carthage was the center or capital city of the ancient carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the lake of tunis in what is now the tunis governorate in tunisia. carthage was widely considered the most important trading hub of the ancient mediterranean and was arguably one of the most affluent cities of the ancient world.
the city developed from a phoenician colony into the capital of a punic empire which dominated large parts of the southwest mediterranean during the first millennium bc. the legendary queen alyssa or dido is regarded as the founder of the city, though her historicity has been questioned. according to accounts by timaeus of tauromenium, she purchased from a local tribe the amount of land that could be covered by an oxhide. cutting the skin into strips, she laid out her claim and founded an empire that would become, through the punic wars, the only existential threat to rome until the coming of the vandals several centuries later.
the ancient city was destroyed by the roman republic in the third punic war in 146 bc and then re-developed as roman carthage, which became the major city of the roman empire in the province of africa. the city was sacked and destroyed by umayyad forces after the battle of carthage in 698 to prevent it from being reconquered by the byzantine empire. it remained occupied during the muslim period and was used as a fort by the muslims until the hafsid period when it was taken by the crusaders with its inhabitants massacred during the eighth crusade. the hafsids decided to destroy its defenses so it couldn't be used as a base by a hostile power again. it also continued to function as an episcopal see.
the regional power had shifted to kairouan and the medina of tunis in the medieval period, until the early 20th century, when it began to develop into a coastal suburb of tunis, incorporated as carthage municipality in 1919. the archaeological site was first surveyed in 1830, by danish consul christian tuxen falbe. excavations were performed in the second half of the 19th century by
charles ernest beulé and by alfred louis delattre. the carthage national museum was founded in 1875 by cardinal charles lavigerie.
excavations performed by french archaeologists in the 1920s first attracted an extraordinary amount of attention because of the evidence they produced for child sacrifice. there has been considerable disagreement among scholars concerning whether child sacrifice was practiced by ancient carthage. the open-air carthage paleo-christian museum has exhibits excavated under the auspices of unesco from 1975 to 1984.