Ascent of Civilization - Carthage
Good morning, we are throwing things back to the history of Carthage. This is from the series The Ascent of Civilization. The run time for this documentary is 51:16.
Carthage was famous for its purple dye. They were traders who controlled the Mediterranean Coast for thousands of years. They left behind an alphabet. They were known as master shipbuilders. However, they had a reputation for child sacrifice. They were known as the Phoenicians by Homer. Their greatest enemy was the Romans. So who were the Phoenicians? Why did they become so powerful?
The Phoenicians were loosely organized into city-states and they lived in the shadow of the Assyrians and the Egyptians. These civilizations demanded tribute from the Phoenicians. The Assyrian Empire was everyone’s worse nightmare. They wanted to extort anything and everything they could. The Phoenicians always kept up the silver and copper stocks for the Assyrian Kings. The Egyptians treated the Phoenicians poorly as well. However, the Phoenicians grew tired of shipping their wealth out to other nations. One king rose against their overlords.
So as the nations dealt with inner turmoil the Phoenicians struck back. The Phoenicians refused to send free wood to Egyptians. They demanded payment from the Egyptians. This demand startled the Egyptians however they paid the price to get their wood.
The Phoenician world was divided between the east and west. The Phoenicians were known as Phoenicians in the Western Empire and the east, they were known as Carthaginians. The Romans called them Punic. Carthage was only a small colony that grew into a thriving trading city. The legendary Princess Dido was the founder of Carthage. She fled from Tyre and her power-hungry brother. She landed on the North African coast. She made a deal with a local chieftain. She could have landed the size of a cowhide. Cleverly she had the cowhide cut into strips and ended up with a large chunk of land to establish her city.
The story of Princess Dido has some truth to it. Carthage was established as a colony with people from Tyre. It was established with a strategic reason in mind. The city was carefully planned with strategic defenses on both the land and water side of the city. 30,000 people were living in Carthage. The Chief Magistrates lead the city and were elected every year by the citizen lead assembly. They created laws and had political discussions. Many of their laws revolved around trade. The Carthaginians started with ports nearby and then eventually built up an extensive trade network. They traded all over the coastline in Europe and went into Africa. The Carthaginians grew rich through their trade and were renowned for their handicrafts.
The Carthaginians established colonies like Cadiz, Malaga, and Grenada. These cities would eventually grow into powerful cities. Each of these cities had its gods and they were worshiped in a variety of sanctuaries. These gods were influenced by the civilizations around them. The Carthaginians had a large pantheon of gods. There were three favorite deities: El, Astarte, and Baal. El was the king of the gods and creator of the world. Astarte was the goddess of war, seafaring, love, and heaven. Baal was sometimes known as the sun god or the gods of healing. They also enjoyed worshiping Isis and Demeter.
The heart of the city was the harbor and it was cleverly designed. Both military and merchant ships would come into this harbor. The most modern warships were built in this harbor and it was a top-secret area. Excavations of ships that were sunk show how the Phoenicians built their ships.
The Carthaginians also had an evil reputation. They sacrificed animals and their children. Newborn sons were burned alive. They wanted protection for their community. For a while this was shocking to historians, however, there have been excavations that show that this was true. There was one monument that shows that children were sacrificed.
This is an excellent documentary on Carthage. It had a good pace throughout the documentary. This documentary gave the facts about Carthage with a few reenactments. I would consider showing this to a middle school history classroom. The section on the gods would be appropriate for an English classroom because it dives into mythology.
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