Latin pūnicus, pl. pūnici), also known as
Carthaginians, were a people from
Ancient Carthage (now in Tunisia,
North Africa) who traced their origins to the Phoenicians. Punic is
the English adjective, derived from the
Latin adjective punicus to
describe anything Carthaginian. Their language, Punic, was a dialect
Unlike their Phoenician ancestors, the Carthaginians had a landowning
aristocracy, which established a rule of the hinterland in Northern
Africa and trans-Saharan trade routes. In later times, one of the
clans established a Hellenistic-inspired empire in Iberia and possibly
had a foothold in western Gaul.
Like other Phoenician people, their urbanized culture and economy were
strongly linked to the sea. Overseas, they established control over
some coastal regions of Berber
North Africa in what is now
Libya as well as Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, the Balearic Islands,
Malta and other small islands of the western Mediterranean and
(possibly) along the Atlantic coast of Iberia. In the Balearic
Corsica and Sicily, they had strong economic and
political ties to the independent natives in the hinterland. Their
naval presence and trade extended throughout the Mediterranean and
beyond, to the British Isles, the Canaries, and West Africa.
Technical achievements of the Punic people of Carthage include the
development of uncolored glass and the use of lacustrine limestone to
improve the purity of molten iron.
Most of the Punic culture was destroyed as a result of the Punic Wars
Rome and Carthage, from 264 to 146 BC, but traces of
language, religion and technology could still be found in Africa
during the early Christianisation, from 325 to 650 AD. After the Punic
Wars, Romans used the term Punic as an adjective meaning treacherous.
Punic, in archaeological and linguistic usage, refers to a culture and
dialect in Carthage from Hellenistic and later times that had
developed into a distinct form from the Phoenician of the mother city
Phoenicians also settled in Northwest Africa (the Maghreb)
and other areas under Carthaginian rule, but their culture and
government were distinct.
Punic remains can be found in settlements from Iberia to Cyprus.
1 814-146 BC
2 Greek-Punic and Roman-Punic Wars
3 146 BC to 700 AD
4 Noted Carthaginians
5 See also
6 Line notes
The Punic religion was based on that of their Phoenician forefathers,
Baal Hammon and Melqart, but merged Phoenician ideas
with Numidian and some Greek and Egyptian deities, such as Apollo,
Tanit and Dionysus, with
Baal Hammon being clearly the most important
Punic god. Punic culture became a melting pot, since Carthage was a
big trading port, but the Carthaginians retained some of their old
cultural identities and practices.
The Carthaginians carried out significant sea explorations around
Africa and elsewhere from their base in Carthage. In the fifth century
Hanno the Navigator
Hanno the Navigator played a significant role in exploring coastal
areas of present-day Morocco and other parts of the African coast,
specifically noting details of indigenous peoples such as at
Essaouira. Carthaginians pushed westerly into the Atlantic and
established important settlements in Lixus, Volubilis,
Mogador, among other locations.
Greek-Punic and Roman-Punic Wars
Being trade rivals with Magna Graecia, the Carthaginians had several
clashes with the Greeks over the island of
Sicily in the Sicilian Wars
from 600-265 BC. They eventually fought
Rome in the
Sicilian Wars of
265-146 BC, but lost due to being outnumbered, lack of full
governmental involvement and reliance on their navy. This enabled a
Roman settlement of Africa and eventual domination of the
Cato the Elder
Cato the Elder famously ended all his speeches,
regardless of subject, with the imperative that Carthage be utterly
crushed, a view summarised in
Latin by the phrase Praeterea censeo
Carthaginem esse delendam meaning, "Moreover, I declare, Carthage must
be destroyed!". They were eventually incorporated into the Roman
Republic in 146 BC with the destruction of Carthage but Cato never got
to see his victory, having died in 149 BC.
146 BC to 700 AD
The destruction of Carthage was not the end of the Carthaginians.
After the wars, the city of Carthage was completely razed and the land
around it was turned into farmland for Roman citizens. There were,
however, other Punic cities in North Africa, and Carthage itself was
rebuilt and regained some importance, if a shadow of its ancient
influence. Although the area was partially romanized and some of the
population adopted the Roman religion (while fusing it with aspects of
their beliefs and customs), the language and the ethnicity persisted
for some time. People of Punic origin prospered again as traders,
merchants and even politicians of the Roman Empire. Septimius Severus,
Rome and a proud Punic, was said to speak
Latin with a
Punic accent. Under his reign Carthaginians rose to the elites and
their deities entered their imperial cult. Carthage was rebuilt about
46 BC by Julius Caesar. Places in the area were granted for settlement
as benefits to soldiers who had served in Roman armies. Carthage again
prospered and even became the number two trading city in the Roman
Constantinople took over that position. As Christianity
spread in the Roman Empire, it was especially successful in North
Africa, Carthage becoming a Christian city even before Christianity
was legal. Saint Augustine, born in Thagaste (modern-day Algeria),
considered himself Punic, and left some important reflections on Punic
cultural history. One of his more well known passages reads: "It is
an excellent thing that the Punic Christians call
nothing else but salvation, and the Sacrament of Christ's Body nothing
else but life."
The last remains of a distinct Punic culture probably disappeared
somewhere in the chaos during the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The demographic and cultural characteristics of the region were
thoroughly transformed by turbulent events such as the Vandals' wars
with Byzantines, the forced population movements that followed and the
early Muslim conquests in the 7th century.
Septimius Severus (Roman emperor of Punic ethnicity from the mainly
Punic Libyan city of Leptis Magna, founded by Phoenicians)
Caracalla, his son
Vibia Perpetua (early Christian martyr, also born in Carthage)
Hannibal, Carthaginian general
History of Tunisia
Poenulus ("The Puny Punic"), a comedy by Plautus, shows the vision the
Romans had of Carthaginians. A number of lines are in the Punic
Punica, the genus of pomegranates, known to Romans as mala punica
("the Punic apple").
Phoenicians retrieved 12 October 2009
^ Chris Scarre, "The Wars with Carthage", The Manawy Historical Atlas
Ancient Rome (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 24–25.
^ Sabatino Moscati, The Phoenicians, 2001, I. B. Tauris,
^ Hanno, ‘'Periplus of Hanno, 5th century BC, Carthage
^ C.Michael Hogan, Mogador: promontory fort, The Megalithic Portal,
ed. A. Burnham, Nov. 2, 2007 
^ Ju. op. imp. 6.18 "noli istum poenum monentem vel admonetem terra
inflatus propagine spernere"
^ "Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sins, and the
Infants", 1.24.34, AD 412
B. H. Warmington, Carthage (2d ed. 1969)
T. A. Dorey and D. R. Dudley,
Rome against Carthage (1971)
N. Davis, Carthage and Her Remains (1985).
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