Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Walking in the footsteps of Hanniball

Right here on this hill called Byrsa, once stood the beautiful city Carthage. The infamous war leader Hanniball called it home. I think of all the bloodshed that was staged here and the icy wind seems to send an extra chill down my spine.

According to legend Carthage was founded in 8 BC by the Phoenicians under Queen Dido. It became a rich sea port that was eventually destroyed by the Romans because they saw it as a threat to their regional power.

The view from here is exquisite: lots of green and deep mountains beyond the sea. Today the city of Tunis decorates the natural backdrop. I live a thousand lives as I take in this important historical site. All the legends become real to me now.

Historians don’t know much about the original city because most of the culture and records were destroyed during this time. No wonder most of the stories about Carthage and Hanniball are based on legends.

The Romans eventually reconstructed the city, which became one of the largest and most influential cities around the Mediterranean. Even when Rome came to a fall in the 5th century, Carthage prospered.

We visit the Antoinine Thermal baths a short drive from the ruins of the original city. It is situated right on the shore and was clearly a great and royal structure. I later read that these Roman baths were one of the largest built under the rule of the Roman Empire.

Only when the Arabs arrived, did the era of ancient Carthage end. What the vandals didn’t destroy, the Arabs did. I can still see the beheaded Roman statues here. Our local guide says that the Arabs cut off the heads of the statues because Islam believes that thinking and creativity is the realm of God, not of man.

A lack of building materials in the area meant that the remains of the city were used to build other cities in the area such as Tunis, the capital of today's Tunisia. So although the foundations of the Phoenician as well as the Roman cities are still visible, most of the rest has been scavenged.

Today Carthage is a suburb of Tunis. During the Summer Festival, the reconstructed Roman theatre is still used for shows. We test out the acoustic from the metallic stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our show…”

Even when we say it softly our colleagues in the ‘audience’ can hear every word. It seems that nothing and everything has changed here in Carthage.

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