Cicero (Agraria, Rullus, 2) composed “Carthago succincta portibus” (Carthage surrounded by ports), which denotes a fairly complex configuration (Ennabli, A., 2020, see also Wikipedia). Moreover, we are taking care of 1500 year of evolution (from ca. 800 BC to ca. 700 AD), largely under the current soil and water levels … Our target is to provide some fabricated information, with a few hypotheses and also conjectures.

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Carthage’s peninsula in roman times, mirroring the rectangular port, the one port and the eastern shore (view come north, the eastern tip of the peninsula is today’s Sidi Bou Saïd) (painting through Jean-Claude Golvin).

Most of what we recognize today ~ above the port of Carthage to be summarised through Henry Hurst (2010). One could schematise Carthage’s port mechanism by distinguishing three key port areas:

Rectangular advertising port, in Salambô area close to the Phoenician Tophet,Circular military port (Cothon), v the famous circular “ilôt de l’Amirauté”,Eastern coast area in between “de Roquefeuil’s Quadrilateral” (north) and also “Falbe’s Quadrilateral” (south).

Both first mentioned harbor were located inside the city walls and closed by a chain (limen kleistos), and the 3rd was located on the water edge external the city-walls.

Port area in between “de Roquefeuil’s Quadrilateral” (north, at modern-day helipad the Borj Jedid) and also “Falbe’s Quadrilateral” (south, close to Salambô), reflecting the three port areas. Keep in mind that de Roquefeuil’s Quadrilateral may not be old and the we have actually no proof of a port at or underneath the Antonine baths (picture, H. Hurst, 2010).
Eastern harbor area about “Neptune block” located in former of the Decumanus Maximus, and showing the double line of seaside protection functions (“boulder sea-wall”) in front of the “cellular structure” claimed 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 native Sidon very first settled near the Antonine baths during the bronze Age, adhered to by Phoenicians from tire who arrived at the coast in prior of the Byrsa hill approximately 800 BC and built a city through city walls. This landing ar was outside the city walls, and probably soon gained some lumber landing stages, yet it might be assumed the a maritime human being like this Phoenicians would certainly soon require a proper harbour to hold a respectable navy. Very minimal archaeological evidence was discovered by Hurst and also Stager (1978), mirroring a 15 come 20m large and 2m deep canal probably leading from the Tophet area to the circular port area.

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

We could conjecture the this canal might carry out a link between the Salambô area, and some inland harbour, close to the Byrsa hill or also further north. However, it is complicated to imagine together a 1 come 2km long canal without further archaeological evidence. Anyway, this canal was silted-up and also abandoned prior to 350BC (Hurst and Stager, 1978).

The phibìc mole that the Falbe Quadrilateral, situated ca. 1 kilometres south the the Byrsa hill was also built in Punic times and possibly offered as a breakwater protecting the enntrance gate of the rectangular commercial port and also the circular military port (the Cothon). Both port were developed inside the city walls and closed by a heavy chain (Appian, Libyca, 96). The rectangular port to be built in between 300 BC and 250 BC, and the one port around 200 BC (Lancel, 1985).

After the Roman conquest (146 BC), the city was an initial destroyed and also later on, rebuilt by Augustus. Both the rectangular and also the circular ports were rebuilt together commercial port and provided Rome through olive oil and grain during the first centuries AD. We can conjecture the the roman inn cellular frameworks located eastern of the Byrsa hill were constructed on peak of (or behind) the ancient Punic quays and also city wall. However, this quays may have been undermined by wave action and finally abandoned for shipping. A two-line coastal protection would certainly then have been developed to safeguard the city in the 5th or sixth c. At the time, the remaining dual port mechanism was dubbed “Mandracium” by Procopius (Vandals, 1, 20).

Eastern shore area. In bespeak to know the undermining activity of waves on the eastern quay, us must have actually a closer look at the wind and wave conditions. The wind climate which to be studied because that the harbor of Thapsus. Indigenous Bizerte to cap Bon (and even Nabeul) prevailing winds are from NW all year round. East and also NE winds prevail only south that Nabeul and all the means down come Djerba.This method that in ancient times, the east shore area was on open sea however that that was fairly protected from prevailing NW winds. Together an external quay located just in former the Byrsa hill might even go ago to beforehand Phoenician times. It would certainly later have actually been used (perhaps for brief stops of ships) in conjunction v the inner harbor after the last was built. As this outer quay can be attacked by NE waves, we can conjecture that it has been undermined through erosion, so that it lastly had come be protected or replaced by rubble. The 2nd line of rubble defence was possibly added somewhat later. (Hurst, 2010, calls it “boulder seawall”). The result was the no ship might reach the external quay anymore and that the inner port must have taken over all traffic.

Inner port area. Both the rectangular and also the circular port obviously survived much better than the eastern coast quays together they were safeguarded from the sea. The circular port was studied by numerous generations the archaeologists. That was referred to as “the Cothon” due to the fact that of its saucer-like shape, more than since it was a synthetic dug-out harbour container (Carayon, 2017). Both the external perimeter and also the central islet to be filled v slipways through shipsheds (Blackman, 2013).

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

Harbour entrance. It has been shown that the northern edge that Falbe’s quadrilateral is Punic. That reaches ca. 75 m in the sea in an eastward direction. Such a quick breakwater provides limited shelter versus north and NW waves because that a small number of ships (say five), and also no shelter for various other wave directions. It can be conjectured the this breakwater was constructed in stimulate to provide a sheltered access to the inner rectangular port. It to be later contained into a roman platform that was called Falbe’s quadrilateral in the 20th c. And also where an additional Roman cellular framework was found by Yorke & little (1975). The roman entrance come the rectangle-shaped port was thus relocated southwards where big blocks that Roman maritime concrete (opus caementicium) were uncovered by Hurst (2010).

Further (fascinating) reading on:


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

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

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

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

HURST, H., 2010, “Understanding Carthage as a roman inn Port”, Bollettino di Archeologia ~ above 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 engravings et Belles-Lettres, 129ᵉ année, N. 4, 1985. (p 727-751).

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YORKE, R. & LITTLE, J., 1975, “Offshore inspection at Carthage, Tunisia, 1973”, worldwide Journal the Nautical Archaeology and also Underwater exploration (1975), 4.1, (p 85-101).