Old Carthage

CODEX Entry 3205: Old Carthage


At its height in the third century BC, Carthage was the dominant economic, political, and military power in the Mediterranean. It became the largest and richest city in the ancient world. Carthage’s vast trade network was secured by a powerful navy which, for centuries, was unmatched in size and strength. Carthage’s rise brought it into conflict with many neighbors and rivals, from the indigenous Berbers of North Africa to the nascent Roman Republic, the latter culminating in the Punic Wars. In 146 BC, after the third and final Punic War, the Romans destroyed Carthage and established a new city in its place.

The cothon, or artificial harbor, at Carthage was divided into a rectangular merchant harbor followed by an inner circular protected harbor reserved for military use only. This inner harbor was surrounded by an outer ring of docking bays for ship maintenance, along with an island structure at its centre that also housed navy ships. The individual docking bay could house up to 220 ships and featured raised slipways. Above the raised docking bays was a second level consisting of warehouses where oars and rigging were kept along with supplies such as wood and canvas. On the island structure there was a tower where the admiral could observe the whole harbor and a distance out to sea. The entire harbor was protected by an outer wall and the main entrance could be closed off with iron chains.