CARTHAGE AND ITS COINAGE: A CHRONOLOGIC REVIEW

by John Tatman

To the novice, many Carthaginian coins may appear to look the same since a large number of types have a female head on the obverse and a horse on the reverse.  Closer examination reveals a wide variety of types and styles, despite the tendency to use recurring devices on the coins.  In an attempt to help myself better understand the relationships between the various coin types and historical events; I developed a timeline matching Carthaginian coins to periods in the city’s history.  After a brief overview of Carthaginian coinage, the timeline has links to images of some of the coins and additional information about specific events or coins.  The timeline is followed by two appendices.  The first appendix lists the attributions for the coin images and the second appendix lists some of the Punic legends used on the coins.  A list of useful references is also provided.  I hope you find the timeline as helpful and enjoyable as I do.

OVERVIEW 

Traditionally described as having been founded circa 814 BC by Phoenicians from Tyre, Carthage became a great mercantile state and seapower that carried out extensive trade around the Mediterranean.  After gaining control of the North African coast in the 6th century BC, Carthaginian influence spread into the western Mediterranean.  An empire that consisted of a relatively small population with Phoenician ancestry, Carthage depended on the services of mercenaries for any significant military action.  Expansion into western Sicily resulted in intermittent wars with the Greek cities of Sicily, often involving Syracuse, during the 5th and 4th centuries BC.  On several occasions, Carthage was unsuccessful in gaining long-term control of the eastern half of the island.  Initially, Carthage and Rome had the common goal of limiting Greek interests in Sicily and southern Italy, respectively.  However, Roman intervention in Sicily lead to conflict with Carthage in the 3rd century BC, ending with the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC.  Most Carthaginian coinage was produced for the wars against Syracuse and, later, Rome.     

Carthaginian coinage developed relatively late at the end of the 5th century BC and, then, probably due to a need for mercenary payments in Sicily rather than for local use.  Initially, coins struck in Sicily under the authority of Carthage or allied Punic cities (Siculo-Punic) often imitated coins of the Greek cities on the island, like Syracuse.  Over the next two centuries, the coins of Carthage developed a distinctly “Punic” style with the recurring theme of an obverse female head wearing a wreath of corn, usually facing left, and described as the main Carthaginian goddess Tanit (possibly Demeter or Persephone).  The reverse often had a horse in various positions (standing, stepping, leaping, looking back, etc.), facing right.  The horse may have been a civic symbol of Carthage or a representation of Ba’al, the chief male deity.  Palm trees were another device commonly used and may have been a fertility symbol or even served as a punning reference to Phoenicians, i.e., Carthage.  For almost a century (350-270 BC), the large output of gold and electrum shekels from Carthage had very consistent designs with head Tanit / horse standing, even though the gold content declined with each issue.  Interestingly, during the same period, there was a variety of types of Siculo-Punic silver tetradrachms, sometimes with exceptional portraits.

During times of Carthaginian control, coins were also minted in Sardinia (320-238 BC and 216 BC), Spain (237-209 BC) and southern Italy (216-203 BC).  With very few exceptions, i.e., the brief legends on some of the of Siculo-Punic issues, most coin types are anepigraphic, which sometimes makes the site of origin difficult to determine.  This is particularly true for several bronze types, which tended to circulate wherever there was a Carthaginian presence.  As a result, hoard evidence, overstrikes, style, precious metal content, die alignment (Carthage used aligned dies) and control marks (dots, symbols, letters) are important for attribution and/or dating.  Style can be deceptive since the same coin types will occasionally vary from exceptional artistry to an extremely crude and unattractive style, depending on the skill of the engraver.  Although some progress has been made in the few last decades, the dating of some types remains controversial.

The last century of Carthage’s existence was dominated by the Punic Wars with Rome. The first two wars placed great strain on the Carthaginian economy due to military expenses, loss of territory and large indemnities to Rome.  Several issues were produced due to these conflicts, and better quality coins were exported during the First and Second Punic Wars while more debased coinage was used at Carthage when fortunes declined.  The designs and styles were generally less attractive than the earlier Siculo-Punic issues.  Of course, the coinage of Carthage came to an abrupt end with the destruction of the city by Roman legions at the conclusion of the Third Punic War in 146 BC.

TIMELINE

HISTORICAL EVENT

 

COINAGE

[number] indicates coin illustrated

(see appendix #1 for attribution)

814 BC: CARTHAGE FOUNDED
by Phoenicians from Tyre

  

 

6th century BC: Expansion of empire -

North Africa coast, Sardinia, western Sicily, Balearic Islands, and Malta

  

 

 


480-276 BC: WARS IN SICILY -
with Greek cities, usually Syracuse

  


 

480 BC: Battle of Himera

   

 

410-367 BC: Wars against Syracuse -
Dionysius the Elder

  

  

409 BC: Himera, Selinus destroyed by Carthage

  

406-405 BC: Siege of Syracuse

  

410-390 BC: Carthage(?)

AV shekel (7.6 gm) - horse galloping / palm tree (Jenkins & Lewis group I)

AR tetradrachm (17.2 gm) - palm tree/ forepart of horse or / horse running (Punic QRTHDST - Carthage +/- MHNT - “the camp”) [1 (Punic coin legends – see appendix #2); 

(also see  First Carthaginian Coin)

410-397 BC: Sicily (MTV’ - Motya)

AR tetradrachm - eagle or head Persephone / crab [2]

AR fractions [3] & AE

 

397 BC: Motya sacked by Syracuse;
Lilybaeum founded

410-350 BC: Sicily (SYS- Panormos)

AR tetradrachm - quadriga / head Persephone

AR fractions [4] & AE [5]

  

392 BC: Treaty with Dionysius

  

 

367 BC: Syracuse attacks Lilybaeum

370-350 BC: Carthage 

AE - male head / rearing horse [6

(also see Siculo-Punic Bronze)

 

344-338 BC: War against Syracuse - 

 Timoleon of Corinth

339 BC: Battle of Crimisus River

311-306 BC: War against Syracuse - 
Agathokles      

330-300 BC: Carthage (?) or Sicily

AR litra - palm tree / horse head [7]

AE - palm tree / horse head [8,9

(also see Siculo-Punic Bronze)

330-300 BC: Sicily

AE - palm tree / Pegasus [10,11

(also see Siculo-Punic Bronze)

330-320 BC: Sicily

AR tetradrachm - head Persephone / horse before palm tree [12,13,14

(also see Siculo-Punic Tetradrachms)

325-310 BC: Carthage

AV stater (9.4 gm) - head Tanit / horse standing [15]

AV 1/2 - head Tanit / horse standing before palm tree

AV 1/4 - head Tanit / palm tree

AV 1/5 - head Tanit / horse standing, looking back

AV 1/10 - palm tree / horse head [16]  

(Jenkins & Lewis Group III) 

(also see Early Gold and Electrum)

325-305 BC: Sicily

AR tetradrachm - quadriga / head of Persephone (RSMLQRT – “Cape of Melqart”) [17

(also see Siculo-Punic Tetradrachms)

320-315 BC: Sicily

AR tetradrachm - head of Tanit (Dido?) / lion walking before palm tree 

('MMHNT - “People of the Camp”) 

(also see Siculo-Punic Tetradrachms)

 

310-307 BC: Agathokles invades Africa

278-276 BC: War against Syracuse
Pyrrhus of Epirus

310-300 BC: Carthage

EL shekel (7.6 gm) [18], 1/5 & 1/10 - (72% gold) same designs as previous AV issues (also see Early Gold and Electrum)

  

310-280 BC: Sicily (?)

