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The Phoenicians and Carthaginians page 2

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Carthage, the greatest of all Phoenician cities, filling a large space in history through the momentous contest with Rome to be hereafter traced, was the last planted of all the African settlements. Its native name Kartaco, in Latin Carthago, meant "New City," like the Greek Neapolis (Naples), to distinguish it either from the Tyre whence the settlers came or from Utica, about 15 miles northwest, founded by Phoenicia nearly three centuries earlier. The place was in a small bay of the fine natural harbour now called the Bay of Tunis, from the city lying a little south-west of the site of ancient Carthage. The land about the city was fertile, and soon became rich, under Phoenician industry, in corn and wine and oil. The time of foundation may be assigned to about the middle of the 9th century b.c., but of the history we know nothing for some three centuries. In the latter part of the 6th century we have Carthage, in alliance with Etruria, then an independent and powerful state to the north of Rome, fighting a desperate naval battle with Phocsean (Greek) colonists in Corsica, who had become maritime freebooters dangerous to peaceful trade. The Phooeans won the day, but at so heavy a cost that they abandoned their new settlement. A few years later, 509 b.c., a treaty was concluded between Rome and Carthage, binding each state to friendly commercial treatment of each other's subjects. Another treaty, after this time, excludes Roman traders from Africa and Sardinia, admitting them to Sicily and Carthage. We here see the growing power of the great Phoenician colony in that she controls much of the north African coast, and has dominion in Sardinia and part of Sicily. At the close of the 6th century, after Cambyses of Persia, in 525, had conquered Egypt and received the submission of the great cities of Cyrene and Barca, he wished to make an expedition against Carthage, but she was saved by the patriotic refusal of the Phoenicians, who owned and manned most of his ships, to assail their "children," the Carthaginians, to whom they were "bound by solemn oaths." We shall hereafter see the foundation of Greek colonies in Sicily, and these, at the time of the second invasion of Greece by Persia in 480 b.c., were attacked by Carthage. A great land-army of Phoenicians, Libyans, Corsicans, Sardinians, and of Iberians from the Phoenician dominions in Spain, was dispatched from Carthage on board a fleet which lost in a storm the vessels carrying the cavalry and the chariots. The rest arrived safely at Panormus (now Palermo), and besieged Himera, a Greek town to the east. There they were almost destroyed by the army of Gelon of Syracuse, the most powerful monarch in the island, who had hurried to the defence of his countrymen. Nearly all the many hundreds of Carthaginian transports and the war-galleys were taken, and the city was filled with terror and sorrow. Gelon granted to Carthage hard terms of peace. A large sum of money was paid to the victor, and the vanquished had to build two temples at Carthage in honour of the Greek goddesses of Sicily. This disastrous expedition of Carthage had been undertaken in alliance with Xerxes of Persia, whose fleet was receiving at the same time a fatal blow at Salamis.

Seventy years later, in 410, another great Carthaginian army was in Sicily for the purpose of aiding the people of Egesta against their neighbours at Selinus. That city was stormed, with great carnage, by the invaders, and their commander then turned against Himera, where his grandfather had perished in battle against Gelon of Syracuse. Men and ships from Syracuse aided the people of Himera, who made a gallant sortie, repelled at last with loss, and the place was taken and utterly destroyed. The Punic commander was received with delight and the highest honours at Carthage after this signal avenging of the former disaster. This success made the Carthaginians aim at complete mastery in the splendid and fertile island lying so near their shores. A powerful expedition was dispatched in 406, and Akragas (Agrigentum), on the southern coast of Sicily, was first assailed. Syracuse intervened in behalf of her sister-colony of Dorian Greeks, the second city of the island in power, splendour, and wealth, with noble architecture, but after eight months' siege the city was quietly abandoned, and ship-loads of Greek artistic treasures in pictures and statues were sent home to Carthage. Gela, on the southern coast to the east of Akragas, and Kamarina, to the south-east again, met the same fate. The Carthaginian success was partly due to the connivance of Dionysius, "tyrant" or absolute ruler of Syracuse, who now made a treaty leaving Carthage in possession of the whole south coast of Sicily and of increased territories in the north. Grievous trouble came to the victors in a plague which, breaking out in Sicily, destroyed half their great army, and, carried by the survivors to Carthage, slew multitudes in the city and district. A few years later Dionysius, after strengthening the fortifications of Syracuse and preparing a fleet of great warships, quinqueremes and triremes, and devising the military engine called catapult, for hurling huge stones, went to war with Carthage. This occurred in 397, when Carthage was still suffering from the losses of her last Sicilian campaign. The Syracusan ruler promptly marched against Motya, on the western coast, the chief arsenal and harbour of his foe in Sicily. A large naval force attended him, and fierce fighting by land and sea with the Carthaginians under Himilco ended in the capture of the place and a dreadful massacre. Carthage then made a mighty effort for the recovery of her credit and dominion. A large armament was sent out under the same general. Motya was retaken, but abandoned for a point of land to the southwards, where the strong fortress of Lilybaion arose. The Punic commander then formed the bold resolution of marching to attack the Greeks in eastern Sicily. Messana was taken, and the next place assailed was Syracuse. The Greek fleet was routed at Katane, midway from Messana to Syracuse, and the siege of that strong place was undertaken. Plague attacked the Punic army, and then a general assault on the besiegers by land and sea ended in the defeat and retirement of the Carthaginians to their own country. Carthage had then dominion over only a small territory in the west of Sicily. The struggle, however, was soon renewed, and the Punic generals took the field in great force. Victory was alternate, but the matter ended in peace leaving Carthage in a more advantageous position than before her failure at Syracuse.

