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I'm fascinated by the Great Cothon of Carthage, but when I try to learn more about it online, there's surprisingly little information. Everyone has physical descriptions of the size and shape, but what I'm looking for is information about when it was built and by whom, as well as whether it was developed in phases and expansions vs being built in its full scope during the original construction.

Can anyone shed any light about the development of the Great Cothon?

  • The best date I have for the founding of Carthage is some time in the 800s BC, which leaves a margin of over 600 years before a description from 200 BC would be written, so I'm wondering if anyone has a more precise date than that.

  • Large construction projects are often associated with a particular ruler, so I'm wondering who that might be.

  • Circular harbors may be harder to expand than others, but they're certainly able to be renovated, destroyed, rebuilt, or reinforced from wood to brick to stone, for example. I'm wondering if any of that happened.

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It was built by the city of Carthago, and there are descriptions of it from the 2nd century BC, so it was built probably a little before that. C:a 200BC is quoted on Wikipedia. Since a cothon is a circular harbour is was likely built in one go, it's hard to see how you could build it in phases in any reasonable meaning. All this is either self-evident or easily found by a search, so it's unclear to me what information you really want. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 5 '13 at 23:08
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The best date I have for the founding of Carthage is some time in the 800s BC, which leaves a margin of over 600 years before a description from 200 BC would be written, so I'm wondering if anyone has a more precise date than that. Large construction projects are often associated with a particular ruler, so I'm wondering who that might be. Circular harbors may be harder to expand than others, but they're certainly able to be renovated, destroyed, rebuilt, or reinforced from wood to brick to stone, for example. I'm wondering if any of that happened. I'm looking for the history of the structure. –  Alexander Winn Dec 5 '13 at 23:24
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I think your question would be improved by adding those clarifications to the question. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 6 '13 at 5:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to this source, Carthage remained a minor Phoenician outpost until after the fall of Tyre to Alexander the Great in 332 BC. At that time many of the wealthy citizens of Tyre, having ransomed themselves from Alexander, moved to Carthage and began the constructions that led to it rapidly becoming the wealthiest city of the Western Mediterranean. If accurate, that would undoubtedly place the construction of the Cothon in the time period between 332 BC and roughly 240 BC.

According to this additional source (page 85, 2nd column) there were two distinct harbors by the time of Scipio's siege during the Third Punic War, both of which were completely enclosed and sheltered. The term Cothon apparently derives from the name of the small island in the middle of the larger, military, harbour. It would seem likely that the smaller Cothon was built first, later supplemented by construction of the larger, though I cannot source this yet.

Here is another translation of the second source above.

Update: Here is a modern satellite photo of the two ports.

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