AE - head of Tanit / horse standing before palm tree [19

(also see Siculo-Punic Bronze)

305 BC: Sicily

AR tetradrachm - head of Persephone / horse head ('MMHNT - “People of the Camp”) [20]

(also see Siculo-Punic Tetradrachms)

300-290 BC: Sicily

AR tetradrachm - head Herakles wearing lion skin / horse head ('MMHNT, MHSBM – “Quaestors”) [21

(also see Siculo-Punic Tetradrachms)

AE - head Tanit / horse head [22]

(also see Siculo-Punic Bronze

300-264 BC: Carthage

EL shekel (55-60% then 45% gold)- head Tanit / horse standing [23,24

(Jenkins & Lewis group V-VII) 

(also see Early Gold and Electrum)

AE - palm tree / horse standing before caduceus [25]

290-250 BC: Sardinia

AE - head Tanit / horse head [26]  

290-264 BC: Sicily(?)

AE - male head between grain ears / horse leaping [27] (also see Siculo-Punic Bronze)  

 


264-241 BC: FIRST PUNIC WAR

256 BC: Battle of Ecnomus; 

Regulus invades Africa

254 BC: Rome captures Panormos

241 BC: Battle of Aegates Islands; 

Carthage surrenders Sicily 


264-256 BC: Carthage

AV tridrachm - head Tanit / horse standing, looking back

AR shekel - head Tanit / horse standing before palm tree, looking back [28]

264-256 BC: Sicily

EL trishekel (30% gold) - head Tanit / horse prancing before palm tree 

(B'RST - “in the land”)

AR hexashekel - head Tanit / horse leaping

AR pentashekel - head Tanit / Pegasus flying

(B'RST - “in the land”)

AR trishekel - head Tanit / horse head 

(also see Siculo-Punic “Large Denomination” Coins)

260-250 BC: Sardinia

AE - head Tanit /horse standing [29]

255-241 BC: Carthage

EL tridrachm (35-50% gold) - head Tanit / horse standing, sun disk above [30]

AR dishekel & shekel - head Tanit / horse standing, looking back [31]

AR dishekel - head Tanit / horse standing, star above [32] (also see Billon Dishekels)

 

241-238 BC: Mercenary revolt
in Zeugitana and Sardinia 

238 BC: Zeugitana revolt suppressed; 

Rome occupies Sardinia 

241-238 BC: Zeugitana (rebel issues)

Billon shekel - head Tanit / horse standing [33] or head Herakles wearing lion skin / lion walking [34]

Billon dishekel - head Zeus / bull butting [35] (also see Mercenary Revolt Coinage)

241-238 BC: Sardinia (rebel issues)

AE - head Tanit / 3 grain ears [36,37

(also see Mercenary Revolt Coinage)

238-220 BC: Carthage

Billon dishekel - head Tanit / horse standing before palm tree [38]

(also see Billon Dishekels)

Billon & AE - head Tanit / horse standing, sun disk above [39]

 

237-209 BC: Barcids in Spain

237-228 BC: Spain

AV shekel & ¼ - head Nike / horse prancing

AR shekel & ½ - head Tanit / horse standing before palm tree, looking back [40] or / horse prancing [41]

AE - head Athena / horse standing [42]; / palm tree [43] or head Tanit / helmet [44]

 

228 BC: Carthago Nova founded               


 



 

228-221 BC: Spain

AR trishekel, dishekel, shekel - male head / galley prow

AR trishekel & shekel - head Apollo / horse standing

AE - male head wearing helmet / palm tree [45]

221-218 BC: Spain

AR dishekel - bearded male head, club behind / elephant with rider

AR dishekel, & ¼ - beardless male head, club behind / elephant [46

(also see Obverse Portraits)

 

218-201 BC: SECOND PUNIC WAR

218 BC: Hannibal crosses the Alps; 

Battle of Trebia 

217 BC: Battle of Lake Trasimene

 

218-209 BC: Spain

AR dishekel, shekel - male head (Hannibal?) / horse standing before palm tree [47,48]

AR ½ & ¼ shekel - male head (Hannibal?) / horse standing [49

(also see Obverse Portraits)

216 BC: Battle of Cannae; 

Sardinian revolt against Rome

216-210 BC: Carthage(?)

EL 3/8 shekel (30% gold)- Janiform head / quadriga [50]; head Tanit / horse stepping or / horse standing [51]

(also see Electrum 3/8 Shekels)

216 BC: Sardinia

Billon shekel - male head / bull standing before grain ear [52]

AE - head Tanit / bull standing, star above [53]

 

215-203 BC: Hannibal occupies part of Italy

215-203 BC: Italy

AR ½ shekel - head Tanit / horse standing before palm tree

AR ¼ shekel - head Tanit / horse standing [57] (also see Silver Coinage in Italy)

AE - head Tanit / horse head [54] / horse looking back [55] or head Apollo / horse standing, sun disk above [56]

 

 

215-203 BC: Carthage

AR ½ shekel - head Tanit / horse standing, sun disk above [58,59]

AR ¼ shekel - head Tanit / horse standing [60] (also see Silver Coinage in Italy)

AE - head Tanit / horse looking back [61,62]; / horse stepping with caduceus behind [63] or / horse standing before palm tree [64, 65] (also see Carthaginian Bronze of the Second Punic War)

 

213-211 BC: Carthage reoccupies part of Sicily

  

209 BC: P. Scipio captures Carthago Nova

  

202 BC: Battle of Zama   

213-211 BC: Sicily

AR shekel & ½ - male head / elephant [66]

AR ½ & ¼ shekel –- male head / horse galloping [67,68]

AE - veiled female head / horse galloping [69,70]

210-201 BC: Carthage

AV ¼ shekel - head Tanit / horse standing [71]

Billon dishekel - head Tanit / horse stepping looking back [72] or / horse standing before palm tree [73] (also see Billon Dishekels)

 


201-149 BC: Carthage

AE - head Tanit / horse standing [74] or stepping, sun-disk above

(also see Large Bronze Coins

 

149-146 BC: THIRD PUNIC WAR -

the destruction of Carthage

149-146 BC:Carthage

AV 2/5 shekel - head Tanit / horse standing

AV 1/5 shekel - head Tanit / horse head

AR dishekel & shekel - head Tanit / horse stepping (serrated edge) [75]  

(most of these coins had serrated edges)  

(also see Serrated-edge Coins)

 

* Some dates are approximate.  Attributions and dating based mainly on Visona. (see References)   

Representative coin types are listed, but not every known type is included.


