ThysdrusRoman Coliseum of El-Jem

Panem et Circensis

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Location: Tunis, Tunisia, Tunisia

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Defending Carthage and Carthaginians

My friend at Dappled Things has a comment on a post at Regions of Mind about an article published in The Wall Street Journal, claiming that Carthaginians have been long accused of infanticide. To be clear I am not an archealogist nor historian but I was more than suprised by the WSJ's story and I am hereafter making the following observations:

First, Tunisia's history spans over more than three thousand years and it has been at the criss-cross of many civilizations. In this regard, digging into a yet-to-be-verified single aspect of that whole history in order to stigmatize Tunisia is really ridiculous and irresponsable.

Second,Carthaginians are not the first nor the last settlers who lived in Tunisia. Prior to them,the North African country was the home of indigenous Berbers known as Amazighs whose descendants can be still found, today, in the Southern part of Tunisia. Then came the Phoenicians, who founded Carthage, which in the 4th century B.C. was eventually destroyed, and Tunisia was made part of the Roman Empire. In the 5th century A.D., Tunisia was captured by the Vandals and became the capital of their short-lived kingdom.In the 7th century and after a brief period of rule by the Byzantines, Tunisia was conquered by Arab Muslims and made part of the Umayyad Caliphate then Muslim Andalusians migrated to the area after having been forced out of Spain in 1492.

During the moslem era, different successive arab and moslem rulers have settled in Tunisia such as Aghlabids, Fatimids, Almohads and Hafsids.

In the Middle Ages, Tunisia became part of the Ottoman Empire and in the spring of 1881, France colonized the country under a protectorate until Tunisia got its independence from the french in in 1956.

Third,every country has both dark and enlightened aspects of their history and Tunisia is no exception but Mr. Omar Boukhari said in the WSJ's article "Tunisians need to learn about the most positive and most enlightened aspect's of Tunisia's history which has contributed in the making of today's open, tolerant and modern Tunisian society.

Fourth, history books mentioned the bloody and inhumane wars led by the Romans against Carthaginians and who does not recall the phrase of Roman Senator Cato the Elder, "Cartago Delenda Est" Carthage must be destroyed to memorialize the absolute Roman devastation. The Romans have annihiliated the City of Carthage, massacring women, men and children, burning everything and even more spreading salt on the soil of Carthage, thus putting an end to any sort of life.

Fifth, many ancient civilizations practiced child-sacrifice and incineration of dead bodies as part of their religious rituals and smearing the history of Carthage as one of child murders is but a part of a vicious campaign led by a network of moslem funadamentalists and extremists operating in Europe, who attempted in the past to provoke social upheaval in Tunisia through viloent activities and agression.

Sixth, since the 80s and 90s Tunisia, has fought those extremists and fundamentalists who in the name of Islam wanted to sever the country from its past and history. They have even fiercely criticized the Tunisian authorities for considering the idea to build a statue of the Carthaginian General Hannibal Barca in the city of Carthage,accusing the government of going back to paganism and heresy and likening it to the pre-islamic period that prevailed in the Arab penisula, known as Jahilya.

Finally, Professor Hassine Fantar, whom I had the chance to meet on a couple of occasions, is a well known and well-respected historian and archealogist and when you talk about Carthage, Mr. Fantar is more than an expert.


Blogger xofezura said...


I read the article in the WSJ. I understand the point "let's talk about Roman atrocities for a second," but what I didn't understand was the apparent effort at a cover-up.

It's one thing, as you do in your post, to put the child sacrifices in the context of one group of people living at one particular time, and it is another thing to have tour guides telling people "it never happened."

It's the cover-up aspect that got the story into the WSJ in my opinion.

7:47 PM  

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