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Exchange between Rome, Carthage, and the Phoenicians

Sal teaches an introduction to the Carthaginians and their roots as a Phoenician (Punic) colony.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] In previous videos how Rome became a Republic in 509 BCE, but it's worth noting, and I've done this in other videos, that at that point Rome was not this vast empire. It was really just in control of Rome itself. But over the next few hundred years, it starts to expand. Rome is a militaristic society. The Roman legions start to exert it's influence over more and more of the surrounding people on the Italian Peninsula. We keep going several hundred years until we enter into the 3rd century BCE. This is a map of what the Mediterranean, at least, looks like roughly as we enter into that 3rd century BCE. You see, even though that Rome has now exerted it's power over most of the Italian Peninsula right over here, it was not the dominant power in the Mediterranean. It was really the upstart, the new and growing empire. There are other significant empires. You see here the remnants of Alexander the Great's empire, his successors each now with their own significant empire, and in particular, Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Persia, which had control over much of the Middle East. The other empire that you see here in blue was the Carthaginian Empire. As we will see in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, Rome and Carthage are going to come at loggerheads, and Rome, eventually, is going to overthrow Carthage as the dominant empire in the Mediterranean. But you can see in this map right over here, entering into the 3rd century BCE, Carthage, that you see in blue, was a significant empire. So the question is, who were these Carthaginians? The answer is is that they were Phoenicians. Another answer is, even the Phoenicians did not call themselves Phoenicians, but to understand where all of this came from, we have to go back 5,000 years ago. 5,000 years before, roughly 5,000 years before now, around 3,000 BCE, where you have these city-states like Tyre and Sidon. I don't know if you can see those well. Let me rewrite it. That is Tyre, this is Sidon. Now, this map is obviously a map of the 3rd century BCE, but if you go back to when these cities were founded, in fact, before they were, I guess you can say, put under the influence of Nebuchadnezzar and then accumulated Persia, these were independent city-states. They're actually existing cities in modern day Lebanon. In this region, then, the leading cities were Tyre and Sidon. You had a group of people that would later be known as the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were famous for many things. They were famous as traders, as really ship builders, and traders. And they colonized much of, or large segments, of the coastline of the Mediterranean. This is going back thousands and thousands of years. Carthage was one of those colonies. It was established in the 9th century, this is what modern day historians believe, sometime between 846 and 813 BCE. It was a Phoenician colony, it was set up as, really, a trading post for the Tyrians, right over here. The reason why they're called Phoenicians, they didn't call themselves Phoenicians, these Phoenician people, they were called that by the Greeks and later the Romans, because they were famous for trading their purple dye. They had their purple dye, which was derived from mollusk mucous that they were able to get from the sea, as great sea traders and ship builders. They had this purple dye, and the term for this purple dye, it was related to the word phoinikes, or pho-ni-cian, and I know I'm not pronouncing it well. The Greeks and the Romans of the time called them the Phoenician people for their purple dye. Now, Carthage, as we will see in probably the next video, Carthage has a series of wars with Rome, which are called the Punic Wars. I've always wondered, where does that term Punic come from? Why isn't it called the Carthaginian Wars, or the Roman-Carthaginian Wars? And that's because the Carthaginians were referred to their origins as coming from Phoenicia. The Latin term for that was poenicus, once again, related to the Greek word for that purple dye. So poenicus became punic, so the idea of Phoenician, these are all related words to each other. When we're talking about the Punic Wars, these are the Romans, or this is the modern day English. The Romans would have said poenicus. These wars were referring to the wars with Carthage, who were descendant from the Phoenicians. Now, just as a side note, another thing that you might be wondering about is, hey, this word, Phoenician, it looks familiar. It looks like phonetic, like the phonetic alphabet. That was the other famous contribution of the Phoenicians, is that our alphabet, the idea of our alphabet, was derived from the Phoenetic alphabet of the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians did many, many, many things. They settled much, they were one of the real naval powers of the Mediterranean going back thousands, and thousands of years. By the time we get to the Middle Roman Republic, we're in the 3rd century BCE, we're in the 200s BCE, the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon, they're now part of the Seleucid Empire. The Seleucid Empire was one of the successor empires of Alexander the Great, but their offspring, so to speak, Carthage, is now a dominant power in the Mediterranean. With Rome starting to exert it's might, although it has very powerful armies, it does not, at this point, have a very powerful navy. But as we will see, as we get to 264 BCE, these two great powers in the Mediterranean start to come into a little bit of conflict.