Carthage, Acient City of Tunisia

Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
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Trip End Mar 11, 2010


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Flag of Tunisia  ,
Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carthage is five (5) train stops long. This is not a drop by thing that you bang out in a day.  We caught the local train just walking distance from the Carlton hotel on the other side of the magnificent circle, fountain and obelisk you saw in the last photo.  The cost of a first class ticket is minimal.  The local train provides two classes of travel – first class (where the people with second class tickets sneak in to sit in the few available seats) and second class (where the people pack in standing like sardines and really get to know each other). 

Exiting at the first Carthage stop, we wander around looking for anything that resembles a sign, directions, or any indication of which way we should walk to the most notable site which is a Phoenician colony. It was founded about 814 BC, by colonists from Tyre. Carthage was sacked at the end of the Punic Wars by Rome in 146 BC and then colonized again in 105 BC by Augustus.  We turn up a hill aiming for the site we can see only to be informed by local construction workers that we should follow the long winding road under construction and without traffic.  They are correct.  Note to self - Why do all the Tunisian sidewalks have trees planted in the middle requiring you to walk in the street around the trees?

The first set of pictures are from the Hill of Byrsa where in the 8th century BC, Carthage was founded by the legendary Princess Elissa-Dido.  Newly restored, the former cathedral of Saint Louis, which crowns the hill is now a cultural center and the nearby national museum of Carthage holds a collection of Punic statues, steles and urns.  We are greeted by a variety of locals claiming to be historians and professors happy to provide us with a personal guided tour. 

The Cathedral stands over the hill was built in 1890s. The Moorish styled Cathedral is dedicated to the King Louix IX of France who died here during the siege of Tunis. Being one of the largest churches in North Africa, it was also the seat of the Archbishop of Carthage and Primate of Africa.

Leaving the Hill of Byrsa and walking along the Mediterranean Sea, we are reminded that for a thousand years, Phoenicians were masters of the Mediterranean and over 200 war ships and innumerable merchant vessels were sheltered in the nearby port.

When the Romans returned to Carthage, they built great buildings, theaters, villas and baths. Carthage became the administrative capital for Africa and its importance can be seen in the Antoinine Thermal baths, one of the largest built under the Roman empire with the "cool room" an amazing 47 meters long and 15 meters high.  The Baths of Antoninus Pius is one of the most important Roman remains and the largest baths to have existed in the Roman Empire in an area of 4.5 acres. The Baths were built in between 145 and 165 AD, during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius. The ground-floor featured separate restrooms for men and women, heating and water supply systems. The upper floor had proper baths with a grand staircase that led to the sea. There was also sunbathing terrace on the seaward side of the baths and on the leeward side were two semi-circular public lavatories.

The Roman Villas, or Parc des Villas Romaines, was once a Punic cemetery before becoming the site of well-appointed villas of Romans which belongs to the 3rd century. The restored Roman villa features a small antiquarium and pavements of fine mosaics. The terrace has several fragments of sculpture.
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