Appendix #1

LIST OF COINS ILLUSTRATED

1.      Carthage(?), AR tetradrachm, 410-395 BC, 16.9 gm, Jenkins plate 2,72 (ex-Knobloch, Stack’s, 6/70, #607)

2.      Motya, AR tetradrachm, 405-397 BC, 17.17 gm, Jenkins plate 5,47

3.      Motya, AR obol, 410-397 BC, 0.8 gm, Jenkins plate 23,6

4.      Panormos, AR litra, 410-350 BC, 0.6 gm, Jenkins plate 24,12

5.      Panormos, AE 16, 350-254 BC, 2.8 gm, Jenkins plate 24,22

6.      Siculo-Punic, AE 15, 370-350 BC, 5.7 gm, SNG Cop 95

7.      Siculo-Punic, AR litra, 330-300 BC, 0.7 gm, SNG Cop 74

8.      Siculo-Punic, AE 19, 330-300 BC, 5.4 gm, SNG Cop 102

9.      Siculo-Punic, AE 17, 330-300 BC, 4.5 gm, SNG Cop 105

10.    Siculo-Punic, AE 15, 330-300 BC, 4.0 gm, SNG Cop 107v

11.    Siculo-Punic, AE 15, 330-300 BC, 2.7 gm, SNG Cop 108

12.    Siculo-Punic, AR tetradrachm, 330-320 BC, 16.9 gm, Jenkins plate 3,72

13.    Siculo-Punic, AR tetradrachm, 330-320 BC, 16.94 gm, Jenkins plate 5,99

14.    Siculo-Punic, AR tetradrachm, circa 325 BC, 16.57 gm, Jenkins plate 7,116 (this coin illustrated; ex-BMC; Pegasi 103,#54)

15.    Carthage, AV stater, 320-310 BC, 9.46 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group IIIf, 43

16.    Carthage, AV 1/10 stater, 320-310 BC, 0.9 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group III, 170

17.    Siculo-Punic, AR tetradrachm, 320-305 BC, 17.1 gm, Jenkins plate 19,47

18.    Carthage, EL shekel, 310-300 BC, 7.45 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group IVc, 211

19.    Siculo-Punic, AE 17, 310-280 BC, 3.12 gm, SNG Cop 109

20.    Siculo-Punic, AR tetradrachm, circa 305 BC, 17.13 gm, Jenkins plate 10,153

21.    Siculo-Punic, AR tetradrachm, 300-290 BC, 16.88 gm, Jenkins plate 13,412

22.    Siculo-Punic, AE 18, 300-290 BC, 5.3 gm, SNG Cop 165

23.    Carthage, EL shekel, 310-300 BC, 7.6 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group VI, 308

24.    Carthage, EL shekel, 300-275 BC, 7.4 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group VII, 349

25.    Siculo-Punic, AE 25, 300-275 BC, 9.75 gm, SNG Cop 124 (ex-Freedman, Triton V, 1/02, #581)

26.    Sardinia, AE 29, 270-250 BC, 15.07 gm, SNG Cop 197 (ex-Freedman, Triton V, 1/02, #582)

27.    Siculo-Punic, AE 16, 290-264 BC, 2.59 gm, SNG Cop 120

28.    Carthage, AR shekel, circa 260 BC, 7.4 gm, SNG Cop 141

29.    Sardinia, AE 23, 260-250 BC, 7.08 gm, SNG Cop 209

30.    Carthage, EL tridrachm, 255-241 BC, 10.46 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group Xb, 433

31.    Carthage, Billon dishekel, 255-241 BC, 15.1 gm, SNG Cop 186

32.    Carthage, Billon dishekel, 255-241 BC, 13.79 gm, SNG Cop 185 (ex-Mulligan, Noble, 7/00, 64A, #2365; Vecchi 6/98)

33.    Zeugitana (Mercenary issue), Billon shekel, 241-238 BC, 7.39gm, SNG Cop 236

34.    Zeugitana (Mercenary issue), Billon shekel, 241-238 BC, 7.31 gm, SNG Cop 241

35.    Zeugitana (Mercenary issue), Billon dishekel, 241-238 BC, 12.8 gm, SNG Cop 238V

36.    Sardinia (Mercenary issue), AE 25, 241-238 BC, 7.24 gm, SNG Cop 247

37.    Sardinia (Mercenary issue), AE 20, 241-238 BC, 2.66 gm, SNG Cop 251 (ex-Freedman, CNG, 9/02, 61, #325)

38.    Carthage, Billon dishekel, 238-220 BC, 11.2 gm, SNG Cop 190

39.    Carthage, AE 32, 238-220 BC, 25.54 gm, SNG Cop 255v

40.    Barcids in Spain, AR shekel, 237-228 BC, 7.3 gm, SNG Cop 140

41.    Barcids in Spain, AR shekel, 237-228 BC, 7.35 gm, SNG Cop 291

42.    Barcids in Spain, AE 25, 237-228 BC, 7.4 gm, SNG Cop 280

43.    Barcids in Spain, AE 21, 237-228 BC, 4.14 gm, SNG Cop 281

44.    Barcids in Spain, AE 12, 237-228 BC, 1.6 gm, Villaronga 114

45.    Barcids in Spain, AE 18, 228-218 BC, 7.3 gm, SNG Cop 292

46.    Barcids in Spain, AR ¼ shekel, 228-218 BC, 1.84 gm, SNG Cop 293

47.    Barcids in Spain, AR shekel, 218-209 BC, 7.24 gm, SNG Cop 295

48.    Barcids in Spain, AR shekel, 218-209 BC, 5.7 gm, Villaronga 201.1

49.    Barcids in Spain, AR ½ shekel, 218-209 BC, 3.56 gm, SNG Cop 296

50.    Carthage, EL 3/8 shekel, 216-212 BC, 2.74 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group XV, 487.1 (ex-Lesure, CNG, 12/94, XXXII, #6)

