To Carthage then I came. The great city that became a metaphor

Carthage and its harbour re-imagined

Carthage has a powerful hold on the imagination. Founded in the 9thcentury B.C., it is the great city whose greatness did not enable it to escape destruction. The centre of a great trading empire, it was reduced to rubble, its dreams became dust. It is the place that produced Hannibal, one of the greatest military commanders in history, but it could not strategise enough for the future. It was the centre of successive empires but could not rule its own destiny.

At the Baths of Antonine. They are only 2,000 years old!

It is a metaphor for the corrupt city, for rise and fall, and for the inevitability of decay.

In ‘The Wasteland’, T.S.Eliot writes:

“To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning

O Lord thou pluckst me out

O Lord thou pluckst


It’s thought that this is a reference to Saint Augustine’s Confessions: “To Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.”

Carthage today, a UN World Heritage site, is not so much “a cauldron of unholy loves” as a wealthy suburb with a slightly chaotic way of conveying its 3,000-year history.

(Tomorrow: Carthage Musuem has great potential. When will it achieve it?)

Originally published at on December 26, 2015.

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Sign up for free email updates on email me at

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