Punic Diere

A Punic Diere, endowed with an incomplete bridge, a solution probably more stable than the old Phoenician galleys with superimposed gallery (600 BC)

Punic Triere

A Punic triere, belonging to the fleet of Carthage, first Punic war. (250 BC) Note the characteristic elements such as the pointed "rostrum" and the "horn", an alternative to the traditional fishtail. The sacred half-moon is also a recurring motif.

Punic Hepter

A Punic hepter. The dimensions of the holds of the military port of Carthage permitted only vessels of 4.80 m wide, the size of a trire, in the islet of the Admiralty with the exception of two holds of 7 Meters wide. The heavy units of Carthage seem to have been very rare, it is quite possible that there never was any deer in service in its fleet. The Heptère above, extrapolated directly from the Penteres of the fleet, did not exceed six meters in width, while embarking 420 rowers and 80 soldiers: It was the flagship of the fleet.


The Carthage Fleet is another heavyweight of the Mediterranean. Inheriting from the brilliant maritime tradition of the Phoenician millennium, this fleet first developed in order to fight against piracy, the empire (of counters founded after Tire) Phoenician being essentially merchant and its defensive fleet. With the foundation of Carthage in 1400 BC. At the same time as the mythical Trojan War, in the middle of the Bronze Age, the Phoenicians of Tire settled permanently in the central Mediterranean, the position of the port being strategic in several ways: Situated right in the strait separating the Sicily of the African continent, it controlled the trade routes from east to west. Its central position made it able to dominate all traffic and later became the enemy of Rome following the dispute over Sicily, Roman intervention at the call of the Mamertins (Messina) leading to a new fact for the " Urbs, to develop in a record time and for the first time in its history a fleet able to emerge victorious from a confrontation with the major naval power in the western Mediterranean, undoubtedly dominating this entire area of ​​the columns of Hercules to the Strait. In the eastern Mediterranean, the Lagids and Antigonids possessed a force at least equivalent.

The Carthaginians, as seen above, never engaged in a race with gigantism, retaining however the best characteristics of "light" ships. Tyr and then Carthage possessed a quasi-control over Syrian wood or forests in northern Africa, Spain, highly profitable mines, and an "internationally recognized" expertise. The Romans did not deprive themselves of carrying out missions of industrial espionage with various fortunes. Their ships and their crews were considered with deference by the authors of the time. The port of Carthage itself was considered with a particular interest as unique in its kind, some speaking of it as an eighth wonder of antiquity. Protected from the city by a high wall and connected to the rectangular civil port by a narrow channel framed by walls guarded with zeal, his secret guaranteed him to be able to quickly put in line the whole fleet. Boat holds have undoubtedly existed since the beginning of the Bronze Age both among the Greeks, the Persians, and the Punicas, for the trireme and dier vessels of the time, still light enough, had to be hoisted dry to avoid That the wood did not rot and were the subject of scrupulous maintenance.

The military port of Carthage:


The Port of Carthage, south of Tunis currently: Up, the military port (circular). Below, the civil port, connected to the first.

Reconstitution P. Connolly, "Greece and Rome at war", London, 1981.

Carthage Harbour Plan

The Admiralty Island, in the center of the port. Illustration by S. Gibson.


The port of Carthage is known today quite well thanks to the excavations carried out not far from Tunis, the Port being visible from space at the moment (see Google Earth overview). Circular, it was organized in a series of more than two hundred boat holds of about 4.80 m wide, to accommodate trire and naturally dier, lying down mast and re-entered oars. The central island, known as the "Admiralty Islet", also housed 30 ships, 5.30 m wide, 40 in length and compatible with Pentera or Tetras, but also had two larger holds, probably to accommodate Ships the size of an Enere ("6") or a heptere, with 7.30 m. They would, however, have been too narrow for deserers (The only Roman quinqueremes were almost 8 meters wide at the time). Each hold contained a ventilated upper part, an "attic" in which were stowed oars, masts, sails, fittings. There were also arms rooms, an armory and a foundry, the arsenal producing its equipment.