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Onasander

Carthage's Merchant Fleet

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carthage-harbor.jpg

 

I doubt this information was even historically preserved, but I'll ask it anyway.

 

Outside of diplomatic ships (such as Roman ships) were only ships piloted and owned by Carthagenians allowed into Carthage?

 

I'm trying to make sense of the lop sided balance of dock to urban area, noting some of the civilian buildings got up to 6 stories high, I presume only warehouses were privately owned, the docks were either communal or rented for actual time spent inside.

 

I also presume Carthage had more ships in service than they could ever dick in the home port, for ever ship docked, you can have one or two out sailing fae, far away. What would be the ratio, I dunno.

 

I never liked the idea of the navy docks being in the rear of the merchants, but it is viable if you can trust the merchant ships aren't going to get in the way, intentionally jam traffic in a emergency, etc. This alone strongly suggests to me only Carthagian Merchants were allowed in.

 

Secondly, the way their empire is structured. Africa is a horrible emporium, at least that part of Africa. Carthage didn't build itself up that way with trade with the Numidians or Granarians. I assume most, if not all trade, was a state monopoly upon the sea. This doesn't mean others didn't parallel trade along the same traderoutes, but if you were a village or city port under with Carthage, you only traded through Carthage.

 

In early (Pre-Punic Wars) Rome, Carthage arrived at a time when Rome was already trading, couldn't prevent them from trading, but negotiated a treaty for trade. This made it possible for Carthage to move more Roman goods.

 

But did all trade have to go from Rome to Carthage, or could it go to Sardinia or Corsica to and fro? If so, was it only through the auspices and direction of the governor's there, who taxed and regulated the markets by the will of the Senate in Carthage, or was it up to them? Or was it a free for all?

 

I ask this, as I'm failing to understand how Carthage could maintain such a empire, based on trade, without understanding how it controlled it.

 

We're Carthage's highest ranking territorial administrators appointed, or quasiheteditary, like Hannibal's Barca clan was for the Army?

 

Did Carthage require all goods picked up shipped back to Carthage, sent to market, or could their captains do direct port to port trade?

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Sea trade wpuild have been a matter of commercial expediency. Because Carthage was a large city state with the largest local market, it follows it was a trade nexus with a lot of the traffic passing through. That would not stop Captains landing elsewhere to gain profit. Carthage did in fact control a number of significant ports around the mediterranean as well.

 

This idea of control - I see this quite a lot in discussion of ancient empires and it seems to revolve a concept of monolithic state control which was never the case in ancient empires however centralised. It's amost as if human beings have this psychological need to se things in that way, but maybe that's an effect of modern culture with the benefits of contemporary media, communications, and political structures?

 

I doubt the Carthagiian senate 'controlled' trade in the manner you infer. Trade was after all an entrepeneurial activity and one that brought them into conflict with the emerging Roman state rather than a state sponsored activity (the same applies to Rome incidentially, perhaps more pointedly given Rome's rapacious commercial mindset) What was happening was that individual merchants/captains were making profits and facilities were built by Carthage to allow trade to prosper and be taxed.

 

As for thje siting of the military docks, I don't know thr rationale, but I suspect they built it after the main basin and thus it simply easier to put it there. Interesting point about obstructions and so forth, hadn't really thought about it, but I'm not aware that Carthage experienced any particular problem with that.

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