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Historia Numorum

Carthago (Müller, ii, pp. 66 sqq.). It is noteworthy that this wealthy commercial state, with its population of some 700,000 inhabitants, made no use whatever of coined money until the great invasion of Sicily, B.C. 410, brought her armies for the second time into contact with the Greeks. Then and not till then does it appear that the necessity arose for striking coins, and it may be assumed that the payment of the troops employed in the devastation of the flourishing Hellenic settlements in that island was the immediate occasion of the coinage. That the use of coined money and the art of coining were borrowed by the Carthaginians from their Greek enemies is obvious from the adoption of the Sicilian type of the head of Persephone, and from the unmistakably Greek style of the earliest Carthaginian pieces.

Some of the types appear to be characteristically Carthaginian; e. g. the palm-tree (φοινιξ), which is evidently a canting type, and the horse’s head, which seems to allude to the foundation-legend mentioned by Virgil (Aen. i. 442 ff.). Otherwise, the Punic inscription is the only indication that these series of coins are not purely Greek, and there is every reason to think that they were struck in Sicily and not in Africa, and that Greek artists were employed to engrave the coin-dies. In several instances the names of Carthaginian towns in Sicily occur upon the coins, such as רש מלקרת, Resh Melqarth = Cephaloedium, המטוא Motya, ציץ = Panormus (?), ארך Eryx, כפרא Kfra (Kaphara, Village) = Solus. These have been already described under the cities whose names they bear (pp. 136, 139, 158, 161 f., and 170). There are, however, several other series bearing the inscriptions קרתחדשת, Qart Chadsat (= New city of Carthage); מחנת, Machanat (= the Camp); עם מחנת ,עם המחנת, or שעם מחנת, Am Machanat, Am hammachanat, or Shâm Machanat (People of the Camp); מחשבם, Mechasbim (the Quaestors), &c., which cannot be distinctly classed to any particular locality in Sicily. Such coins may therefore be appropriately described as Siculo-Punic, that is to say, as coins struck in Sicily for the payment of the Carthaginian armies. The following are the principal varieties (see Holm, Gesch. Sic., iii, pp. 643 ff.):—

Siculo-Punic Coins. c. B.C. 410-310.

GOLD. Phoenician Standard.

Head of Persephone, of fine early style.
[B. M. Guide, Pl. XXVI. 37.]
Prancing horse; above (symbol of Baal).
AV 118 grs.
AV 23.8 grs.
Date-palm tree (φοινιξ).Horse’s head.
AV 15.3 grs.
Head of Persephone.Date-palm tree.
AV 36 grs.

קרת חדשת Forepart of horse, sometimes crowned by Nike.מחנת Date-palm tree. [Holm, No. 268, Pl. VIII. 1.].
AR Attic tetradrachm.


FIG. 390.

קרת חדשת Free horse, crowned by Nike.Date-palm tree (Fig. 390).
קרת חדשת or no inscription. Head of Persephone, with or without dolphins around.Free horse before palm-tree. [B. M. Guide, Pl. XXVI. 39, and Pl. XXXV. 37, 38.].
Horse’s head.Top of date-palm tree.
AR Obol.

FIG. 391.

Head of a queen, wearing tiara of Oriental form.שעם מחנת Lion and palm-tree (Fig. 391).

FIG. 392.

Head of Persephone surrounded by dolphins.עם מחנת or מ Horse’s head and palm-tree (Fig. 392).
Head of Herakles in lion-skin.עם ה מחנת ,שעם מחנת, or מחשבם Horse’s head and palm-tree. [B. M. Guide, Pl. XXXV. 36.].
Head of Persephone surrounded by dolphins.Quadriga.

The resemblance of the head of Herakles on the coins of this series to that on the earliest tetradrachms of Alexander the Great is a valuable indication of date.

The Siculo-Punic bronze coins of this period are not numerous.


Head of Persephone.Free horse.
Æ .7
Bust of Artemis (?).Id.
Æ .55
Date-palm tree.Pegasos.
Æ .65
Id.Horse’s head.
Æ .8
Head of Persephone.Horse’s head.
Æ .9

During the reign of Agathocles of Syracuse it would seem that the issue of Carthaginian money in Sicily came to an end.

