Carthage: A Guide to the Historical Site
Tunis is home to one of the oldest and most significant historical sites in North Africa, Carthage. The historical site is not limited to just one museum or building – the site stretches across many locations and the ruins stretch across centuries. Carthage stretches across empires, too. It is a mixture of different cultures all in one site. You will be able to see an amphitheater, theater, Roman villas, baths, Tophet, basilicas, water cisterns/aqueducts, Punic Ports, and an American WWII cemetery.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a bucket list item for history enthusiasts, and yet, is not limited to historians. Visitors of all ages will appreciate the significance of this site.
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Brief History of Carthage
Carthage was the capital of the Phoenicians and its location allowed access to Mediterranean trade routes. The Romans eventually defeated Carthage in 156 B.C. The Romans ruled and established trading routes and military outposts all across North Africa. Carthage was at the center of the Roman Empire in North Africa.
The Vandals eventually defeated Rome, but could not reign for long. After the Vandals, the Byzantine Empire rose to power in North Africa. Christianity was certainly in Carthage before the Byzantine Empire, however, Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire and of Carthage. In 697 the Arabs eventually conquered all of Tunisia and their empire stretched across North Africa.
Tunisian historical sites are not limited to Carthage. If you’re a history enthusiast you should look at our Historic Tunisia tour itinerary. Our travel experts designed that tour to maximize your time to see the best of Tunisia’s historical sites.
Guests will be able to explore the ruins of a second-century Roman amphitheater. Historians believe at one time the amphitheater was five stories tall and had seating for approximately 50,000 spectators. Unfortunately, the amphitheater is no longer fully intact; however, guests will be able to see the underground rooms and some of the foundation.
Water Cisterns and Aqueducts
Less than a kilometer from the amphitheater is a Roman water cistern and aqueduct. The aqueduct carried water from Zaghouan to Carthage, almost 130 kilometers. Once the water arrived in Carthage it was stored in massive cisterns. Over half of the cisterns are still intact. The aqueducts and cisterns are an amazing second-century technological feat.
Theater and Roman Villas
Enjoy a tour through a second-century theater. Near the theater are Roman villas. The upper class of Roman society lived in these impressive villas, which have a beautiful view overlooking the sea.
Perhaps the most famous historical site at Carthage is the Roman Baths, which are the largest Roman bath outside of Rome. These second-century baths are still accessible. You will be able to walk through the ruins of this large Roman bath including the caldarium (hot room), a tepidarium (warm room), a frigidarium (cold room), and palestras and gymnasiums (enclosed room with mosaic floors for wrestling and other sports).
Punic Religious Sites (Tophet)
Visitors have the opportunity to gain insight into the Punic culture and religious practices. Based on excavation, it is believed that the ancient culture engaged in child sacrifices to gain favor with their gods. This practice was eventually disbanded, however, the evidence still remains. This is a somber historical site, however, it is a glimpse into the ancient culture.
Legend has it Carthage was founded by the King of Tyre’s daughter Elissa as she fled political rivals. In The Punic era, Carthage eventually was the center of trade and military power across North Africa. Later empires were built on top and around parts of the city. Fortunately for us, parts of the original city remain in a section of the historical site called Byrsa Hill.
Close to Byrsa Hill is the Carthage National Museum. It is home to a wide array of artifacts from the Punic, Roman, and Byzantine empires.
Carthage is home to several basilicas and an underground chapel from the Byzantine Empire. These basilicas may have been home to the Carthage Counsels.
Alongside the coast lies the Punic Port. At one point in history, the most impressive navy in the world rested on that exact port. The port was not just for the navy, it was an important trading port as well. Today you will be able to see the ancient sea wall and what remains of this harbor.
American WWII Cemetery
Of course, this cemetery does not date to the ancient empires, however, it has historical significance. During WWII, Axis and Allies troops fought all across North Africa. Tunisia played particular importance in the North African theater of WWII. The cemetery briefly tells the story of WWII in Tunisia and gives space for family members of fallen soldiers to remember and reflect.
Visit Carthage With Us
As you can see, the historical site of Carthage is not one single site at one single location. It consists of multiple archaeological sites spread throughout the city. Most people visiting Carthage will only visit the main sites instead of visiting all the sites.
Our private Historic Tunisia 8-Day Tour is a good option for travelers looking to explore the important historic site throughout Tunisia including Carthage.
If you only have limited time in Tunis, our Weekend Getaway in Tunis 4-Day Tour takes you to explore Carthage and other major tourist attractions in Tunis and surrounding areas.
Looking for a private tour that is longer than 8 days or shorter than 4 days or anywhere in between? At Tunisia Tours, a division of Mosaic North Africa, we offer full custom tours that fit your interests and needs. We strive to give our customers a taste of North African history and culture. Most of our Tunisia tours include visiting the main historical sites in Carthage, but if you are a history buff keen on exploring all the sites in Carthage, we can certainly extend the tour and allocate more time to Carthage. Contact one of our travel experts and we can help you dream and plan your next adventure.