Punic strength in Sicily had increased for many years when a Greek deliverer arose, in 344, in the person of Timoleon of Corinth, the mother-city of Syracuse. In two battles the Carthaginians were defeated, and peace was made on condition that they should keep to the west of the river Halycus, north of Acragas, and not interfere in the affairs of the Greek Sicilian cities. Towards the end of the 4th century, the Greeks in the great island were quarrelling, and another opportunity for Carthage arose. Syracuse, on the death of Timoleon in 337, came under the power of a "tyrant" named Agathokles, a man of very enterprising character, a brave soldier, but a cruel one, who had been a successful military adventurer. He now aimed at the mastery of Sicily, and reduced many towns. The ill-treated Syracusans and others appealed to Carthage for help. In 309 a great force was sent, and for the first time in an important battle Greeks were defeated by Carthaginians. All central and eastern Sicily began to desert the cause of Agathokles, and that extraordinary man made ready for a new and most daring enterprise. He resolved to carry his arms into Africa and assail Carthage at home. Evading the Punic fleet that watched the harbours of Syracuse, he landed with the first European army that ever set foot in Phoenician Africa. He then burned his ships, so as to give his troops no choice but to conquer or die, and made Tunis his headquarters. His force included Samnites, Etruscans, and Celts from Italy, and the Punic forces were defeated with the loss of their camp. Many African towns, including Utica, the largest next to Carthage, submitted or were taken, and the chief city saw herself almost destitute of subjects and allies. He was then recalled to Sicily by the state of his affairs, and left his son commanding in Africa. There the Carthaginians defeated the invaders, and Agathokles sped back to Africa. He was repelled in attacking the Punic camp; his army mutinied and put him in chains; and in 307 his famous expedition, on his release by the troops, ended with his escape in a boat to Sicily, where he vented his rage in the destruction of the city of Segesta. By another reverse of fortune, due partly to his own unscrupulous cunning in winning over partisans, Agathokles became master of all Sicily, virtually king of the island, and another expedition which he had planned against Carthage was only prevented from sailing by his death in 289 b.c. The last dealings of Carthage in Sicily, before her contest with Rome, were with Pyrrhus, the renowned king of Epirus. After his victories in Italy, to be hereafter noticed, he crossed over to the island, was well received at Katane and Syracuse, whence the Carthaginian blockading fleet at once sailed away, and he became master of nearly the whole of Sicily. He was foiled, however, at the siege of the Punic stronghold Lilybaion, on the extreme west coast, and, on the opposite side, at Messana, and then returned to Italy, leaving the island to become, as he said, "a wrestling-ground for the Romans and Carthaginians."

The government of Carthage was held by two chief magistrates, elected from certain families of distinction, with appointment for life. The Romans called them "Suffetes," a corruption of the Punic word Shophetim, i.e. "Judges." The generals came next in power, sometimes holding both offices. There was a legislative body or senate of two chambers, the smaller Upper Council being chosen out of the larger. This council is remarkable for the unchanging policy which it followed for hundreds of years. There was also a popular assembly of whose powers we know nothing: the constitution was evidently that of an aristocratic or oligarchical republic, like Venice in modern days. The city was so great that, m the days of her decline, there were 700,000 inhabitants. The revenue was derived from the tribute of Phoenician towns in Africa, paid m money from tribute in dates, skins, corn, gold, and other products brought by the tribes of the interior; from heavy customs duties; and from, mines of lead, tin, and other metals in Spain and Corsica. There was an extensive trade with the interior of Africa, by means of caravans, in which Carthage gave cheap drapery and weapons, and indispensable salt, in exchange for gold, slaves, ivory, and certain kinds of precious stones. The European trade of the Carthaginian merchants and carriers by sea included sulphur from Sicily; wine from many countries; wax, honey, and slaves from Corsica; iron from Elba; cattle and fruit from the Balearic Isles; copper and tin from Britain; and amber from the Baltic. There was a caravan-trade by way of Spain to the interior of Gaul. Such were the resources that enabled this famous state to command the services of fleets and of armies of mercenary troops, and to wage war, in her latest days, with the power that was to subdue the world.

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