Coins struck at Carthage, circ. B.C. 340-242.

The money struck at Carthage itself consists wholly of gold (seldom pure), electrum, and bronze, down to the time of the acquisition of the rich silver mines of Spain, and the foundation of Carthago Nova in that country by Hasdrubal, the son-in-law of Hamilcar Barca, B.C. 242, when large silver coins, both Carthaginian and Hispano-Carthaginian, appear to have been first issued.

The gold and electrum money here referred to, which falls into the interval between the age of Timoleon and the end of the first Punic war, is as follows :—

FIG. 393.

Head of Persephone, wearing necklace with pendants. Horse standing (Fig. 393).
AV 145 grs.
Id.Horse and palm-tree.
AV 73 grs.
Id.Horse standing. [B. M. Guide, Pl. XLVII. 41.].
EL. 118 grs.
Head of Persephone.Horse and palm-tree.
EL. 58 grs.
Id.Horse standing, looking back.
EL. 27 grs.

These coins follow the Phoenician standard (drachm 59 grs.; 1½ dr. 88 grs.; didrachm 118 grs.; 2½ dr. 147 grs.). The bronze coins resemble the electrum drachms in size and types.

Circ. B.C. 241-146.

The period after the first Punic war is characterized by the great influx of precious metals from the newly acquired Spanish mines, and by the issue of large electrum, silver, and bronze coins. The development of style is so gradual that it is difficult to draw a line between the coins preceding and the coins following the second Punic war, although certain groups may be safely attributed to the period B.C. 241-146.


Head of Persephone. [Num. Chron., 1899, Pl. VIII. 8.]בארצת Prancing horse and palm-tree.
EL. 350 grs.
Id. [Müller, Fig. 66.]Horse standing, looking back.
EL. 193 grs.


Id. [B. M. Guide, Pl. LIX. 33.]Horse standing; above, radiate disk flanked by two uraei.
EL. 175 grs.
Id. [B. M. Guide, Pl. LIX. 34.]Horse standing.
EL. 118 grs.
Id. (flat style).Id.
EL. 46 grs.
Id.Horse and palm-tree.
EL. 36 grs.
AV or EL. 29 grs.


FIG. 394.

Head of Persephone.Prancing horse (Fig. 394).
(Dodekadrachm) AR 704 grs.

FIG. 395.

Id. (Fig. 395).בארצת (B'rtsth) Pegasos.
(Dekadrachm) AR 574 grs.
Id. [Müller, ii, No. 128.]Id.
(Octadrachm) AR 453.4 grs.
Id. [Müller, ii, Fig. 99.]Horse standing; above, radiate disk, flanked by two uraei.
AR 364 grs. (6 Dr.)
Id. [Ibid., Fig. 129.]Horse’s head.
AR 341 grs.
Id. [B. M. Guide, Pl. LIX. 36.]Horse; above, star.
AR 228 grs. (4 Dr.)
Id. [B. M. Guide, Pl. XLVII. 43; LIX. 37.]Horse and palm-tree; Horse looking back; Horse standing or trotting.
AR various smaller denominations.
Id. (serrated edge).Horse.
AR 204 grs.
Id.Horse and palm-tree.
POT. 170 grs.
Id.Horse and star.
POT. 44 grs.

The standard of the above-described coins is the Phoenician, the denominations being 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2½, 2, 1½, 1¼, and 1 drachm, together


with certain smaller divisions. The metal is not always of the purest quality. The inscription בארעת is supposed to stand for Byrsa, the citadel of Carthage. Some of the bronze coins, which for the most part resemble the silver in type and style, are of very large size, exceeding in weight the heaviest bronze coins of the Ptolemies and equivalent to about two of the contemporary Roman asses of the Sextantal reduction (supra, p. 19).

