Rome Journal

Andrew moves to Italy. Hilarity ensues.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

the 'burbs: Carthage and Sidi Bou Said

It's sort of funny to go visit Carthage and discover that the capital of a world-spanning empire is now a suburb of Tunis. You get there by taking the local train; it takes about half an hour. Unfortunately, there's not all that much to see there. It's worth it to go to the museum up on Byrsa Hill, if only for the wonderful view. And the Antonine baths (oh those Antonines with their baths) are pretty cool.

But my favorite site was actually the tophet cemetery. It's a small place, filled with these stelae (tombstones to you and me) marking the graves of infants and small children that were sacrificed. The tophet, and the question of whether the Carthaginians practiced human sacrifice, is somewhat controversial. There are a lot of people who want to ascribe it to anti-Punic propaganda on the part of the Romans (who preferred to watch humans getting killed in the arena). But if you look at the evidence, it's pretty clear that it was a real deal.

Anyway, here's an Indiana-Jones type shot from the tophet:

Most of the stelae aren't in a tunnel like this, just outside and sort of crammed together. But this one is piu suggestivo, you know?

The tophet also had some cactuses that were in bloom, something I hadn't seen before:

Getting back on the train, I headed out to Sidi Bou Said, a lovely little town up on a rocky cliff overlooking the water. It's all very quaint and Mediterranean. Everywhere you go, there are views:

I had a late lunch at Au Bon Vieux Temps, the fanciest place I ate in Tunisia. Even so, it was pretty laid back; the food was good (fish couscous, yum) and the view was just tremendous:


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