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The Phoenicians and Carthage

The Phoenicians came from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea (present-day Lebanon). The land was arid and poor for farming, so the Phoenicians turned to the sea and become the greatest traders of that time. The Phoenicians invented the alphabet and spread their advanced system of writing to other cultures.

The Phoenicians built a trading post, Carthage. The Phoenicians chose Carthage because it was located in the center of North Africa, a short distance away from Sicily and the Italian Peninsula. When the Assyrians and the Persians conquered the original homeland of the Phoenicians, Carthage became an independent state.

Carthage grew to become one of the mightiest cities of the ancient world, but the city was destroyed after three wars with the Italian city-state of Rome. The wars were known as the Punic Wars because Punica was the Roman name for Carthage. The Roman Navy surprised the sea trading people by winning the first war in 238 BCE. The Carthaginians acquired a new base in Spain from which a great military leader named Hannibal led a team of elephants across southern France and into Italy. Hannibal won some early victories, but his forces were outnumbered. Rome won the fifteen-year war that ended 204 BCE.

Carthage lost all political and military power by the end of the second Punic War. Fifty years later the Romans destroyed what was left of the city. The Roman army surrounded the city and laid siege to Carthage for three years. Finally, in 146 BCE, the Romans broke through Carthage’s city walls and went from house to house slaughtering the Carthaginians. The few survivors were sold into slavery, and the Romans destroyed Carthage and its harbor.


Source: The Phoenicians and Carthage
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