51.    Carthage, EL 3/8 shekel, 216-208 BC, 2.72 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group XVI, 478

52.    Sardinia, Billon shekel, 216 BC, 6.41 gm, SNG Cop 384

53.    Sardinia, AE 19, 216 BC, 4.5 gm, SNG Cop 388

54.    Italy, AE 25, 215-203 BC, 12.5 gm, SNG Cop 370

55.    Italy, AE 22, 215-203 BC, 8.88 gm, SNG Cop 376V (ex-Freedman, Triton V, 1/02, #586)

56.    Italy, AE 27, 215-203 BC, 19.89 gm, SNG Cop 365 (ex-Mulligan, Noble, 7/00, 64A, #2412; Vecchi, 10/97, 7, #2412)

57.    Italy(?), AR ¼ shekel, 215-203 BC, 1.42 gm, SNG Cop 369

58.    Carthage, AR ½ shekel, 215-203 BC, 3.59 gm, SNG Cop 359

59.    Carthage, AR ½ shekel, 215-203 BC, 3.6 gm, SNG Cop 361

60.    Carthage, AR ¼ shekel, 215-203 BC, 1.82 gm, SNG Cop 337

61.    Carthage, AE 22, 215-210 BC, 5.5 gm, SNG Cop 307

62.    Carthage, AE 21, 215-203 BC, 8.65 gm, SNG Cop 318 (ex-Mulligan, Noble, 7/00, 64A, #2396; Vecchi, 9/98, 13, #540)

63.    Carthage, AE 22, 215-203 BC, 8.23 gm, SNG Cop 329 (ex-Goodman)

64.    Carthage, AE 30, 215-203 BC, 17.78 gm, SNG Cop 341

65.    Carthage, AE 21, 215-203 BC, 5.4 gm, SNG Cop 353

66.    Sicily, AR ½ shekel, 213-211 BC, 3.34 gm, SNG Cop 383

67.    Sicily, AR ½ shekel, 213-211 BC, 4.1 gm, SNG Cop 378

68.    Sicily, AR ¼ shekel, 213-211 BC, 1.7 gm, SNG Cop 380

69.    Sicily, AE 18, 213-211 BC, 2.56 gm, SNG Cop 381 (ex-Goodman)

70.    Sicily, AE 20, 213-211 BC, 4.5 gm, SNG Cop 381

71.    Carthage, AV ¼ shekel, 210-202 BC, 1.84 gm, Jenkins & Lewis group XIV, 465.1

72.    Carthage, Billon dishekel, 210-202 BC, 9.2 gm, SNG Cop 392

73.    Carthage, Billon dishekel, 210-202 BC, 11.53 gm, SNG Cop 351

74.    Carthage, AE 45, 201-190 BC, 93.0 gm, SNG Cop 400

75.    Carthage, AR dishekel, 149-146 BC, 13.1 gm, SNG Cop 404v

   


Appendix #2

PUNIC LEGENDS on CARTHAGINIAN COINS  

Punic Script Legend in Text Translation
QRTHDST “new city” (Carthage)
  MTV'   Motya
SYS Panormos
RSMLQRT "Cape of Melqart" (Selinus?)
'MMHNT

“people of the camp” 

(Punic authority in Sicily)

MHSBM

“the Quaestors” or 

“the paymasters”

B’RST   “in the land” (Sicily)

REFERENCES

 

Jenkins GK & Lewis RB   Carthaginian Gold and Electrum Coins.  London, 1963.

Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum: Danish National Museum (SNG Copenhagen), Jenkins GK   vol 42 North Africa: Syrtica – Mauretania. Copenhagen, 1969. 

Jenkins GK   Coins of Punic Sicily. Parts 1-4 Swiss Numismatic Review 50:25-78,1971; 53:23-41, 1974; 56:5-65, 1977; 57:5-68, 1978.

Robinson ESG   Punic Coins of Spain and Their Bearing on the Roman Republican Series.  in Carson RAG and Sutherland CHU (eds) Essays in Roman Coinage Presented to Harold Mattingly.  Oxford, 1956.

Robinson ESG   Carthaginian and Other South Italian Coinages of the Second Punic War.  Numismatic Chronicle, 7th series 4:37-64, 1964.

Villaronga L   Las Monedas Hispano-Cartaginesas.  Barcelona, 1973. 

Visona P   Carthaginian Coinage in Perspective.  Am J Numismatics 10:1-27, 1998. 

Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd Sale #64A: the Stephen P Mulligan Collection, July, 2000.

Jenkins & Lewis is the definitive study of Carthaginian gold and electrum coinage.  Jenkin’s articles in the Swiss Numismatic Review provide an excellent overview of Siculo-Punic issues, while Robinson’s essays do the same for Spanish and Italian types.  Villaronga is also a useful resource for Carthaginian coins of Spain. Visona’s article provides a good overview and analysis for dating various types.  The section on Carthaginian coins in SNG Copenhagen is extensive, especially for bronze coinage, and is a frequently cited reference.  The Stephen Mulligan collection of Carthaginian coins was auctioned in 2000 by Noble Numismatics with a very nice catalog that contains detailed descriptions of over 100 lots.


814 BC: Foundation of Carthage 

According to one version of the foundation myth, Carthage was founded circa 814 BC after Dido (Elissa) fled Tyre when her brother, King Pygmalion, had her husband killed.  Dido and other Phoenicians chose the site of Carthage after supposedly finding a horse’s head, which was interpreted as a sign from the goddess Tanit.  The local Libyan king, Hiarbus, offered them as much land as could be covered by an ox hide.  By cutting the hide into thin strips, Dido was able to surround the hill known as the Byrsa.  (The strips must have been cut extremely thin to cover a circumference of 4 kilometers!)  Later, Dido threw herself into a fire rather than accepting Hiarbus’ offer of marriage.  Although the foundation story is quite interesting, archaeological evidence has not been able to demonstrate occupation before the mid-eighth century BC, but still within a few generations of the traditional date of 814 BC.

480 BC: Battle of Himera

At the same time as and perhaps coordinated with the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC, Carthage responded to a plea from Krinippos, the defeated king of Himera, and sent an army to assist him in retaking the city from Akragas.  Gelon, the tyrant of Syracuse, supported Theron, the tyrant of Akragas.  The Carthaginian army, commanded by Hamilcar, son of the Carthaginian king, Hanno, was transported to Sicily.  During the crossing, most of the cavalry’s horses were lost in a storm and additional cavalry was requested from Sicilian allies.  Gelon’s troops intercepted the messenger, then devised a scheme to take advantage of the situation.  A troop of cavalry allied with Syracuse arrived at the entrance to the Carthaginian encampment.  The Carthaginian sentries assumed these were the allied reinforcements and let them into the camp.  Once inside, the cavalry attacked the unsuspecting Carthaginians while the Syracuse army attacked the outer fortifications.  A rout occurred and all the Carthaginians were killed or captured.  Realizing all was lost, Hamilcar committed suicide by leaping into a sacrificial fire.  Carthage sued for peace, then paid an indemnity and ransom.  This disastrous defeat led to the downfall of the Magonid dynasty and curtailed any attempts by Carthage to extend its influence in Sicily for over 50 years. 

 

An interesting numismatic consequence of this war was a silver dekadrachm of Syracuse described by Diodorus Siculus as being minted from the silver paid by Carthage after their defeat.  These coins were referred to as Demaretion, named after Gelon’s queen, Demarete, who supposedly intervened on behalf of Carthage for more favorable terms at the end of the war.  The obverse had a quadriga crowned by Nike with a lion in the exergue while the reverse had a wreathed head of Arethusa with four dolphins around.  While the dating of this issue could be as late at circa 465 BC, the coins may still have used the Carthaginian silver.  It is more likely that some of the Carthaginian silver was used for the large number of tetradrachms minted 480-470 BC, which were similar to the dekadrachms but without the lion or wreath.

405-367 BC: Wars Against Dionysius, Tyrant of Syracuse

 

Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse from 405-367 BC, fought three wars against Carthage during his reign.  When Selinus attacked Segesta in 409 BC, the latter city requested help from Carthage.  The Carthaginian army led by Hannibal, Hamilcar’s grandson, came to Sicily to limit the expansion of Syracuse and avenge Hamilcar’s defeat at Himera.  Initially, Carthage destroyed Selinus, then Himera.  Three years later, Carthage took Akragas and Gela.  By 405 BC, Syracuse itself was under siege.  Dionysius took advantage of the situation to become a tyrant, then negotiated a treaty giving Carthage control of most of Sicily.  By 398 BC, he had changed the military situation and sacked Motya in 397 BC, the Carthaginian stronghold at the other end of Sicily.  Dionysius’ fortunes quickly reversed and his forces were driven back to Syracuse by 396 BC.  Finally, after several Carthaginian defeats, a truce was made in 392 BC that limited Carthaginian influence to the western end of Sicily.  Another war was fought from 384-375 BC with limited consequences.  In 367 BC, Dionysius attacked Lilybaeum, but died soon after.  His son, Dionysius II, then sued for peace, which maintained the status quo for over 20 years.

