Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
THE BLOODSTAINED QUEEN OF THE SEAS

ALSO ON African soil was the city which almost became Europe's undoing: Carthage.

The Carthaginians wore woollen garments that hung down to the feet, sandals, and pointed hats. Men and women bedecked themselves with bracelets and earrings, some even with nose rings, and both sexes used perfume. The women applied rouge to their faces, while the men proudly cultivated full, curly beards.

Their city was narrow and dirty; noise and stench filled the air in the winding lanes. The cult buildings of Carthage were mediocre imitations of Egyptian models, and the dwellings of the wealthy tried in vain to emulate Grecian types. Most of the houses, however, were boxlike and primitively built; wall against wall, roof jutting over roof, they crowded each other on the hillsides. Furnishings consisted mostly of large clay vessels in which water, flour, and even clothes were kept; the well-to-do might possess a rug and a wooden chest.

The people of Carthage knew neither circus nor theatre, and a cheerful disposition was a rarity among them, it seems. Everywhere they felt crowded by demons, and if they thought the gods were angered they burned their children in the fiery gullet of their effigy of their god Baal. They had their prisoners of war trampled to death by elephants, and military leaders who had suffered defeat were crucified.

They were successful and highly ruthless merchants and the most experienced seafarers of antiquity. When Hannibal was their leader, they aspired to world domination; in 211 B.C. they were at the gates of Rome.

Carthage was a colonial city, founded by a Semitic people who originally called themselves Canaanites, but were named Phoenicians by the Greeks, and Poeni by the Romans. Along the coast of today's Syria and Lebanon they built a close chain of mercantile cities, of which Ugarit, Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre were most important. The great cultural contribution of the Phoenicians was their development of the alphabet. More adaptable and easier to learn than the hieroglyphics used in the Euphrates and Nile areas, it became the basis for all European scripts. The Phoenicians also

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