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About 800 BC the Phoenicians established Carthage on the edge of a region in North Africa that is now Tunisia. The city became the commercial center of the western Mediterranean and retained that position until overthrown by Rome.
According to tradition, Queen Dido founded Carthage after she fled from Tyre. The inhabitants there agreed to give her as much land as she could encompass with a single oxhide. By cutting the hide into thin strips, Dido was able to enclose a large area. It was near Carthage, according to Virgil's 'Aeneid', that Aeneas was shipwrecked (see Aeneas).
Carthage lay on a bay. Its Phoenician settlers were seafarers and traders. Aided by slave labor they built wharves, markets, and factories. Carthage grew rich and strong, with colonies in North Africa, in Spain, and on the Mediterranean islands.
Powerful Rome, over a period of a hundred years, defeated Carthage in the Punic Wars. The first, fought in Sicily from 264 to 241 BC, cost Carthage Sicily and a large indemnity.
In the second Punic War, from 218 to 201 BC, the general Hannibal crossed Spain and southern France with his war elephants and climbed over the Alps, an almost unbelievable exploit, to defeat the Romans at Cannae. After he was recalled to Africa, he lost at Zama, and Carthage was forced to withdraw from Spain. (See also Hannibal.)
Rome won the third Punic War, fought from 149 to 146 BC, in spite of a heroic resistance in which Carthaginian women cut off their hair to provide bowstrings for the catapults. Carthage was burned.
The emperor Augustus later built a new city on the site. This became a Roman seat of government in Africa. When the Vandals overran the region, Carthage was made their capital. It was destroyed again after its capture in AD 647 by the Arabs.

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