greek Fire (burning oil or pitch) was also as a weapon when sea battles occurred.

God established the city of Tyre to be a powerful trading city-state. The Phoenician kings of Tyre had befriended both Kings David and Solomon before the kingdom of Israel split apart. King David had King Haram of Tyre supply him with supplies and other goods for Solomon when he was ready to build the Temple. King Solomon built the Temple he also used King Hiram’s assistance with supplies, goods and craftsmen for the project. Solomon and Hiram established an alliance and from this alliance Israel established its first navy that was based in Tyre. The powerful city-state of Tyre still remained allies with the people of Judah and Israel but their alliances are barely mentioned after the rule of Solomon.

Even though Carthage isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible, it can be reasonably said that the city wasn’t too different from that of Tyre.

Biblical References:

  •  1 Kings 8: 10 – 11, 26 – 28 King Solomon’s navy established at Tyre.
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Carthage of Phoenicia 814 BC, Founding of

The Phoenicians founded a prosperous city in the northern coasts Africa named Carthage around 813-814 BC which is where it appears on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. This was during the time of the Kings of a divided Israel and shortly before the first Olympiad.

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map of Carthage’s location

Carthage was one of the wealthiest areas of the Ancient world and found prosperity in its vast trading network which had a far-reaching domain across northern Africa. Carthage of Phoenicia founded 814 BC is now the area that spans modern day Spain into the Mediterranean. Because of the Phoenician empire spreading further into the European regions, many conflicts between Phoenicia, Rome and Greece was evident during this period in history.

Founding

While in the past, several historians debated the exact time of the founding of Carthage, carbon dating done on artifacts place the time of founding at around the Ninth century BC. It was said that the empire lasted for around 650 years since the founding of Carthage. The Roman Empire was especially persistent in bringing down the Phoenician city at around 150 BC. The original city was eventually obliterated around that time but was then rebuilt not long after. It would be another century before Carthage fell into ruin. Because of this, very few artifacts and remains can be excavated which date back to the original Carthage. To date, the ruins of harbors, as well as tombs and burial grounds, can still be visible even from the air.

The Legend

The legend of the founding of Carthage begins with Elissa, daughter of the king of Tyre. She was to be given in marriage to the king’s brother, Sichaeus, who was a priest of Melqart. Elissa was to be handed over to her uncle along with the kingdom. Pygmalion, Elissa’s brother, had thought that the kingdom would go to him and plotted to assassinate his uncle and brother-in-law, Sichaeus. He was killed and came back as a ghost to warn Elissa about her brother. Elissa then took her royal wealth and followers and fled the kingdom.

Elissa and her followers, which are interpreted by most as colonists sent by the king of Tyre, stopped at the northern coast of Africa. Elissa negotiated with the locals for rest within the area and was then told that they could have the surrounding area that could only be covered by an Oxhide. It is this part of the legend that depicts the cleverness and tricky nature of the Phoenicians as Elissa had the hide cut into strips and laid in a crescent shape across the land. The area covered by the hide strips would eventually be Carthage. The coast across Sicily was now the new home of Elissa and her followers which prospered due to the mercantile skills attributed to the citizens of Tyre.

Carthage in History and Literature

Phoenicians were generally considered to be ruthlessly treacherous by the Greeks and Romans. Even in the Homeric works, Phoenicians were referred to as polypaipaloi or “having numerous tricks”. However, Cicero points out that no empire could be held for more than 6 centuries without skilled rule and leadership.

The war between Rome and Carthage during the mid 2nd century BC was called the Third Punic War and the Battle of Carthage was what led to the downfall of the city during 147 BC. This is often referred to as the salting of Carthage. Undeniably, Carthage of Phoenicia founded 814 BC is one of the most important imperial civilizations during the last millennia BC, maintaining a stable rule that lasted for 600 years.