410-390 BC: The First Carthaginian Coin

The two major Punic cities in Sicily, Motya and Panormos, had been minting coins since the mid-5th Century BC, often copying the designs of other Greek Sicilian cities.  While the cities of Sicily would occasionally produce contemporary coinage with similar obverse designs, there was clearly a Punic preference for copying the coin designs of the neighboring Greek cities of Sicily (Sometimes, each side had a design copied from coins of two different cities.), rather than the usual practice of using a distinctive design that served to identify a particular city.  It may have been that the familiar designs were more acceptable to the people who used the coins or perhaps it was just easier to copy existing designs than to create a new type.  Regardless, these cities produced Attic-weight silver tetradrachms, silver fractions and bronze coinage.  Around 410 BC, Panormus and Motya switched from the use of Greek legends to Punic inscriptions, probably as a result of increased Carthaginian influence [2,3,4,5].  About the same time, the presence of a large Carthaginian army in Sicily may have prompted the beginning of a distinct Carthaginian coinage to pay its mercenary troops which consisted of an Attic-weight (~17.2 grams) tetradrachm, but no fractions.  The denomination was widely used around Sicily and was probably popular with mercenaries.  This tetradrachm had a forepart of a horse or, later, a horse galloping, usually being crowned by Nike, on the obverse and a palm tree on the reverse. [1]  Most types have the obverse Punic legend QRTHDST ("New City" = Carthage), sometimes with MHNT (“the camp”) on the reverse.  The design of the horse crowned by Nike was most likely inspired by contemporary Sicilian tetradrachms with a quadriga crowned by Nike.  The palm tree on the reverse provided a distinctive Punic emblem and was a symbol associated with fertility (Tanit) or perhaps served as a canting reference to “Phoenicians,” i.e., Carthage.  The design is relatively primitive when compared to the exceptional contemporary tetradrachms of Greek cities in Sicily.  The coins have been found only in Sicily, but it is not certain whether they were minted in Carthage, some unknown mint in Sicily or both.  A tetradrachm of Akragas overstruck on an early die type established that the series started before the destruction of Akragas in 406 BC.  This type was probably minted over a period of approximately 20 years.  The only other Carthaginian coinage associated with this tetradrachm is an extremely rare gold shekel (7.6 grams) with a horse galloping on the obverse and a palm tree on the reverse (Jenkins & Lewis group I).

370-264 BC: Early Siculo-Punic Bronze Coinage

Use of smaller denomination bronze coins was common in Sicily, so it is no surprise that Carthage eventually introduced bronze coinage for everyday transactions in addition to large denomination silver and gold.  The value of the bronze coins in relation to the contemporary precious metal coinage is uncertain, but may be similar to Sicilian Greek bronze denominations.  For over a century, a variety of bronze coins were produced that were usually minted in Sicily, but circulated throughout the Carthaginian empire.  The first bronze type had a wreathed male head on the obverse and a horse rearing on the reverse [6].   This type consisted of several denominations with the largest ~ 6 grams.   The next two types had an obverse palm tree with a either a horse head [8,9] or Pegasus flying on the reverse [10,11].  The latter coins had two denominations that were ~3 or 1.5 grams.  At the time of the war with Agathokles, there was a large output of bronze of ~2.9 grams with the head of Tanit on the obverse and a horse standing before a palm tree on the reverse [19].  From the end of hostilities with Agathokles until the First Punic War, another type with a male head between grain ears on the obverse and a rearing horse on the reverse were minted, often overstruck on the previous type [27].  About the same time, coins with an obverse head of Tanit and a reverse horse head were struck, probably initially in Sicily [22] and later in Sardinia [26].  This last series had a variety of symbols or “control marks,” usually on the reverse.  During the First Punic War, bronze coin production ceased in Sicily and shifted to Sardinia.

344-338 BC: War Against Syracuse and Timoleon of Corinth

In 345 BC, Hiketas controlled most of Syracuse after he defeated Dionysius II, the tyrant of Syracuse, with Carthaginian assistance.  The people of Syracuse asked for help from their founding city, Corinth, which led to the arrival of Timoleon and 1000 soldiers.  Timoleon’s exploits were detailed by Plutarch, who explained that the general’s success resulted from being favored by the gods Apollo and Persephone.  After escaping a Carthaginian blockade at Rhegium, Timoleon defeated Hiketas and took the main fortress of Syracuse.  He marched on the rest of Syracuse with an army of 4000 men.  The 60,000-strong Carthaginian army abandoned Syracuse without a fight, for which the commanding general, Mago, was later crucified.  Timoleon helped restore Syracuse and established a republic.  His army then plundered Punic Sicily, so Carthage sent an army of 70,000 from western Sicily to attack him.  In 339 BC, Timoleon’s army of 6000 caught the Carthaginian contingent crossing the Crimasus River ahead of their mercenaries, killing or capturing all 10,000.  The casualties included the “Sacred Battalion,” an elite force of 3000 Carthaginian nobles.  Later, Timoleon captured Hiketas, who was executed, and defeated another Carthaginian army at Catana.  Once again, Carthage was prevented from taking control of eastern Sicily.

350-260 BC: Early Gold and Electrum Coinage

For about a century from the war against Timoleon (or perhaps just before the war against Agathokles) to the beginning of the First Punic War, Carthage intermittently produced a large volume of gold, then electrum, coinage.  In the mid- to late-4th Century BC, Carthage minted a series of gold staters of 9.4 grams (Jenkins & Lewis Group III - described as 1 ¼ shekel.) [15] with the head of Tanit on the obverse and a reverse with a horse standing.  There were also fractions of ½ stater with head Tanit / horse before palm tree, ¼ stater with head Tanit / palm tree, 1/5 stater with head Tanit / horse looking back and 1/10 stater with palm tree / horse head [16].  The large output of gold was probably used to pay mercenaries.  In addition to trade and mining, gold was obtained from the West African coast by barter with the local tribes.  Later, electrum coins were minted using the same designs, but based on a shekel of 7.6 grams.  The switch to electrum was probably the result of dwindling gold supplies as the war against Agathokles progressed.  Over time, the gold content decreased from 72% (Jenkins & Lewis Group IV) [18] to 55-60% (Jenkins & Lewis Groups V & VI) [23] and then eventually 45% (Jenkins & Lewis Group VII) [24] at the start of the First Punic War.  The style of the shekel with the obverse head of Tanit and horse on the reverse also changed slightly with the decreased gold content, becoming more “Punic” over time.  For electrum fractions, 1/5 and 1/10 shekels are only represented in Groups IV, while 1/2 shekels are only in Group VI.  Many of the gold and electrum coins in this long series have dots, often a group of three, on the reverse that vary with different issues, perhaps to indicate changes in gold content.  The production of electrum shekels finally ended during the early years of the First Punic War.