With the last electrum coins of Carthage of 46 grs. we may compare the contemporary electrum coins of Capua struck during the revolt of that city from Rome in the Hannibalic war (B.C. 216-211). (Supra, p. 35.) The similarity of the Capuan coins to those of Carthage in weight (46 grs.) and style, as well as in the base quality of the alloy of which they are composed, renders it highly probable that Capua, while the army of Hannibal was wintering there, B.C. 216-215 (Livy, xxiii. 18; Strabo, v. 4. 13), assimilated her coinage to that which was current among the Carthaginian troops, unless, indeed, the Capuan pieces were issued by the Carthaginians themselves. The silver Carthaginian coins with serrated edges probably belong to the same period.

The greater part of the money of Carthage towards the end of this period consists of bronze coins of very bad style and execution.

In addition to the coins certainly struck at Carthage itself there are a number of others, indistinguishable in style and type from the undoubted Carthaginian issues, which from the fact of their frequent occurrence in Spanish Finds, have been assigned to the Carthaginian possessions in Spain (see Zobel, Monatsber. d. kon. Akad. d. Wissensch., Berlin, 1863, p. 253 f.). The evidence is, however, far from conclusive (see Babelon, Rev. Num., 1889, pp. 403 f., 407 f.). Others in gold, silver, and bronze are conjecturally attributed by Müller (ii. 147) to Sardinia, after it ceased to form part of the Carthaginian dominions.

Head of Persephone.Bull standing; above, star; beneath, crescent enclosing disk.
AV 59, 46.5 grs.
Young male head diademed.Bull standing; symbol, ear of corn.
AR 113 grs.
Young male head diademed.Bull standing; symbol, uraeus.
AR 54 grs.
Head of Persephone.Three ears of corn, surmounted by crescent containing disk.
Æ 1.15-.9
Id.Bull standing; above, star.
Æ .8
Id. [Bull. Arch. du Com. des Trav., 1899, p. cciii.]Plough.
Æ .9

The following coins are also of uncertain mints (Müller, pp. 145, 146) :—

Head of Athena in triple-crested helmet.
[Müller, No. 4.]
Horse standing (perhaps Spanish).
Æ 1.05
Head of Apollo laureate. [Müller, No. 1.]Horse and radiate disk, flanked by two uraei (perhaps Sicilian).
Æ 1.05


Head of young Ares (?) helmeted.
[Müller, No. 3.]
Palm-tree (perhaps Spanish).
Æ .8
Head of Athena in crested helmet.
[Müller, No. 6.]
Horse, head reverted.
Æ .75

Carthage under the Romans.

Carthage was rebuilt by Julius Caesar, B.C. 45, and in B.C. 29 it was recolonized by Augustus. As a Roman colony it struck bronze coins down to the reign of Tiberius. Inscr., KAR VENERIS, Temple of Venus. Abbreviated names of the SVF[ETES] or Duumviri, also C. I. C. D. D. P. P. = Colonia Julia Carthago, decreto decurionum, permissu proconsulis, &c. (Müller, ii, p. 149).


The small group of coins below tells the history of Carthage over two centuries from 439 A.D. to 647 A.D. 


In the first century, the Vandals lived in the lands between the Elbe and Vistula.  About 330, Constantine the Great granted the Vandals lands in Pannonia on the right bank of the Danube.  In 406 the Vandals crossed into the Roman Empire and for the next two-and-a-half years pillaged, looted, and ruined towns and cities across Gaul. The Vandals plundered so wantonly that the word vandal is still used to describe a person who recklessly destroys property.  In 409 the Vandals settled in Spain.

In 429 Gaiseric convinced his people to abandon Spain for North Africa. Boniface, a discontented governor in the African provinces of Rome may have invited him. Eighty thousand in number, including thirty thousand warriors, the Vandals crossed at the Straights of Gibraltar and seized lands from the local Berbers. After five years of war, in 435, Rome and Gaiseric made peace. Huneric, the son of Gaiseric, was initially held by the court at Ravenna as pledge of peace, but after a few years he was released.  

Shortly after Huneric's release, on 19 October 439, Gaiseric attacked Carthage and gained the city by surprise.  During the Vandal conquest, a fire destroyed a large portion of the city and the Vandals themselves destroyed several major theaters and churches.  

