Carthage, the most important Roman metropolis in Africa in what is now Tunisia, was destroyed in the 7th century. Today, the scent of a great past still wafts among the remains of the former metropolis.
The ruins of the city of Carthage are located in North Africa near the Tunisian capital Tunis. Carthage was a major city in ancient times and the capital of the North African maritime and trading power Carthage. The ruins of the former metropolis are now a suburb of Tunis and one of our top 10 sights of Tunisia. Since 1979, the excavation site of Carthage has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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PICTURES: Ruins of Carthage
History of Carthage
Carthage was founded in about the 8th century BC and was conquered by the Persians in 539 BC. Carthage had two first-class ports, perfected navigation, and supported the Persians in their wars. Soon Carthage maintained colonies throughout the Mediterranean from Sicily to southern Spain. Its inhabitants, called Punic by the Romans, indulged in every conceivable luxury in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., for Carthage had risen to become the richest city in the Mediterranean due to the boom in maritime trade.
Punic Wars - The Fall to Rome
But then came the three Punic Wars against Rome, the second led by the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal, who made it to the gates of Rome. In 146 BC, at the end of the third Punic War, Carthage was conquered by the Romans and completely burned down.
Only about a century later, under the famous emperor Gaius Julius Caesar and later the Roman emperor Augustus, Carthage was refounded and once again developed into a metropolis. Thanks to the brisk grain trade with Rome, Carthage became the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire at that time, after Rome, Antiocha and Alexandria.
Conquest by the Vandals, destruction by the Arabs
In the 4th century, Carthage was conquered by the Vandal people, who made Carthage the new capital of the Vandal Empire. Although reconquered by the Romans in 533, Carthage's heyday was almost over. Around 600, some buildings were renovated once again, but then in the middle of the 7th century the Arabs invaded North Africa and founded their first African city, Kairouan.
It was not long after that until the destruction of Carthage by the Arabs at the end of the 7th century. Nearby Tunis became the new administrative center and Carthage served from now on as a quarry for the nearby cities of Tunis, Kairouan and Sousse.
How to get to the ruins of Carthage?
The former Carthage is today about 15km west of Tunis and can be reached comfortably in half an hour by the TGM express train. Looking at the Moorish palaces and palm-lined gardens of today's villa district of Carthage, it is hard to believe that you are actually walking on historical ground.
The uncovered remains of Roman and Punic history can be admired in a total of six archaeological sites.
Tip: For a visit to the ruins of Carthage you should plan several hours up to a whole day, because the individual excavation sites are about 15 minutes walk apart. So you should be prepared for a long walk and accordingly wear sturdy shoes. If you want to avoid this, you can also take the TGM fast train to the individual stations of Carthage.
Things to see in the ruins of Carthage
The Arabs were extremely thorough in their destruction of Carthage. Thus, of the once magnificent Roman residences, villas and thermal baths of Carthage, unfortunately, only some foundation walls and column remains can be seen today. After the last Punic war, nothing at all remained of the Punic buildings. However, the excavations are not yet finished and perhaps one or the other treasure is still hidden under the earth.
One of the highlights of Carthage is the Roman amphitheater. Its enormous dimensions can still be imagined today. Apparently, in its heyday, it could seat up to 50,000 spectators with standing and seated areas. At that time it was the largest African amphitheater of the Roman Empire after the amphitheater in El Jem. Today, the Carthage Amphitheater is used for summer music and theater events and festivals.
Antonius Pius Therme
Directly above the coast lies the impressive Antonius Pius thermal bath from the year 162 AD. The Romans were known for their luxurious baths and a hint of this former splendor can still be guessed here.
At that time, the Antonius Pius Therme was one of the largest and most beautiful wellness temples of the Roman Empire. With a length of 200m and a height of 20m, today still impressively displayed by a 15m high re-erected column of the Frigidarium, the luxurious building was the largest Roman spa outside Rome.
South of the spa is the Quartier Magnon archaeological park, where you can admire beautiful Roman villas with ornate mosaics and fountains of the wealthy Romans.
Cult site of Tophet
Those with a penchant for the creepy will find the world-famous cult site of Tophet an interesting destination. At the beginning of the 20th century, clear evidence was found here in the form of thousands of bones and urns that human sacrifices were made here by the Carthaginians. In order to please the gods, even children had to give their lives.
St. Louis Cathedral
The best view of the ruins of Carthage is from the Byrsa Hill. Right there is the imposing St. Louis Cathedral, built by the French in 1890.
In the former monastery on their back the Tunisian national museum was established, which presents in the form of sculptures and jewelry especially the Punic culture and is worth a visit in any case!
Tip: On the excavation field of Carthage there is almost no shade, so be sure to remember enough sun protection, enough drinking water and a headgear!
Excursions from Carthage
Before leaving the ruins of Carthage again, you should definitely pay a visit to the breathtaking coastal region, which is one of the most beautiful in all of Tunisia. The fantastic landscape is clothed in an intoxicating sea of flowers in spring and offers idyllic swimming opportunities in summer. Further excursion possibilities from Carthage are the picturesque artists' village of Sidi Bou Said and the beautiful coastal town of La Marsa.