330-290 BC: Siculo-Punic Tetradrachms

In the mid- to late-4th century BC, Carthaginian authorities in Sicily minted another series of Attic-weight tetradrachms, again probably to pay mercenaries.  The most varied series has a head of Persephone (Tanit?), sometimes surrounded by four dolphins on the obverse.  The design was an obvious copy of contemporary coins of Syracuse and occasionally had a very attractive style.  The reverse had a horse (stepping [12,13], standing [14], or jumping) before a palm tree, often quite realistic.  Variations of a horse before a palm tree would become the most common reverse type for Carthaginian coins.  Another issue, more like the earlier municipal issues of Panormos, had the head of Persephone on the obverse and a quadriga on the reverse, with the legend RSMLQRT [17].  “Ras Melqart” (“Cape of Melqart”) was thought to represent an uncertain location in Sicily (Selinus?), but may be the name of an issuing authority.  A rare tetradrachm was minted for a short period of time between 320-315 BC with the head of Tanit (Dido or Libya?) wearing a tiara, while the reverse had a lion in front of a palm tree and the legend ’MMHNT. (“people of the camp”).  The design is very attractive, but different from any other Siculo-Punic coin. The significance of the tiara and lion is uncertain, but may have been used to appeal to a particular group, perhaps the Libyans.  These coins and subsequent issues with ’MMHNT may not have been minted at a specific location, but rather by a mint moving with the Carthaginian army.  At the end of the 4th Century BC, the next type had the head of Persophone surrounded by four dolphins on the obverse again, but a horse head with a palm tree behind on the reverse with the legend ‘MMHNT or MM [20].  The last type of Siculo-Punic tetradrachm had the head of Herakles (Melqart?) wearing a lionskin headdress, copied from the tetradrachms of Alexander the Great, on the obverse and, again, a horse head on the reverse [21].  These last coins initially had the legends ’MMHNT then later MHSBM (“the Quaestors” or “the paymasters”) on the reverse, probably referring to two different military authorities responsible for the coinage.  The series ended around the time of the conclusion of hostilities with Agathokles and probably before the war against Pyrrhus.

311-306 BC: War Against Agathokles, Tyrant of Syracuse

Carthage initially provided assistance to Agathokles when he became tyrant of Syracuse in 317 BC.  However, the Carthaginians soon became alarmed after he captured several Greek cities in eastern Sicily.  In 311 BC, Carthage defeated Agathokles’ army at Himera and initiated a siege of Syracuse.  As a countermove, Agathokles and part of the army escaped from Syracuse in 310 BC, then invaded Africa. Initially allied with Ophellas, Ptolemy’s former governor who controlled Kyrenaika (Agathokles later had Ophellas murdered.), the forces of Syracuse plundered the fertile region around Carthage and laid siege to the city.  The siege lasted until 307 BC, but Carthage was too well fortified.  However, the strategy distracted Carthage enough that the siege of Syracuse was lifted.  Agathokles returned to Syracuse to restore order after revolts in some of the Sicilian Greek cities.  After he left, the Carthaginians were able to defeat the army that remained in Zeugitana.  In 306 BC, the two sides concluded a treaty that again limited Carthaginian influence to western Sicily.

278-276 BC: War Against Syracuse and Pyrrhus

 

After his “Pyrrhic” victory in Italy against the Romans in 279 BC, Pyrrhus arrived in Sicily to assist Syracuse against Carthage.  He defeated the Carthaginians in battle, and then took their stronghold of Panormos which left only Lilybaeum under Carthaginian control.  However, by 276 BC, Pyrrhus had alienated his Sicilian allies and decided to return to Tarentum.  As his fleet departed, the Carthaginians attacked and destroyed many ships.  Carthage was then able to regain its lost territory.  The Sicilian Greek cities would no longer be a threat, but a more powerful enemy, Rome, would become the dominant power in Sicily within the next two decades.

264-241 BC: The First Punic War

In 264 BC, Hieron II of Syracuse attacked the Mamertines, mercenaries who had previously taken over Messana.  The Mamertines asked for assistance from both Carthage and Rome.  Carthage provided a garrison that was defeated by troops sent from Rome.  Once invited, the Romans stayed, which triggered a war that would last for over 20 years.  Hieron II sided with the Romans, which provided the legions with bases, troops and financial support.  In 261 BC, Rome took Akragas after a long siege.  For the next several years, the Carthaginian army stayed in defensive positions and relied on their naval supremacy. The situation changed when Rome copied a Carthaginian ship and then built a large navy.  The Carthaginian navy was defeated in 256 BC at Ecnomos when the Roman navy used the new tactic of a corvus (crow), a spiked ramp that attached to a ship.  This device allowed Roman troops to quickly board an enemy vessel when they got close, an approach superior to traditional ramming techniques.  From this time, Rome would have naval superiority over Carthage, even though 2 Roman fleets were lost in storms during the next few years.  The same year, Marcus Atilius Regulus invaded Zeugitana and captured Tunis.  Carthage tried to negotiate a settlement, but the Roman demand to cede Sicily and Sardinia were considered too severe.  With the help of Xanthippus of Sparta, Carthage defeated and captured Regulus.  By 254 BC, Rome captured Panormos, which basically restricted Carthage to the stronghold of Lilybaeum.  Hamilcar Barca arrived in Sicily, harassed Roman troops and raided Italy, but did not have the forces to seriously challenge Rome’s domination of Sicily.  In 241 BC, The Carthaginian fleet was again defeated by Rome at the Battle of the Aegetes Islands.  Carthage sued for peace and had to abandon Sicily, taking their army back to Carthage.

  

264-256 BC: Siculo-Punic “Large-Denomination” Coins 

Early in the First Punic War, Carthage minted (probably in Sicily) a unique series of coins that may have been presentation pieces because of their size, style and scarcity.  All of the coins had the head of Tanit facing left on the obverse.  The reverse of the electrum trishekel (30% gold) had a horse jumping with a palm tree behind and the legend B’RST (“in the land” – Sicily?).  The silver issues consisted of a hexashekel with a horse leaping, a pentashekel with Pegasus flying above the legend B’RST, and a trishekel with a horse head.  All these coins are very impressive, have great style and, with the exception of the pentashekel, are quite rare.  As the war turned against Carthage, its coinage returned to more traditional denominations and designs.

256-201 BC: Billon Dishekels

After the series of Attic-weight tetradrachms ended early in the 3rd Century BC, Carthage began to produce silver coinage based on the shekel (7.6 grams) [28] around the time of the start of the First Punic War.  Dishekels and shekels minted during the second half of the war had the head of Tanit obverse with a horse standing with head turned back [31].  The next type of dishekel used a reverse with a horse standing with a star above [32].  Like the earlier substitution of electrum for gold, Carthage began to lower the silver content of coins towards the end of the First Punic War, eventually to billon.  Probably in the period after the war, a long series of coins was started that had reverses with a horse standing in front of a palm tree [38].  This type continued with some variation in style until the end of the Second Punic War [72].   These coins may actually be 1½ shekels (tridrachms) because of the weight reduction to 10.5-11.5 grams and some coins similar to the earlier type with weights of 15 grams.  At times, the silver content was decreased to as low as 10%.  Another type introduced near the end of the Second Punic War had a reverse with a horse stepping right while looking back [71].  During the war, it seems billon coins circulated at Carthage while silver coinage was used in Italy and Sicily.  The Carthaginians' effort to maintain even a small percentage of silver in a coin of relatively standard size suggests the coins circulated locally as a fiduciary currency.  After the Second Punic War, Carthage did not have the resources to maintain even a billon currency and switched to bronze coinage.

