A Short History Of Carthage (eBook)
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Sicily would naturally be the place in which Carthage would first seek to establish a foreign dominion. At its nearest point it was not more than fifty miles distant; its soil was fertile, its climate temperate; it was rich in several valuable articles of commerce. We have seen that, in the treaty which was made with Rome about the end of the sixth century B.C., the Carthaginians claimed part of the island as their own. It is probable that this part was then less than it had been. For more than two hundred years the Greeks had been spreading their settlements over the country; and the Greeks were the great rivals of the Phoenicians. If they were not as keen traders - and trade was certainly held in less estimation in Athens, and even in Corinth, than it was in Tyre and Carthage - they were as bold and skillful as sailors, and far more ready than their rivals to fight for what they had got or for what they wanted. The earliest Greek colony in Sicily was Naxos, on the east coast, founded by settlers from Euboea in 735. Other Greek cities sought room for their surplus population in the same field; and some of the colonies founded fresh settlements of their own. The latest of them was Agrigentum on the south coast, which owed its origin to Gela, itself a colony of Cretans and Rhodians. As the Greeks thus spread westward the Carthaginians retired before them, till their dominions were probably reduced to little more than a few trading ports on the western coast of the island. As long, indeed, as they could trade with the new comers they seemed to be satisfied. They kept up, for the most part, friendly relations with their rivals, allowing even the right of intermarriage to some at least of their cities.