Cicero (Agraria, Rullus, 2) composed “Carthago succincta portibus” (Carthage surrounded by ports), which denotes a fairly complicated configuration (Ennabli, 2020, see additionally Wikipedia). Moreover, us are dealing with 1500 years of evolution (from ca. 800 BC to ca. 700 AD), largely under the existing soil and water levels … Our target is to administer some synthetic information, through a few hypotheses and also conjectures.

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Carthage’s peninsula in roman times, reflecting the rectangle-shaped port, the one port and also the east shore (view to north, the eastern guideline of the peninsula is today’s Sidi Bou Saïd) (painting through Jean-Claude Golvin).

Most the what we understand today ~ above the harbor of Carthage to be summarised by Henry Hurst (2010). One might schematise Carthage’s port system by distinguishing three main port areas:

Rectangular commercial port, in Salammbô area close to the Phoenician Tophet,Circular armed forces port (the Cothon), through the renowned circular “ilôt de l’Amirauté”,Eastern coast area in between “de Roquefeuil’s Quadrilateral” (north) and also “Falbe’s Quadrilateral” (south).

Both very first mentioned ports were located inside the city walls and closed through a chain (limen kleistos), and the third was situated on the water edge external the city-walls.

Port area in between “de Roquefeuil’s Quadrilateral” (north, at modern-day helipad of Borj Jedid) and “Falbe’s Quadrilateral” (south, near Salammbô), mirroring the 3 port areas. Note that de Roquefeuil’s Quadrilateral might not be old and that we have actually no evidence of a port at or underneath the Antonine baths (picture, H. Hurst, 2010).
Eastern port area around “Neptune block” located in former of the Decumanus Maximus, and also showing the twin line of coastal protection works (“boulder sea-wall”) in former of the “cellular structure” supposed to be roman inn warehouses looking out to the sea (picture, H. Hurst, 2010).

As much as we deserve to reconstruct harbour evolutions today, Phoenicians indigenous Sidon an initial settled close to the Antonine baths during the bronze Age, adhered to by Phoenicians from tyre who came down on the beach in front of the Byrsa hill about 800 BC and built a fortified city ~ above the hill. This landing ar was exterior the city walls, and also probably soon obtained some lumber landing stages, yet it might be assumed the a maritime human being like these Phoenicians would soon need a proper harbour to hold a respectable navy. Some archaeological evidence was uncovered by Hurst and also Stager (1978), reflecting a 15 to 20m broad and 2m deep salt-water canal more than likely leading from the Tophet area come the circular harbor area.

Archaic canal and also sea wall surfaces according to Lancel (1985).

We could conjecture the this canal provided a link between the sea in the Salammbô area and also the Byrsa hill with a port area probably at that is southern finish on the Lake the Tunis (Hurst, in Ennabli, 1992), but it is daunting to imagine together a 1 to 2km long canal without more geo-archaeological evidence (e.g., ancient location that NE financial institution of the Lake of Tunis). Anyway, together this canal to be silted-up and abandoned throughout the 4th c.BC (Hurst and also Stager, 1978), it could be envisaged that a new harbour container was dug rather further eastern in the 3rd c. BC, consisting of the Punic quay that was traced because that 50 m by Stager. This would certainly later end up being the so-called ‘rectangular port’, v the very same quay quiet in usage in byzantine times.

Both the rectangular commercial port and the circular army port (the Cothon) were constructed inside the city walls and also closed by hefty chains (Appian, Libyca, 96). The coastal part the the city wall was built about 400 BC (Rakob, in Ennabli, 1992), and also had a city gate in Quartier Magon, proving there was much activity in that eastern coast area. The rectangle-shaped port to be built between 300 BC and also 250 BC, and also the one port between 200 BC and also 150 BC (Lancel, 1985 ; Ennabli, 1992). The north mole the the Falbe Quadrilateral, situated near the southern end of the rectangle-shaped port was additionally built in Punic times and also possibly used as a breakwater protecting the enntrance gate of the port (Hurst, 2010).

After the Roman conquest (146 BC), the city was an initial destroyed, and after one century, Caesar notified its restoration (44 BC). Both the rectangular and the circular ports were shortly refurbished together commercial ports in order to administer Rome v olive oil and grain throughout the an initial centuries AD. Approximately 100 AD, the rectangular container was adjusted into one elongated hexagon, comparable to Trajan’s container at Portus. We might conjecture the the roman cellular structures located eastern of the Byrsa hill were constructed on optimal of (or behind) the ancient Punic city wall. However, this wall may have actually been undermined through wave activity and the area was ultimately abandoned because that shipping. A two-line seaside protection would then have actually been built in the fifth or 6th c. Advertisement to protect the city native erosion as result of wave action. At that time, the remaining twin port device was dubbed “Mandrakion (Mandracium)” by Procopius (Vandals, 1, 20).

