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By the beginning of the fifth century B.

Carthaginian Empire

The city had conquered most of the old Phoenician colonies, for example, Hadrumetum, Utica and Kerkouane, subjugated the Libyan tribes with the Numidian and Mauretanian kingdoms remaining more or less independent , and taken control of the entire North African coast from modern Morocco to the borders of Egypt not including the Cyrenaica, which was eventually incorporated into Hellenistic Egypt.

Its influence had also extended into the Mediterranean, taking control over Sardinia, Malta , the Balearic Islands and the western half of Sicily , where coastal fortresses such as Motya or Lilybaeum secured its possessions. Important colonies had also been established on the Iberian peninsula. Their cultural influence in the Iberian Peninsula is documented, but the degree of their political influence before the conquest by Hamilcar Barca is disputed.

Carthage's economic successes, and its dependence on shipping to conduct most of its trade, led to the creation of a powerful Carthaginian navy to discourage both pirates and rival nations. This, coupled with its success and growing hegemony, brought Carthage into increasing conflict with the Greeks, the other major power contending for control of the central Mediterranean.

The island of Sicily , lying at Carthage's doorstep, became the arena on which this conflict played out. From their earliest days, both the Greeks and Phoenicians had been attracted to the large island, establishing a large number of colonies and trading posts along its coasts.

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Small battles had been fought between these settlements for centuries. By B. This imminent threat could not be ignored, and Carthage—possibly as part of an alliance with Persia, then engaged in a war with Greece—fielded its largest military force to date, under the leadership of the general Hamilcar. Traditional accounts give Hamilcar's army a strength of three hundred thousand men; though these are almost certainly exaggerated, it must nonetheless have been of formidable force. En route to Sicily, however, Hamilcar suffered losses possibly severe due to poor weather.

Landing at Panormus modern-day Palermo , he was then decisively defeated by Gelo at the Battle of Himera. Hamilcar was either killed during the battle or committed suicide in shame. As a result the nobility negotiated peace and replaced the old monarchy with a republic. It had conquered much of modern day Tunisia , strengthened and founded new colonies in North Africa, and sponsored Mago Barca's journey across the Sahara Desert , Hanno the Navigator's journey down the African coast, and Himilco the Navigator's exploration of the European Atlantic coast.

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Although, in that year, the Iberian colonies seceded—cutting off Carthage's major supply of silver and copper —Hannibal Mago, the grandson of Hamilcar, began preparations to reclaim Sicily, while expeditions were also led into Morocco and Senegal , and also into the Atlantic. He was successful in capturing the smaller cities of Selinus modern Selinunte and Himera, before returning triumphantly to Carthage with the spoils of war.


But the primary enemy, Syracuse, remained untouched and, in B. This time, however, he met with fierce resistance and ill-fortune. During the siege of Agrigentum, the Carthaginian forces were ravaged by plague, Hannibal Mago himself succumbing to it. Although his successor, Himilco, successfully extended the campaign by breaking a Greek siege, capturing the city of Gela, and repeatedly defeating the army of Dionysius, the new tyrant of Syracuse, he, too, was weakened by the plague and forced to sue for peace before returning to Carthage.

Himilco responded decisively, leading an expedition which not only reclaimed Motya, but also captured Messina. Finally, he laid siege to Syracuse itself. The siege was close to a success throughout B. Sicily by this time had become an obsession for Carthage. Over the next sixty years, Carthaginian and Greek forces engaged in a constant series of skirmishes.

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Hamilcar, grandson of Hanno the Navigator, led the Carthaginian response and met with tremendous success. In desperation, Agathocles secretly led an expedition of 14, men to the mainland, hoping to save his rule by leading a counterstrike against Carthage itself. In this, he was successful: Carthage was forced to recall Hamilcar and most of his army from Sicily to face the new and unexpected threat. Although Agathocles' army was eventually defeated in B. Between and B.

Pyrrhus sent an advance guard to Tarentium under the command of Cineaus with 3, infantry. Pyrrhus marched the main army across the Greek peninsula and engaged in battles with the Thessalians and the Athenian army. After his early success on the march Pyrrhus entered Tarentium to rejoin with his advance guard. In the midst of Pyrrhus's Italian campaigns, he received envoys from the Sicilian cities of Agrigentum, Syracuse, and Leontini, asking for military aid to remove the Carthaginian dominance over that island. Initially, Pyrrhus' Sicilian campaign against Carthage was a success, pushing back the Carthaginian forces, and capturing the city-fortress of Eryx, even though he was not able to capture Lilybaeum.

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See Article History. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Lebanon: Assyrian and Babylonian domination of Phoenicia. Unfortunately, the native historical records of the Phoenicians have not survived, but it is clear from the Bible that the Phoenicians lived on friendly terms with….

Ancient Carthage -

History at your fingertips. Ask it above. Having conquered Egypt it is time for the army of Carthage to move north up the coast. First the city of Tyre stands in their way and if they can subdue the fabled island citadel then Darius is massing the largest army ever seen to face them on the banks of the gentle river Issus. A river that will run with blood before the year is out. It is BC and Carthage must fight on land and sea. Having conquered Egypt it is time for the hard bitten and experienced army of Carthage to move north up the coast.

What on Earth Happened to the Phoenicians?

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