What Is Carthage?:
Evidence for Carthage:
Scullard: "Carthage," Greece & Rome Vol. 2, No. 3. (Oct., 1955), pp. 98-107.
Date of the Founding of Carthage:
"The Topography of Punic Carthage," by D.B. Harden, Greece & Rome Vol. 9, No. 25, p.1
The Legend of Carthage:
The romantic legend of the founding of Carthage is that a merchant-prince or king of Tyre gave his daughter Elissa (usually called Dido in Vergil's Aeneid) in marriage to his brother, her uncle, a priest of Melqart named Sichaeus, along with the kingdom.
Elissa's brother, Pygmalion [note: there is another ancient Pygmalion], had thought the kingdom would be his, and when he discovered that he had been thwarted, secretly killed his brother-in-law/uncle. Sichaeus, as a ghost, came to his widow to tell her that her brother was dangerous and that she needed to take her followers and the royal wealth that Pygmalion had appropriated, and flee.
Although certainly the supernatural element raises questions, clearly Tyre did send out colonists. The next part of the legend plays on the characterization of Phoenicians as tricky.
After stopping at Cyprus, Elissa and her followers landed in north Africa where they asked the locals if they could stop to rest. When they were told that they could have the area that an ox hide would cover, Elissa had an ox hide cut into strips and lay them out end-to-end in a crescent circumscribing a sizeable area of land. Elissa had taken an area of the shoreline opposite Sicily that would allow the emigrants from the mercantile city of Tyre to continue to ply their expertise in trade. This ox-hide enclosed area was known as Carthage.
Eventually, the Phoenicians of Carthage branched out into other areas and started to develop an empire. They came into conflict first with the Greeks [see: Magna Graecia] and then with the Romans. Although it took three (Punic) wars with the Romans, the Carthaginians were eventually annihilated. According to another story, the Romans sprinkled the fertile land on which they lived with salt in 146 B.C. A century later, Julius Caesar proposed the establishment of a Roman Carthage on the same spot.
Points to Note About the Carthage Founding Legend:
- The Greeks and Romans considered the Phoenicians to be treacherous. In the Odyssey, Rhys Carpenter (1958: "Phoenicians in the West") says Homer calls them polypaipaloi "of many tricks". The term Punic fides "Punic faith" means bad faith or betrayal.
- Cicero said of the Carthaginians that "Carthage would not have held an empire for six hundred years had it not been governed with wisdom and statecraft."
- Cadmus (Kadmos) of Tyre was a Phoenician of legend who brought the alphabet to the Greeks when he went in search of his sister Europa whom Zeus had carried off on a white bull. Cadmus founded Thebes.
- The salting of Carthage is a legend. R.T. Ridley in "To be Taken with a Pinch of Salt: The Destruction of Carthage," Classical Philology Vol 81, No. 2 1986 says the first reference he can find to the salting of Carthage comes from the twentieth century.