Eastern shore area. In order to understand the undermining activity of tide on the eastern quay, we must have actually a closer look in ~ the wind and also wave conditions. The wind climate which was studied because that the port of Thapsus. Indigenous Bizerte to lid Bon (and also Nabeul) prevailing winds room from NW all year round. East and NE winds prevail just south of Nabeul and also all the means down to Djerba.This way that in ancient times, the eastern shore area was on open sea however that it was fairly protected from prevailing NW winds and also waves. Together an outer quay located just in former the Byrsa hill might even go back to beforehand Phoenician times. It would certainly later have been offered (perhaps for brief stops of ships) in conjunction through the inner port after the last was built. As this external quay might be struck by NE waves, we might conjecture the it has been undermined by erosion, so that it lastly had come be safeguarded or changed by rubble. The 2nd line of rubble defence was possibly added somewhat later. (Hurst, 2010, calls the “boulder seawall”). The an outcome was that no ship could reach the external quay anymore and also that the inner ports must have taken over every traffic.

Inner port area. Both the rectangular and also the circular harbor obviously survived far better than the eastern coastline quays as they were protected from the sea. The circular port was learned by countless archaeologists. It was referred to as “the Cothon” since of that saucer-like shape, more than since it was a man-made dug-out harbour container (Carayon, 2017). Both the external perimeter and the main islet to be filled through slipways with shipsheds (Blackman, 2013), before ending up being a market place in roman inn times.

Scale model of Ilôt de l’Amirauté islet in the circular port (Mus. Du port Punique de Carthage, picture A. De Graauw, 2018).
Scale version of Ilôt de l’Amirauté islet in the circular port (Mus. Du harbor Punique de Carthage, picture A. De Graauw, 2018).
Remains that a slipway top top the Ilôt de l’Amirauté islet in the circular harbor (picture A. De Graauw, 2018).

Harbour entrance. It has actually been displayed that the north edge the Falbe’s quadrilateral is Punic. The reaches ca. 75 m in the sea in one eastward direction. Together a short breakwater provides limited shelter versus north and also NW waves because that a small number of ships (say five), and no sanctuary for various other wave directions. It might be conjectured the this breakwater was developed in bespeak to carry out a sheltered accessibility to the inner rectangular port. It was later consisted of into a roman inn platform that was dubbed Falbe’s quadrilateral in the 20th c. And also where another Roman cellular structure was uncovered by Yorke & small (1975). The roman inn entrance to the rectangle-shaped port was for this reason relocated southwards where big blocks that Roman maritime concrete (opus caementicium) were uncovered by Hurst (2010).

Further (fascinating) analysis on:


AOUNALLAH, S., 2020, “Carthage, Archéologie et histoire d’une métropole méditerranéenne, 814 avant J.-C. – 1270 après J.-C.”, CNRS Editions, (220 p).

BLACKMAN, D. & RANKOV, B., et al., 2013, “Shipsheds of the ancient Mediterranean”, Cambridge university Press, (617 p).

CARAYON, N., et al., 2017, “Kothon, cothon et harbor creusés”, MEFRA, 129/1, (p 255-266).

ENNABLI, A., 1992, “Pour sauver Carthage – exploration et preservation de la cité punique, romaine et byzantine”, UNESCO/INAA, Paris, (252 p).

ENNABLI, A., 2020, “Carthage. Les travaux et les jours – Recherches et découvertes, 1831-2016”, CNRS Editions, (496 p).

HURST, H. & STAGER, L., 1978, “A metropolitan landscape: The so late Punic port of Carthage”, civilization Archaeology, 9:3, (p 334-346).

HURST, H., 2010, “Understanding Carthage as a roman inn Port”, Bollettino di Archeologia top top line i 2010/ Volume speciale B/B7/6, (p 49-68).

LANCEL, S., 1985, “La renaissance de la Carthage punique. Réflexions sur quelques enseignements de la campagne internationale patronnée par l’Unesco”, Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 129ᵉ année, N° 4, 1985. (p 727-751).

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YORKE, R. & LITTLE, J., 1975, “Offshore survey at Carthage, Tunisia, 1973”, international Journal of Nautical Archaeology and also Underwater expedition (1975), 4.1, (p 85-101).