Tunes

Tunes (Greek: Τύνης): city near Carthage, modern Tunis.

Head of Bacchus from Tunes

Tunes, the medina of modern Tunis, is situated on a hill between a lagoon and a salt lake. The Greek historian Polybius, who visited the city, thought that “nature and fortifications have rendered it a very strong place”.note

Its port was situated in the east, open to the Gulf of Tunisnote and protected against northern wind by the peninsula of Carthage, which is visible from Tunis.note Today, this lagoon has been closed and it is now called Lake Tunis. Here is also the estuary of the river Miliane. To the southwest is a sebkha (a kind of salt lake) called Séjoumi. The Graeco-Roman geographer Strabo of Amasia mentions hot springs and stone-quarries.note

Situated at the beginning of the Carthaginian peninsula, Tunes was the place where the original Numidian population gathered to trade with the new Phoenician settlement. The name, which begins with a T, indicates a Numidian origin (cf. Thuburbo Maius, Thapsus, Thugga, Theveste, Thamugadi…). This also means that Tunes was a natural target for any army attacking Carthage.

Sieges

In 396/395 BCE, after the Carthaginians had suffered a great defeat on Sicily, the people of Africa revolted, captured Tunes, but were unable to besiege Carthage itself.note Several decades later, in 310 BCE, Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, captured “white Tunes” – which is almost certainly Tunes itself, which still looks like a white city because of the color of the stones quarried over there. The city was the target of several sieges and countersieges by Agathocles, the Carthaginians, and Agathocles’ son Archagathus.note

In the First Punic War, Tunes was used by Regulus, the Roman consul, when he attacked Carthage.note In the spring of 355, he was defeated on the peninsula. After their defeat in the First Punic War, the Carthaginians lost Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, and their mercenaries revolted. Again, Tunes was a military objective.note In the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE), the Roman commander Scipio occupied Tunes too.note

Roman Tunes

The inevitable result was that Tunes went into decline, even when the century between the sack and refoundation of Carthage (146-46 BCE) left Tunes as the most important city in the neighborhood. We know almost nothing about it. Stones with inscriptions found in modern Tunis are often from Carthage or Utica.

Christian bishops are mentioned in 411 and 533.

This page was created in 2020; last modified on 19 March 2020.