Secondo una leggenda Cartagine fu fondata da Didone, fuggita da Tiro dopo che suo fratello Pigmalione, le aveva ucciso il marito per usurpargli il trono.

In realtà, si trattò probabilmente di un gruppo di esuli che, dopo aver tentato invano di impadronire il potere nella città fenicia, costruirono un nuovo insediamento sulle coste dell’attuale Tunisia.

La storia ricorda Cartagine principalmente per le tre guerre puniche.

Le guerre iniziarono quando l’esercito romano invase la Sicilia con l’intenzione di sottomettere l’isola occupata dai Cartaginesi.

La storia della città risale ad almeno sei secoli prima, sorta ufficialmente all’814 a.C.

Della Cartagine punica, distrutta prima dai romani e poi definitivamente dagli arabi intorno al 700 a.C., non restano che poche rovine. Le più interessanti si trovano sulla collina di Birsa, dove sorgeva l’acropoli, all’epoca circondata da una cinta di mura.

Poche tracce indicano il santuario di Tophet, il luogo destinato alle sepolture sacrificali, nei cui pressi sorgeva un tempio dedicato agli dei fenici Tanit e Baal, per i quali erano immolati i figli dei nobili cartaginesi.

Individuato nel 1921, ha permesso di portare alla luce numerose stele che sono servite a ricostruire almeno in parte gli usi dell’epoca.

Dei due porti che avevano fatto grande Cartagine, quello mercantile e quello militare, resta solo uno stagno in riva al mare.

Qualcosa di più è rimasto, invece, a ricordare l’epoca romana, come le imponenti terme di Antonino, costruite tra il 146 e il 162 d.C.

Oggi è visibile soltanto il basamento, dove sorgevano le stanze degli inservienti e i forni in cui si scaldava l’acqua (poi inviata alle sale termali, situate al piano superiore), sorretto da colonne che dovevano avere un diametro di due metri e un peso di settanta tonnellate.

Poco distante si trova la basilica di Damus el Karita, dove Sant’Agostino predicò tra il 399 e il 413.

L’anfiteatro, dove si svolgevano i combattimenti dei gladiatori è appena visibile nel verde di pini, poiché la maggior parte delle pietre è stata asportata nei secoli per essere destinata ad altre costruzioni.

A nord-est dell’anfiteatro si trova una serie di gigantesche cisterne che costituivano la principale fonte idrica della città in epoca romana.

Scarsi sono i resti del teatro fatto costruire da Adriano, come pure quelli dei templi e delle abitazioni.

A ricordare la grandezza di Cartagine rimangono le collezioni conservate nel Museo Nazionale che occupa i locali del Seminario del Padri Bianchi accanto alla cattedrale di San Luigi.

Qui si trovano vasi, sculture, iscrizioni e ceramiche scoperti durante gli scavi, ultime testimonianze della Cartagine punica, romana e araba.


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