Carthage was an ancient Phoenician city-state and civilization located in present-day Tunisia. Founded around 814 BC as a colony of Tyre, it was one of the richest and most powerful cities in antiquity, and the centre of a major commercial and maritime empire that dominated the western Mediterranean until the mid third century BC.
After gaining independence in the seventh century BC, Carthage gradually expanded its economic and political hegemony across northwest Africa, Iberia, and the major islands of the western Mediterranean. By 300 BC, the Carthaginian Empire spanned a patchwork of colonies, vassals, and satellite states that constituted more territory than any other polity in the region. Carthage’s wealth and power rested primarily on its strategic location, which provided access to abundant fertile land and major trade routes. Its vast mercantile network, which extended as far as west Africa and northern Europe, provided an array of commodities from all over the ancient world, as well as lucrative exports of agricultural goods and manufactured products. This commercial empire was secured by one of the largest and most powerful navies in the ancient Mediterranean, and an army composed largely of foreign mercenaries and auxiliaries.
As the dominant power of the western Mediterranean, Carthage inevitably came into conflict with many neighbors and rivals, from the indigenous Berbers of North Africa to the nascent Roman Republic. Following centuries of conflict with the Sicilian Greeks, its growing competition with Rome culminated in the Punic Wars (264–146 BC), which saw some of the largest and most sophisticated battles in antiquity, and nearly led to Rome’s destruction. In 146 BC, after the third and final Punic War, the Romans destroyed Carthage and later established a new city in its place. All remnants of Carthaginian civilization came under Roman rule by the first century AD.
Notwithstanding the cosmopolitan character of its empire, Carthage’s culture and identity remained staunchly Phoenician, or Punic. Like other Phoenician people, its society was heavily urbanised and oriented towards seafaring and trade, reflected in part by its more famous innovations and technical achievements, including serial production, uncolored glass, the threshing board, and the cothon. The Carthaginians became distinguished for their commercial ambitions and unique system of government, which combined elements of democracy, oligarchy, and republicanism, including modern examples of checks and balances.
Despite having been one of the most influential civilizations in the ancient world, Carthage is mostly remembered for its long and bitter conflict with Rome, which threatened the rise of the Roman Republic and almost changed the course of Western civilization. Due to the destruction of virtually all Carthaginian texts after the Third Punic War, much of what is known about its civilization comes from Roman and Greek sources, many of whom wrote during or after the Punic Wars, and to varying degrees were shaped by the hostilities. Popular and scholarly attitudes towards Carthage reflected the prevailing Greco-Roman view, though archaeological research since the late 19th century has helped shed more light and nuance on Carthaginian civilization.