The government of Carthage was based on a system of chosen officials account to a famous assembly. Unequal its starting city, tyre in Phoenicia, Carthage go not have a monarchy yet its national politics was conquered by one aristocratic upstream which was created of contending clans and also which hosted all crucial political, judicial, and also military positions. As in other modern ancient societies participation in politics life and also the popular assembly the the city was restricted to those who organized citizenship – native and cost-free males. Although the mechanism was praised by such provided figures as Aristotle, some of the exact workings the the Carthaginian government have stayed elusive, a instance further puzzled by Greek and also Roman writers using their own familiar terminology to describe the political organizations of Carthage.

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The most an effective office in the Carthaginian government was hosted jointly by two magistrates elected each year known together suffetes (Latinized native the Punic sptm or shophetim and also conventionally translated as "judges"). These had actually replaced the initial mechanism of monarchy sometime in the early 7th century BCE, and also so their association with purely righteousness matters might too have widened in politics scope together the office evolved. It is also possible that there was only one suffete in the first century or so of the brand-new system. Indigenous the 5th century BCE electing two suffetes i do not care standard, one leading the armed forces of Carthage once at war and also the various other running the federal government at home. Greek and also Roman sources indicate that the suffetes activate in participation with the senate and were also concerned v civil lawsuits. Wealth and also family background it seems ~ to have been the two many important components in being considered eligible because that the role. The place of suffete continued to exist also when north Africa came to be a Roman province and is videotaped at least until the second century CE.


Carthage, even under the earliest kind of monarchy, had a senate composed of influential citizens. These members were well-known as drm or the "great ones" and also held the position for life. Just how these senatorial members were selected is unknown, yet it is most likely they numbered in between two and also three hundred. Castle met in a structure in the marketplace that Carthage but also sometimes in ~ the holy place of Eshmun ~ above the Byrsa hill. The suffetes would top the senate on federal government policy – military, diplomatic, and also financial problem - and also if the 2 sides disagreed, then a deciding vote would be organized in the renowned citizen"s assembly (see below). Also, if one suffete was no in agreement then, again, the assembly would certainly be consulted.

We recognize that the senate determined on declarations of war, even if it is or not to send extr armies to support generals in the field, punishments for commanders who failed in their objectives, and also whether to accept peace terms readily available by the enemy. The senate also sent representatives through Hannibal"s army in Spain and also Italy and also signed the commander"s tranquility treaty through Macedon in 215 BCE. However, that is additionally true that commanders often acted quite individually when campaigning throughout the Mediterranean, which led the Athenian politician Isocrates come state that Carthage to be "ruled by one oligarchy in ~ home, by a king in the field" (Miles, 146).

Senior Officials

Certain senators to be selected to distinct commissions. Aristotle describes these as consisting that 5 members (hence their name "pentarchies") that acted together judges in law courts, yet Punic engravings only mention a 10-man board of directors responsible for spiritual sites and also a 30-man commission which oversaw taxation. In addition, there to be a state treasury (mhsbm) headed by a single treasurer (rb) who is mentioned in one inscription as imposing penalties on those sellers who failed come pay custom-mades duties. Other essential state officials to be the head of the clergymans (rb khnm) and also the head the the military (rb mhnt), the latter very often likewise being a suffete in essential conflicts.

All of this positions to be elected, and also all seem come have had a minimal term the office, with the exemption of the general who served for the duration of a war. These constraints were, no doubt, come prevent individuals from becoming too powerful, however it does not seem to have actually curbed corruption. Bribery - because that votes, favourable decisions, and access to high positions – and also embezzlement were together a problem that Hannibal"s very first task top top being elected suffete was to boost the endemic corruption which to be crippling the state"s finances. Corruption to be not helped by the absence of a salary for state officials, a reality which additionally meant the such positions were only open to those through a resource of personal income.

From the fifth century BCE a one-of-a-kind branch that the senate written of 104 members convened to evaluate the army performance of leaders on perfect of their campaign. We imagine that the number is obtained from 100 senators add to the two suffetes, the treasurer and the head that the priests. Senatorial membership of the board of directors of 104 was for life. It was responsible because that deciding the fate that generals and admirals that failed in a project with punishments ranging from fines to crucifixion.


Another vital group the officials to be those administrators selected to govern the provinces regulated by Carthage. Allied cities such together Utica and Cadiz, and also subject regions in north Africa were enabled a high level of political autonomy except in military matters and also foreign affairs. In return for Carthage"s defense they did need to pay tribute in money, arms, and also men for army service. Local officials would have supervised this and collected such added taxes as practice duties.

All of the crucial political location in Carthaginian federal government were overcame by a judgment elite. This aristocracy was characterised and dominated through opposing families (mizreh), significantly the Barcids and also Magonids. Nevertheless, because that enterprising citizens, especially rich merchants, there was the opportunity to join this aristocracy as riches was the overriding aspect for success in politics. On the other hand, the traditional elite was written of those who could insurance claim descent to the colony"s establishing fathers, and it is clean that ancestry was an essential consideration. This perhaps defines the rather confusing repetition of names native generation come generation leading to literally hundreds of Hannos, Hamilcars, and also Hannibals.


Assembly & Citizenship

The famous assembly of Carthage was known as the "m (pron. ham) which converts as "the people". Castle met in the sector square of the city, and their key powers to be to poll on problems proposed through the suffetes and senate, and the choice of officials, consisting of the suffetes, cook priest and treasurer, and military commanders. Qualification to to visit the assembly, beyond holding citizenship, and the device of voting space not known.

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Citizenship was scheduled for males native the city that Carthage. Women, slaves, and foreigners might not gain citizen status. There are some signs in the historical record the there may have been a second tier that citizens written of former slaves and also foreign artisans. The visibility of two levels of citizenship, though, continues to it is in debated amongst historians. Citizens were organised into memberships (mizrehim) or family members clubs which were distinguishable native each various other via your devotion to a details god, the profession of your members, or perhaps also composed of those that had fought together in battle. Together memberships on regular basis bonded through mutual banquets.

Citizens the allied cities in phibìc Africa had a similar or equal condition to your counterparts in ~ Carthage in regards to civil law. The standing of those who stayed in the smaller settlements of the locations under Carthaginian manage is not known. An ext certain is that the level the integration that peoples into the Carthaginian empire was fairly low v the consequence that in times of peril, such together the Punic Wars with Rome, many cities defected come the roman inn side. Carthage exploited the colonies but made no real efforts to foster a sense of belong in your allied and also conquered states, which meant that when Carthage fell, so also did that empire.

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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His distinct interests include pottery, architecture, people mythology and also discovering the principles that all worlds share in common. That holds an MA in politics Philosophy and is the publishing Director at WHE.