241-238 BC: The Mercenary Revolt

Following the First Punic War, Carthage was unable to pay its mercenary armies in Zeugitana.  As a result, a revolt started in Zeugitana, then spread to Sardinia.  The mercenaries in Zeugitana, joined by the local Libyan population, laid siege to Carthage but were not successful.  They crucified Carthaginian authorities sent to negotiate and atrocities escalated on both sides.  Finally, in 238 BC, Hamilcar Barca brutally put down the rebellion in Zeugitana after a large contingent of rebels were trapped and massacred.  The same year, Rome took advantage of Carthage’s problems to gain control of Sardinia.

241-238 BC: Mercenary Revolt Coinage

 The mercenaries in both Zeugitana and Sardinia produced coins for their own use, usually overstruck on Carthaginian coins.  In Zeugitana, a billon shekel similar to Carthaginian coin designs was initially minted with the head of Tanit on the obverse and a horse standing, with a Punic “M” below, on the reverse [33].  The significance of the “M” is uncertain but may have been an abbreviation of “in the camp,” designated the mercenaries or their leader, Mathos.  Many of these coins were overstruck on the Carthaginian shekels produced 255-241 BC.  Later shekels had the head of Herakles wearing a lion skin headdress on the obverse and a lion walking [34], sometimes with the legend “LIBYAN” in Greek in the exergue, on the reverse.  A dishekel had an obverse with the head of Zeus and a charging bull on the reverse [35].  In Sardinia, bronze coins had the head of Tanit on the obverse with three grain-ears on the reverse [36,37] and were overstruck on earlier Carthaginian coins minted in Sardinia.

237-209 BC: Barcids in Spain

 After putting down the mercenary revolt, Hamilcar Barca and other Carthaginians went to Spain to “start over” in the only remaining significant Carthaginian possession outside of North Africa.  They extended Carthaginian influence beyond the Punic cities of southeastern Spain and utilized the local mineral resources to help re-establish the Carthaginian empire.  Hamilcar drowned in 231 BC and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, who founded Carthago Nova in 229 BC.  Hasbrudal was assassinated in 221 BC.  Hannibal Barca succeeded his brother-in-law. In 219 BC, Hannibal took Saguntum.  Rome responded by declaring war and Hannibal made preparations to invade Italy.  After Hannibal was in southern Italy during the Second Punic War, Spain continued to support his efforts until P. Cornelius Scipio (later Africanus) captured Carthago Nova in 209 BC.  Carthaginian forces were driven out of Spain by 206 BC and Rome maintained control after the Second Punic War.

After putting down the mercenary revolt, Hamilcar Barca and other Carthaginians went to Spain to “start over” in the only remaining significant Carthaginian possession outside of North Africa.  They extended Carthaginian influence beyond the Punic cities of southeastern Spain and utilized the local mineral resources to help re-establish the Carthaginian empire.  Hamilcar drowned in 231 BC and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, who founded Carthago Nova in 229 BC.  Hasbrudal was assassinated in 221 BC.  Hannibal Barca succeeded his brother-in-law. In 219 BC, Hannibal took Saguntum.  Rome responded by declaring war and Hannibal made preparations to invade Italy.  After Hannibal was in southern Italy during the Second Punic War, Spain continued to support his efforts until P. Cornelius Scipio (later Africanus) captured Carthago Nova in 209 BC.  Carthaginian forces were driven out of Spain by 206 BC and Rome maintained control after the Second Punic War.
 

228-209 BC: Obverse Portraits on Carthago Nova Silver Coinage

 Initially, coins minted in Spain used designs very similar to contemporary coins of Carthage [40] or had obverses with gods and goddesses portrayed more like traditional Greek coinage with reverses that had typical Carthaginian designs [41,42,43].  The subsequent series minted in Carthage Nova from 228-209 BC used obverse portraits on silver coinage that may have represented members of the Barcid family. The distinctly Punic features of the male head changed with various series, which has been interpreted to represent portraits of different individuals.  The initial issues of 228 BC related to the founding of Carthago Nova with a beardless male head on the obverse and a ship’s prow on the reverse may portray Hasdrubal, Hannibal Barca’s brother-in-law who became the leader in Spain after Hamicar Barca died in 229 BC.  A later dishekel (221-218 BC) that portrayed a bearded head of Melquart with a club behind and an elephant with rider on the reverse may be the likeness of Hamilcar Barca.  There is less controversy about the obverse portrait of a similar series (dishekel, 1½ and ¼ shekel) with an elephant on the reverse.  The face is beardless with different features than the previous dishekel and is considered to be Hannibal Barca [45].  The last series from 218-209 BC has a beardless head on the obverse, also thought to be a portrait of Hannibal.  The dishekel and shekel had a horse standing before a palm tree on the reverse, while the ½ and ¼ shekel have reverses with a horse standing [47,48,49].  While there is no definite proof, this theory is supported by the coinage minted after P. Cornelius Scipio (later Africanus) took Carthago Nova that used a head with more Roman features on the obverse which appears to be Scipio’s.  There is also speculation that the male head on the obverse of the Carthaginian coins used in Sicily 213-211 BC may represent Himilco, the Carthaginian general in Sicily [66].

Initially, coins minted in Spain used designs very similar to contemporary coins of Carthage [] or had obverses with gods and goddesses portrayed more like traditional Greek coinage with reverses that had typical Carthaginian designs [,,].  The subsequent series minted in Carthage Nova from 228-209 BC used obverse portraits on silver coinage that may have represented members of the Barcid family. The distinctly Punic features of the male head changed with various series, which has been interpreted to represent portraits of different individuals.  The initial issues of 228 BC related to the founding of Carthago Nova with a beardless male head on the obverse and a ship’s prow on the reverse may portray Hasdrubal, Hannibal Barca’s brother-in-law who became the leader in Spain after Hamicar Barca died in 229 BC.  A later dishekel (221-218 BC) that portrayed a bearded head of Melquart with a club behind and an elephant with rider on the reverse may be the likeness of Hamilcar Barca.  There is less controversy about the obverse portrait of a similar series (dishekel, 1½ and ¼ shekel) with an elephant on the reverse.  The face is beardless with different features than the previous dishekel and is considered to be Hannibal Barca [].  The last series from 218-209 BC has a beardless head on the obverse, also thought to be a portrait of Hannibal.  The dishekel and shekel had a horse standing before a palm tree on the reverse, while the ½ and ¼ shekel have reverses with a horse standing [,,].  While there is no definite proof, this theory is supported by the coinage minted after P. Cornelius Scipio (later Africanus) took Carthago Nova that used a head with more Roman features on the obverse which appears to be Scipio’s.  There is also speculation that the male head on the obverse of the Carthaginian coins used in Sicily 213-211 BC may represent Himilco, the Carthaginian general in Sicily [].

