The Periplus of Hanno/Chapter 8


"All our positive information, scanty as it is, about Carthage and her institutions, relates to the fourth, third and second centuries B. C.; yet it may be held to justify presumptive conclusions as to the fifth century B. C, especially in reference to the general system pursued. The maximum of her power was attained before her first war with Rome, which began in 364 B. C.; the first and second Punic wars both of them greatly reduced her strength and dominion. Yet in spite of such reduction we learn that about 150 B. C. shortly before the third Punic war, which ended in the capture and depopulation of the city, not less than 700,000 were computed in it, as occupants of a fortified circumference of above twenty milles, covering a peninsula with its isthmus. Upon this isthmus its citadel Byrsa was situated, surrounded by a triple wall of its own, and crowned at its summit by a magnificent temple of Esculapius. The numerous population is the more remarkable, since Utica (a considerable city, colonized from Phœnicia more anciently than even Carthage itself, and always independent of the Carthaginians, though in the condition of an inferior and discontented ally) was within the distance of seven miles of Carthage on the one side, and Tunis seemingly not much further off on the other. Even at that time, too, the Carthaginians are said to have possessed 300 tributary cities in Libya. Yet this was but a small fraction of the prodigious empire which had belonged to them certainly in the fourth century B. C. , and in all probability also between 480-410 B. C. That empire extended eastward as far as the Altars of the Philæni, near the Greater Syrtis,—westward all along the coast to the Pillars of Herakles and the western coast of Morocco. The line of coast southeast of Carthage, as far as the bay called the Lesser Syrtis, was proverbial (under the name of Byzacium and the Emporia) for its fertility. Along this extensive line were distributed indigenous Libyan tribes, living by agriculture; and a mixed population called Liby-Phœnician. . . . Of the Liby-Phœnician towns the number is not known to us, but it must have been prodigiously great. ... A few of the towns along the coast—Hippo, Utica, Adrumetum, Thapsus, Leptis, etc.—were colonies from Tyre, like Carthage itself. . . . Yet the Carthaginians contrived in time to render every town tributary, with the exception of Utica. ... At one time, immediately after the first Punic war, they took from the rural cultivators as much as one-half of their produce, and doubled at one stroke the tribute levied upon the towns. . . . The native Carthaginians, though encouraged by honorary marks to undertake . . . military service were generally averse to it, and sparingly employed. ... A chosen division of 2,500 citizens, men of wealth and family, formed what was called the Sacred Band of Carthage, distinguished for their bravery in the field as well as for the splendour of their arms, and the gold and silver plate which formed part of their baggage. We shall find these citizen troops occasionally employed on service in Sicily; but most part of the Carthaginian army consists of Gauls, Iberians, Libyans, etc., a mingled host got together for the occasion, discordant in language as well as in customs."—G. Grote, History of Greece, pt. 2, ch. 81.