Gaiseric made Carthage his capital, left the efficient Roman bureaucracy intact, and the Vandal kingdom of Africa prospered.  In 455 Gaiseric invaded Italy, sacking Rome while his fleets made war on much of the Mediterranean. Corsica, the Italian coast, Sardinia and Sicily all felt the terror of his forces.  Gaiseric died in early 477, outliving the Western Empire by one year.

The throne went to his eldest son Huneric.  Huneric died in 484 AD, and was followed in the kingship by Gunthamund (484-496 AD), Thrasamund (496-523 AD), Hilderic (523-530 AD), and the last Vandal king Gelimir (530-535 AD). 

Imitative siliqua of Honorius, 440-490 A.D.

Imitative siliqua of Honorius, Wroth BMC 6 - 9, Carthage, 1.6g, 15.5 mm, axis 350; obverse [DN]HON[ORI]VSPFAV[G], Honorius diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right.  R: VRBS ROMA, Roma seated left on cuirass holding Victory on globe and reversed spear, in ex RVPS (Ravenna) off-flan.  Although Honorius died in 423 A.D., Gaiseric, Huneric, and Gunthamund issued imitative siliqua of Honorius as late as 490 A.D.

Gunthamund, c. 484-496 A.D.

50 nummia, Blackburn and Greirson (G&B) #8 to 10, Carthage, 0.6g, 12.2mm, axis 180; obverse DNXG[VNTHA], bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse DN under line, within wreath; chipped

Trasamund, 496-523 A.D.

50 nummia, BM 12-14, Hahn pl 42, 6a-b, MEC 17-18, Carthage, 0.9g, 13.6mm, axis 45; obverse [DNRX]TRHSA[MV]ND, bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse DN between line and elongated L, all within wreath; chipped

Hilderic, 523-530 A.D.

3597. Bronze nummus, H 21, Grierson/Blackburn 24-5, gVF, .59g, 8.9mm, 180°, Carthage mint, 523-530 A.D.; obverse diademed head right; reverse cross in wreath


The Vandals gradually grew soft with the riches of their conquests.  In 533 Emperor Justinian ordered Belisarius, his great general, to subdue the Vandals.  On 13 September 533, Belisarius met King Gelimir and his brother Ammatas with their army at the tenth milestone south of Carthage. The tide of battle stood against the Byzantines until Ammatas was killed. Gelimir lost his nerve and the Vandal army disintegrated in flight. Belisarius quickly occupied Carthage. Within two years the last of Gelimir's loyalists were eliminated. Gelimer was honorably treated and received large estates in Galicia. Most of the Vandal men were made slaves of the Romaion (Byzantines).  The Vandals were eliminated as a people and disappeared from history.

Justinian I, 534-545 A.D.

Silver 1/2 siliqua?, SBCV 253 (siliqua), DOC 280 (siliqua), VF, Carthage mint, 0.6g, 12.2mm, axis 0; obverse DN[IVSTINI] ANVSPPAC, bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse VOT MVLT HTI within wreath; minor chip reverse 7:00; possibly an underweight siliqua, but this coin is not only half weight but also has smaller bust and die than the two SB 253 siliqua FORVM has handled, reverse is struck with a full siliqua size die, half siliqua of this type are not listed in SBCV or DOC, possibly unpublished denomination, very rare, or even unique

Justinian I, 534-545 A.D.

Silver siliqua, SBCV 254, DOC -, VF, 0.6g, 13.3mm, axis 180, Carthage mint; obverse [DNIVSTINI]ANVSPP, bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse monogram, cross above, S below, within linear border encircled by wreath; this issue was copied in fairly large numbers by the Ostrogoths, however, based on its provenance with a group of other Carthage siliqua, it is likely an official mint issue; holed in antiquity for use a jewelry, rare

Justin II, 565-578 A.D.

Silver 100 nummi, F/VF, SBCV 392B, .5g, 12.4mm, axis 180, Carthage mint; obverse [DNIVSTI]NVSPP, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing holding shield; reverse monogram, cross above, C (=100) below within border; chipped; extremely rare, not listed Dumbarton Oaks, Sear's Byzantine Coin Values has only line drawing vice the usual photograph

Justin II, 565-578 A.D.