  

218-201 BC: The Second Punic War

After crossing the Alps with his army in 218 BC, Hannibal defeated Roman legions at the Rivers Ticinus and Trebia.  These initial successes were followed by impressive victories at Lake Trasimene in 217 BC and Cannae in 216 BC.  At this point, several Greek cities in southern Italy, resentful of Roman domination, sided with Hannibal.  Some of the population of Sardinia also rebelled briefly.  However, Hannibal’s army was not strong enough to attack Rome, so several years of stalemate occurred.  In 215 BC, Syracuse’s new ruler, Hieronymos, became a Carthaginian ally.  Carthage reoccupied part of Sicily in 213 BC and encouraged local opposition to Rome.  After a siege started in 214 BC, Roman legions sacked Syracuse in 212 BC.  Carthage lost Akragas in 210 BC which caused a Carthaginian withdrawal from Sicily.  Roman legions invaded Spain in 215 BC, Carthago Nova was taken in 209 BC, and the Carthaginians were driven out of Spain by 206 BC.  In Italy, Capua was recaptured in 211 BC and Rome regained control of Tarentum in 209 BC.  In 207 BC, Roman legions defeated Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal, at the Mataurus River in Umbria when he tried to reinforce Hannibal.  As a result, Hannibal’s efforts became more defensive and he was forced to return to Carthage when Rome invaded Zeugitana in 204 BC.  In 202 BC, Carthage made a last stand at Zama with newly recruited troops under the command of Hannibal.  Using tactics similar to Hannibal, P. Cornelius Scipio (Africanus) was victorious and Carthage surrendered.  The treaty of 201 BC required Carthage to surrender its navy, cede Spain to Rome and pay an indemnity of 10,000 talents of silver.

  

216-211 BC: Electrum 3/8 Shekels of the Second Punic War

After several cities in southern Italy sided with Hannibal in 216 BC, an unusual electrum 3/8 shekel (2.8 grams - 30% gold) was struck with a janiform female head on the obverse and a quadriga on the reverse [50].  The coin copies the contemporary Roman didrachm (quadrigatus) with the exception of the janiform head being female with grain wreaths and without “ROMA” on the reverse.  Previously thought to be Roman coins, the reason for copying the "quadrigatus" design is unknown. The coins have been found in southern Italy and may have been minted in Capua.  More likely, the coins were minted in Carthage because of the aligned dies, then sent to Italy.  Later, coins of similar weight and gold content were produced in the more traditional style with the obverse head of Tanit and a reverse with a horse standing [51] or stepping.  Production ceased as the war in southern Italy started to turn against Carthage and its allies.

216-203 BC: Silver Coinage Used in Italy during the Second Punic War

During the Second Punic War, Carthaginian forces in Italy and Sicily used silver coinage either minted locally or in Carthage, probably to pay mercenary troops.   The ½ and ¼ shekel coins used by Hannibal’s forces in Italy were of two distinct styles.  The first had a more “Greek” head of Tanit on the obverse, similar to some of the Carthaginian bronze coins used in Italy during the same period [54,55],  while the reverse had either a horse standing (¼ shekel) [57] or a horse standing in front of a palm tree (½ shekel).  This style and the use of unaligned dies indicate that the coins were produced at an uncertain location in Italy.  The second style had a more “Punic” head of Tanit, more like contemporary issues of Carthage [71,72] and were struck with aligned dies, which suggests Carthage as the mint.  While the ¼ shekel had a similar reverse [60], the reverse of the ½ shekel had a horse standing with a sun-disk above [58,59].  However, both styles are found predominantly in Italy, often in hoards with contemporary coins of the Brettian League.  If the latter coins were minted in Carthage, they were shipped to Italy for use by Hannibal’s troops.

 

216-203 BC: Bronze Coinage of Carthage during the Second Punic War

During the Second Punic War, bronze coins were used at Carthage that probably were not intended circulate elsewhere, since most are found in Zeugitana.  Several varieties of bronze coins were used at the beginning of the war that had similar weights of 6-7 grams.  The obverses had a head of Tanit while the reverses had a horse looking back (standing or stepping) [61], sometimes with a palm [62], or stepping with a caduceus behind [63].  Later, coins of 17-18 grams were minted that had a head of Tanit on the obverse and a horse standing in front of a palm tree on the reverse [64].  During the same period, similar types with weights  of 12 and 6 grams were issued [65].  Towards the end of the war, bronze coins weighing 12 grams were produced with an obverse head of Tanit and a reverse with a horse looking back.  Some coins of the last series are somewhat unusual since they had an arc intersecting the circular border of the obverse.  While the different bronze issues weighed approximately 6 grams or a multiple of that weight, the valuation of the different series to contemporary coins of bronze or other metals is uncertain. 

201-190 BC: Large Bronze Coins

Following its defeat of the Second Punic War, Carthage used large bronze coins up to 45 mm diameter with a weight of 95-100 gm [74].  These coins had the obverse head of Tanit with a reverse showing a horse standing or stepping and a solar-disk above.  A smaller coin of similar style that weighed 20 grams was also minted, but had a reverse with only a horse stepping. The coins are usually worn, which suggests they circulated for an extended period of time.  The use of heavy bronze coins was probably necessary because precious metal was not available for monetary purposes, similar to the contemporary use of bronze coins by Ptolemaic Egypt.  The relative value of the coins is unknown, but they probably circulated until the Third Punic War.  

149-146 BC: The Third Punic War

In 149 BC, Carthage tried to prevent incursions into Zeugitana by the army of Massinissa, king of Numidia and Rome’s ally.  Even though the Carthaginians were defeated, Rome later occupied Utica and demanded that Carthage surrender its weapons.  Carthage complied, but refused the next Roman demand that Carthage be abandoned.  As a result, Rome laid siege to Carthage, but met strong resistance.  In 146 BC, legions commanded by Scipio Aemilianus (Africanus “the Younger”) breached the walls.  Hasdrubal, the Carthaginian general surrendered after desperate fighting and asked for mercy, but his wife and children jumped into a burning temple rather than surrender.  Carthage was completely destroyed and most of its population of 700,000 was killed while about 50,000 were enslaved.

149-146 BC: Serrated-edge Coins of the Third Punic War

 

Shortly before or during the Third Punic War, Carthage again began minting silver and gold coins.  The silver dishekels [75] and shekels had the head of Tanit on the obverse with a horse stepping on the reverse.  The gold 2/5 shekel (3.0 gm) had a horse stepping on the reverse, while the 1/5 shekel had a horse head on the reverse.  Interestingly, most of these silver and gold coins had a serrated edge.  The reason is uncertain, but may have been to help identify the coins as having high precious metal content, used to limit “clipping”or may simply have been a decorative feature, like some contemporary Seleukid bronzes.  The fairly crude style and poor quality of the flans suggests urgency in their production.  Several issues must have been minted because of various symbols placed on the reverses.  There is speculation that this coinage may have been intended as an indemnity to Rome before hostilities commenced.  However, as was often the case in previous wars, Carthage probably minted these coins as payment for military services in their final desperate attempt to resist Rome’s legions.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank John Jencek for his assistance creating the online version of this article, the great coin images and his patience.

I would also like to thank Mark D. Stock for his thoughtful and thorough review.