Carthaginians: Appian of Alexandria (mid-second century CE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Carthaginians: Appian of Alexandria (mid-second century CE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified October 14, 2023,

Author: Appian of Alexandria, Roman Matters: Punic Book 8.1.1-2 (link)

Comments: We know very little about Appian beyond that he was a Greek from Alexandria, spent time as a lawyer in Rome, belonged to the equestrian order, and likely took a position as procurator. Appian’s work on Roman Matters is an important source not only for the Roman civil wars but also for Rome’s engagements with other peoples (the so-called “Foreign Wars” section of the work), including the Karchedonians or Carthaginians. Appian sketches out the origins of the settlement at Byrsa (later Karchedon / Carthage) and makes reference to the Karchedonians’ relations with local peoples (Libyans).

Source of the translation: H. White, Appian’s Roman History, volume 1, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1912), public domain, adapted by Harland.


Book 7

[Origins of the Carthaginians / Karchedonians]

1 (1) The Phoenicians settled Carthage (Karchedon), in Africa, fifty years before the capture of Troy. Its founders were either Zoros and Karchedon, or, as the Romans and the Carthaginians (Karchedonians) themselves think, Dido, a Tyrian woman, whose husband had been secretly slain by Pygmalion, the ruler of Tyre. The murder being revealed to her in a dream, she embarked for Africa with her property and a number of men who desired to escape from the tyranny of Pygmalion, and arrived at that part of Africa where Carthage now stands.

Being repelled by the Libyans [i.e. native inhabitants], they asked for as much land for a dwelling place as they could encompass with an ox-hide. The Libyans laughed at this frivolity of the Phoenicians and were ashamed to deny so small a request. Besides, they could not imagine how a town could be built in so narrow a space. Wishing to unravel the mystery, they agreed to give it and confirmed the promise by an oath. The Phoenicians, cutting the hide round and round in one very narrow strip, enclosed the place where the citadel of Carthage [modern Tunis] now stands, which from this affair was called Byrsa, “hide.”

[Earliest interactions with the Romans]

(2) Starting in this way, getting the upper hand over their neighbours, and engaging in traffic by sea like the Phoenicians, they built a city around Byrsa. Gradually acquiring strength, they mastered Libya and the greater part of the sea [Mediterranean sea], then carried war into Sicily and Sardinia and the other islands of that sea and also into Iberia [modern Spain]. They sent out numerous colonies. They became a match for the Greeks in power, and next to the Persians in wealth. But about 700 years after the foundation of the city the Romans took Sicily and Sardinia away from them, and in a second war they also took away Iberia. Then, assailing each other’s territory with immense armies, the Carthaginians, under Hannibal, ravaged Italy for sixteen years in succession. Yet the Romans, under the leadership of Cornelius Scipio the Elder, carried the war into Libya, crushed the Carthaginian power, took their ships and their elephants, and required them to pay tribute for a time. A second treaty was now made between the Romans and the Carthaginians which lasted fifty years, until, upon an infraction of it, the third and last war broke out between them, in which the Romans under Scipio the Younger destroyed Carthage and forbade the rebuilding of it. But another city was built subsequently by their own people, very near the former one, for convenience in governing Libya. Regarding these matters, the Sicilian part is shown in my Sicilian writing, the Iberian in my Iberian writing, and what Hannibal did in his Italian campaigns in the Hannibalic writing. This book will deal with the operations in Libya from the earliest period.

[Detailed discussion of the wars between the Romans and the Carthaginians follows].

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