Bronze half follis, Hahn-76, Vita type, 13.88g, 26.2mm, 140º, Carthage mint, second officina, 572-573 A.D.; obverse D N IVSTINO ET SOFIA AC,  busts of Justin and Sophia, crowned, facing, VITA (off flan) below exergue line, cross center; reverse large K between ANNO and VIII  (regnal year 8), cross above, S below, KAR in ex, scarce

Heraclius, 614-641 A.D.

Silver half siliqua, DOC class III, SBCV 871, DOC 233, MIB 149, DOC 233, MIB 149, Wroth BMC 343-6, Tolstoi 319-20, Ratto 1460-64, Morrison (CBN) 3-11, S 871, gVF (very conservative grade by Mr. Sear), 0.66g, 11.6mm, 100º, Carthage mint, 614-618 A.D. or less likely 628-629 A.D.; obverse D N ERACLIO PP AV, bust of Heraclius facing, beardless, wearing cuirass, paludamentum, and crown with pendilia and cross; reverse no inscription; to left bust of Heraclius Constantine, Heraclius' son, wearing chlamys with tablion and crown with pendilia and cross, to right bust of Martina, Heraclius' wife, wearing robes and crown with long pendilia and cross, cross between heads, scarce


Byzantine type coinage was struck by Khusru II during his temporary domination of Alexandria, 618-628 A.D.  It may seem strange that a Persian king would wear a crown surmounted by a cross, as on the coin below.  However, his wife, Sira was a Christian, he was a benefactor of the church of St. Sergius in Edessa; he honored the Virgin; and he sometimes wore a robe embroidered with a cross which he had received as a gift from the Emperor Maurice Tiberius (c.f. Grieson in DOC II, part 1 pp. 233-4). 

Khusru II, Persian Sassinid King, Byzantine type coinage of occupied Alexandria 618-628 A.D.

Bronze dodecanummium (12 nummi), DOC 192, MIB 202a, Wroth BMC 276, Tolstoi 107-8, Ratto 1314-15, CBN 30-31, Berk 586, Hahn 202a, VF, patches of corrosion, 17.91g, 24.5mm, 180º, Alexandria mint, 618-628 A.D.; obverse bust of the Sassanid King Khusru II wearing a crown with pendilia and surmounted by a cross within a crescent, star left, crescent moon right; reverse large I B with cross potent on globe between, ALEX in exergue, very scarce


The Byzantine emperors resumed the imperial coinage of Alexandria after their recapture of Egypt in 628 A.D.

Constans II, 641-647 A.D.

Silver siliqua, DOC class I, SBCV 1048, DO-130, VF, Carthage mint, 0.4g, 11mm, axis 225; obverse ]COST ANT[, bust facing, beardless, wearing chlamys, and crown with cross; reverse cross potent on base, chipped, scarce


Arab invaders conquered the region in the 7th century A.D., and the former Romano-Christian culture was replaced by Islam. Although practically destroyed by the Arabs in 698, the site was populated for many centuries afterward. The land was now known as Ifriqiya, and power was wielded by a succession of ruling dynasties, including the Aghlabites, the Fatimids, and the Zeirids.  Later invasions were made by the Sicilian Normans under Roger II in the 12th century and by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th century.  LOUIS IX of France died there in 1270, while on crusade.

A Short History of Carthage

Carthage was founded by the Phoenician city Tyre. The Phoenicians were forced into their then current position by the Jews and Egyptians. This area was abundant with supplies that could build and outfit ships. Naturally, the Phoenicians became the foremost traders in the whole of the Mediterranean. There are even some who claim they circumnavigated Africa!

Tyre, through size and trading, became the dominant city of Phoenicia. The Phoenicians were known for their mineral resources and their distribution of the world's goods. Sometimes, however, overpopulation in the city or discontent would cause colonies to be formed. Gades, founded around 1200 BC in Spain, was of Phoenician origin. Utica was founded from 1200-1000 BC, both cities much older than Carthage. Tyre itself founded many colonies between 1000-600 BC. Tyre was captured and sacked by Alexander in 332 BC.

