Tunisia offers a selection of its cultural heritage as a witness to close ties with the Mediterranean and the remaining peoples of the world. The archaeological monuments in different Tunisian sites are reminiscent of prestigious cities. Numerous archaeological, iconographic, and literary accounts Archaeology tells the history of Tunisia, its contribution to the Mediterranean and universal civilization, its ambitions, and its willingness to be itself, a hospitable and tolerant country.
You are scarcely supposed to have never heard about Carthage. One can say this city became famous for a man's envy and persistence as well as for a woman's ingenuity and self-sacrifice.
The scientific data state that this lady of fashion lived much earlier. Consequently, we start our narrative with this woman. Elissa was the name of this Phoenician queen. In the year 814 B.C. this strong-willed woman and her numerous followers landed on the coast of North Africa. The indigenous people - Berbers, weren't looking forward to welcoming the colonizers. As soon as they understood that the Phoenicians were unlikely to leave Africa once for all, they tried to create obstacles. In the meantime, by "business talks" Elissa purchased the enticing Berber site at an exorbitant price paying for a piece of land the size of a bull's hide. Not very large piece as it might have been covered by a bull's pelt. Indeed, a bull is bigger as compared with a hamster. But there's no room under a pelt for the whole group. However, Elissa had ever looked upon herself as a wise woman. So, she thought out all beforehand. At night she cut the hide into very thin strips until she had one strip long enough to surround the hilltop upon which Carthage was later built. The next morning saw her "snatch" a big piece of the Berber "place to live".
To commemorate this out of the ordinary event, the main square of Carthage gets the name of "BYRSA" (pelt). The first settlement was built on the land that had been got through Elissa's cunning. In a while it turned into the eminent city of Carthage. Unfortunately, some ruins are reminiscent of the square, but they bear witness to streets and buildings to say nothing of the water drain rests. The settlement extended.
Carthage grew in strength. One day a Berber ruler demanded Elissa's hand in marriage. He cared for negotiating a fruitful alliance with the artful Phoenicians. But Elissa was proud and loved the city like her own child. She asked gods for advice. What should she do to make Carthage prosperous and famous for centuries? To tell the truth, those days' gods were unlikely to be very compassionate. They required a great sacrifice of her - Elissa's life. Then she ordered to build a sacrificial pyre at the gate of Carthage, legend says, and threw herself into the fire with no doubt at the eyes of the shocked citizens. The queen's ashes were buried. And the whole state began flourishing there, amazing everybody by its greatness and wealth. Skilful and hardworking Phoenicians cultivated wheat, produced glassware, were good at textiles and pottery.
In addition, they invented the first alphabet of 22 letters. By and by the Carthaginians soon made their presence felt in Corsica, Sardinia, establishing themselves in Maghrib, Spain and Sicily. It is said that Marcus Porcius Cato, a Roman senator, was brought to Carthage. Having made a tour of the city, he was dying of envy. Coming home, he always used to conclude his public speech with the words "Delenda est Carthago!" (Carthage must be destroyed). The arrogant Rome didn't put up with a competitor, and operated all accessible means in this no-ruled fight. Apart from the traditional "ravage with fire and sword", the Romans did not ignore "counter PR", setting a rumour afloat about Phoenicians' lust for bloodshed. More to the point, numerous human victims were sacrificed in the honors of the gods including babies. Today the majority of scientists consider it an attempt to harm the reputation of a political opponent. The persistent senator, meanwhile, achieved his goal, though after his death. Carthage was really destroyed to nothing. To tell the truth, by considerable victims and efforts as the citadel stood up to the enemy's onslaught.
The wars between Carthage and Rome got the name Punic - Carthaginians were named "Punes". During the last, the shortest one - the third Punic war the citadel was literally leveled to the ground. The fertile soil was strewn with salt. Nothing could be grown there. However, approximately 100 years later a Caesar restored it anew in the Roman style. Rome's power also waned, and Carthage eventually fell to the Vandals, Arians, that destroyed the revived city before the Byzantines came. And then, the Arabs took control over it, replaced later by the French protectorate. Now a quiet suburb of Tunis, it bears no resemblance to the magnificent city whose power once made Rome tremble.
Monuments of the most different epoch - Punic, Roman, Byzantine, Spanish ones visualize. Among the lasted ones we can view the rests of sanctuaries to Tanit and to the well-known Baal Hammon, Antonius terms, an amphitheater, arena of gladiators. In fine, enjoyable sights tempt you to have a look at them.
As for Carthage everybody has the slightest idea of it by the irony of fate thanks to Cato's famous saying. Hoping for its fall he repeated with an insistence worthy of better application: "Delenda est Carthago!", that immortalized it for ever.
Streets are lined with public buildings on both sides - the city hall, post office, train station, administrative offices, shops and villas. Decoration is usually ostentatious with an eclectic bias (as near the train station for example), or an Arabic tendency, as in the ministries near la Kasbah, and the villas in the Passage area. You will see buildings constructed in the Art Nouveau style, like the Theatre Municipal (Municipal Theatre) in the main boulevard of Avenue Habib Bourguiba. It is one of four similarly-styled theatres in the world. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Art Deco style was popular, with its symmetry, geometric motif decoration, balconies and cornices. Some locations are particularly interesting, such as the Musee Postal (Postal Museum) in the post office building, comprising a complete Tunisian stamp collection, foreign stamps, postcards and old telephonic and telegraphic transmission equipment. The Marche Central (Central Market) is very lively. It opens very early in the morning and closes between 1pm and 2 pm. Strolling around the Marche Central is very pleasant and appetising. Vegetables, fruits, and fish are fresh and abundant. All around the market, large and small shops sell all sorts of goods: various types of cereal, dried fruit, dried figs, dates, salted vegetables and a great variety of salted olives and cheeses. In Avenue Habib Bourguiba, in the Palmarium building, near the Municipal Theatre, there is the SOCOPA Mall where you can discover what Tunisian craftsmen produce in the country's different regions: blown glass, all sorts of cloths, male and female traditional costumes; silver, gold and coral jewellery; silverware, copper vases, furniture, trinkets, kelims, mergoums and knotted carpets. The Catholic cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul was built in 1882 in a Neo-Byzantine style. Facing it on the opposite side of the square is the impressive building of the French Embassy. To travel to the northern suburbs, trains run from the T.G.M. station (Tunis-Goulette-Marsa), at the end of Avenue Habib Bourguiba. The train travels from Tunis to La Goulette, Le Kram, Salambo, Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and La Marsa where it terminates.
El Djem is amazing and stunning. The contrast between the modest flat village and the immense imposing coliseum is breathtaking. The image of two contrasted worlds will catch you by surprise. An increasing emotion is guaranteed as the visit goes on. History Thysdrus, today's El Djem, the ancient Punic city, became important only from the first century A.C. Sumptuous buildings were constructed. Following some decline, the city regained prosperity as from the end of the third century. Its final decline started with the Arab conquest and the foundation of the city of Kairouan. The impressive amphitheater should not, however, hide the major importance of the museum and the vast excavation site.
Near the tip of the Cap Bon peninsula, not too far from Carthage, lie the ruins of the ancient Punic city of Kerkouane. Although little is known about the town itself, it is of great importance to historians and archaeologists as the only known Phoenicio-Punic city to have survived the destructive wrath of Rome at the end of the Punic Wars. Though it lacks any the impressive larger structures - none of the walls is over five feet high and the tallest thing standing is a solitary pillar - Kerkouane seems in some ways better preserved.