The first colonials: from the 9th century BC

The trading and seafaring skills of the Phoenicians result in a network of colonies, spreading westwards through the Mediterranean. The first is probably Citium, in Cyprus, established in the 9th century BC. But the main expansion comes from the 8th century onwards, when pressure from Assyria disrupts the patterns of trade on the Phoenician coast.

Trading colonies are developed on the string of islands in the centre of the Mediterranean (Crete, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Ibiza) and also on the coast of north Africa. The African colonies cluster in particular around the great promontory which forms, with Sicily opposite, the narrowest channel on the main Mediterranean sea route. This is the site of Carthage.

Dido's city: 814 BC

Carthage is the largest of the towns founded by the Phoenicians on the north African coast. It rapidly assumes a leading position among the neighbouring colonies. The traditional date of its founding (by Dido) is 814 BC, but archaeological evidence suggests that it is probably settled around the middle of the 8th century.

The subsequent spread and growth of Phoenician colonies in the western Mediterranean, and even out to the Atlantic coasts of Africa and Spain, is as much the achievement of Carthage as of the original Phoenician trading cities such as Tyre and Sidon. But no doubt links are maintained with the homeland, and new colonists continue to come west.

Gascoigne, Bamber. HistoryWorld. From 2001, ongoing.

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