Carthage is said to have been settled in the eighth century BC. Contrary to prior thinking, Carthage was not founded as a trading post but as a full-fledged colony. Carthage's astounding growth was probably due to its being on several important trade routes.

Carthage from its very beginning was a prime trading center engaging in the Iberian, Italian, and Levantine trading routes. With the decline of Tyre and the Iberian trade Carthage took over due to its heavier reliance on the Tyrrhenian trade. After its founding and several centuries after, Carthage had to import most of its food due to a lack of land.

During the sixth century Carthage began its expansion into Africa. During the fourth century even more of Africa came into the Punic sphere and Carthage became an agricultural powerhouse. Punic trade with Sardinia had been going on almost since Carthage was founded. Punic settlements in Africa and Spain were brought into the Punic fold, usually by alliance. The Carthaginian signed a military and economic treaty with the Etruscans in the sixth century BC. A combined Punic-Etruscan fleet drove the Greek refugees from Corsica. A commercial treaty was also signed with Rome in 509 BC.

Phoenician cities in Sicily were also absorbed by Carthage in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. A private intervention not state backed was crushed at Himera in 480 BC. In 410 BC military intervention was once again used in Sicily. Segesta, a Carthaginian ally, and Selinus, a Syracusan ally, Selinus was captured and its walls were razed. Himera, however, after being captured was sacked and fully destroyed. The Carthaginian army was then paid off and disbanded.

Carthage continued to expand absorbing most Phoenician cities in the western Mediterranean.

Several more wars were fought between Syracuse and Carthage, but the one with the largest impact was Agathocles' invasion of Africa. In 311-310 BC Carthaginian Africa was invaded by 13,500 men and 60 ships under his command. 

Agathocles, a tyrant of Syracuse, came to power through trickery and lost almost all the Sicilian cities besides Syracuse, his expeditionary force managed to slip out to Africa past the Punic blockading force. 

Agathocles defeated Punic armies numerous times, and the Punic army in Sicily was in shambles. Libyans and the Greek city Cyrene rallied to Agathocles' aid and his army grew even larger. Bomilcar, a Punic general, tried to seize Carthage in a violent coup, but he was defeated by the Carthaginian citizens.

Agathocles, hearing that his remaining cities in Sicily had claimed independence, left for Sicily and left the army under his son Archagathus. The Carthaginians split their army into thirds each having one sphere of land, Archagathus did the same and several of his detachments were destroyed by Punic forces. 

When Agathocles returned there was nothing he could do. He fled to Sicily leaving two sons and his army in Africa. His sons were killed and the army surrendered to Carthage.

Agathocles' men were either recruited into the Carthaginian army, settled in Sicily, put on work detail, or crucified. A peace was made soon after, Agathocles recognized all Punic possessions in Sicily and they paid him an amount of gold and grain. In this way, the first invasion of Africa was defeated. The Numidian and Libyan revolts were also put down afterwards.

The years went by and Carthage now had all most of Sardinia and Corsica, the western half of Sicily and some of Southeastern Spain. Carthage had also expanded its African holdings greatly acquiring much of northern Africa.

In the early third century, Rome tried to conquer the Greek cities of Italy also known as Magna Graecia. Pyrrhus took control of the coalition army and defeated Rome twice. Carthage offered Punic intervention but Rome rejected this.

At this time, another treaty was made between Carthage and Rome promising mutual cooperation militarily against Pyrrhus and agreeing to the same economic terms as previously agreed upon in the last treaty. Pyrrhus landed in Sicily in 278 BC. All Carthaginian cities in Sicily besides Lilybaeum fell quickly to the invader. Pyrrhus' heavy handed actions alienated his Sicilian allies and he decided to sail back to Italy. The Carthaginians provided the Romans naval support and eventually Pyrrhus was defeated at Beneventum in 275 BC.

Punic control was eventually reestablished after Pyrrhus left. So after two massively costly wars, Carthage once again had peace. This was not to last, however, as a group called the Mamertines murdered the original male citizens of Messana and took over. This would be a cataclysmic event that would set the stage for three wars that would change the world forever.

Hannibal by Dodge
Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles
Hannibal by Serge Lancel