Carthage paid, even down to the times of its prosperity, a ground-rent for the space occupied by the city to the native Berbers, the tribe of the Maxyes or Maxitani; and although the sea and the desert sufficiently protected the city from any assault of the eastern powers, Carthage appears to have recognized--although but nominally--the supremacy of the great- king, and to have paid tribute to him occasionally, in order to secure its commercial communications with Tyre and the East.
But with all their disposition to be submissive and cringing, circumstances occurred which compelled these Phoenicians to adopt a more energetic policy. The stream of Hellenic migration was pouring ceaselessly towards the west: it had already dislodged the Phoenicians from Greece proper and Italy, and it was preparing to supplant them also in Sicily, in Spain, and even in Libya itself. The Phoenicians had to make a stand somewhere, if they were not willing to be totally crushed. In this case, where they had to deal with Greek traders and not with the great-king, submission did not suffice to secure the continuance of their commerce and industry on its former footing, liable merely to tax and tribute. Massilia and Cyrene were already founded; the whole east of Sicily was already in the hands of the Greeks; it was full time for the Phoenicians to think of serious resistance. The Carthaginians undertook the task; after long and obstinate wars they set a limit to the advance of the Cyrenaeans, and Hellenism was unable to establish itself to the west of the desert of Tripolis. With Carthaginian aid, moreover, the Phoenician settlers on the western point of Sicily defended themselves against the Greeks, and readily and gladly submitted to the protection of the powerful cognate city.(2) These important successes, which occurred in the second century of Rome, and which saved for the Phoenicians the south- western portion of the Mediterranean, served of themselves to give to the city which had achieved them the hegemony of the nation, and to alter at the same time its political position. Carthage was no longer a mere mercantile city: it aimed at the dominion of Libya and of a part of the Mediterranean, because it could not avoid doing so. It is probable that the custom of employing mercenaries contributed materially to these successes. That custom came into vogue in Greece somewhere about the middle of the fourth century of Rome, but among the Orientals and the Carians more especially it was far older, and it was perhaps the Phoenicians themselves that began it By the system of foreign recruiting war was converted into a vast pecuniary speculation, which was quite in keeping with the character and habits of the Phoenicians.
The Carthaginian Dominion In Africa
It was probably the reflex influence of these successes abroad, that first led the Carthaginians to change the character of their occupation in Africa from a tenure of hire and sufferance to one of proprietorship and conquest. It appears to have been only about the year 300 of Rome that the Carthaginian merchants got rid of the rent for the soil, which they had hitherto been obliged to pay to the natives. This change enabled them to prosecute a husbandry of their own on a great scale. From the outset the Phoenicians had been desirous to employ their capital as landlords as well as traders, and to practise agriculture on a large scale by means of slaves or hired labourers; a large portion of the Jews in this way served the merchant-princes of Tyre for daily wages. Now the Carthaginians could without restriction extract the produce of the rich Libyan soil by a system akin to that of the modern planters; slaves in chains cultivated the land--we find single citizens possessing as many as twenty thousand of them. Nor was this all. The agricultural villages of the surrounding region--agriculture appears to have been introduced among the Libyans at a very early period, probably anterior to the Phoenician settlement, and presumably from Egypt--were subdued by force of arms, and the free Libyan farmers were transformed into fellahs, who paid to their lords a fourth part of the produce of the soil as tribute, and were subjected to a regular system of recruiting for the formation of a home Carthaginian army. Hostilities were constantly occurring with the roving pastoral tribes (--nomades--) on the borders; but a chain of fortified posts secured the territory enclosed by them, and the Nomades were slowly driven back into the deserts and mountains, or were compelled to recognize Carthaginian supremacy, to pay tribute, and to furnish contingents. About the period of the first Punic war their great town Theveste (Tebessa, at the sources of the Mejerda) was conquered by the Carthaginians. These formed the "towns and tribes (--ethne--) of subjects," which appear in the Carthaginian state-treaties; the former being the non-free Libyan villages, the latter the subject Nomades.
To this fell to be added the sovereignty of Carthage over the other Phoenicians in Africa, or the so-called Liby-phoenicians. These included, on the one hand, the smaller settlements sent forth from Carthage along the whole northern and part of the north-western coast of Africa--which cannot have been unimportant, for on the Atlantic seaboard alone there were settled at one time 30,000 such colonists --and, on the other hand, the old Phoenician settlements especially numerous along the coast of the present province of Constantine and Beylik of Tunis, such as Hippo afterwards called Regius (Bona), Hadrumetum (Susa), Little Leptis (to the south of Susa)--the second city of the Phoenicians in Africa--Thapsus (in the same quarter), and Great Leptis (Lebda to the west of Tripoli). In what way all these cities came to be subject to Carthage--whether voluntarily, for their protection perhaps from the attacks of the Cyrenaeans and Numidians, or by constraint--can no longer be ascertained; but it is certain that they are designated as subjects of the Carthaginians even in official documents, that they had to pull down their walls, and that they had to pay tribute and furnish contingents to Carthage.