How did Carthaginian government function?

Mar 2018
Almaty, Kazakhstan
Were they a republic or a kingdom? I'm not familiar with the way their government functioned and would like to know abt it. Did they have elected offices or smthn? What kind of role did religion play? Questions I would like to know the answers to
Oct 2015
Since nobody has answered, I''ll take a shot at it.

There is a considerable uncertainty because the only information comes from Greeks (mainly Aristotle's Politics) and Romans (Livy), no Carthaginian source has survived.

Carthage was, apparently, an oligarchic republic dominated by great merchant and land-owning clans. By the fifth century BC there were two executive/judicial magistrates called suffets (judges) by the Greeks; a council of elders (called gerousea by Aristotle, senate by Livy); and a court called "The 104" who appointed generals and magistrates to handle war, finance and administration, passed judgement on their performance in office, and adjudicated other lawsuits. There was also a citizen assembly which could be convened to decide issues upon which the suffets and elders could not agree.
It is not clear how magistrates, elders or "The 104" were chosen, but since Aristotle says they were selected based on wealth and ability, and the same names appear repeatedly over time, it was probably by co-option or election by the council of elders.


Ad Honorem
May 2016
Oct 2015
Livy says (XXXIII.46) that the Court of 104 Judges were "absolute masters of the city". It 's original function was to demand an account from all public functionaries of their actions while in office and approve or punish. It was probably originally established to prevent any individual or family from gaining ascendancy. They were men of "senatorial" rank and were nominally elected annually by a shadowy group of magistrates Aristotle calls pentarchiai (boards of five), but actually held office for life.

There was also a "Small Senate" of 30 who sometimes took control of affairs in a crisis. (Were these the pentarchiai ?)

Despite it's oligarchic character, some democratic aspect existed, as when Hannibal was elected suffet (~196?) and attempted to effect reforms.
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Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
Too late to edit so I'd better qualify this. I meant the relationship of the Barca's with Carthage seemed less than ideal.
I always felt Barca's were power seeking ahead of the interests of Carthage not so unlike the later Caesar who used a mix of publicity, his Consul powers, and circumstances that always pointed toward a widening war which conveniently only he could prosecute.

Barcids were appointed look over Carthage's interests in Spain, used that opportunity to expand into the hills where there were known to be silver mines, brought in foreign experts and technology to exploit those mines and got further involved in local politics due to the struggles to protect the profits from the mines and get the necessary manpower to work the mines with local client tribes asking for help vs opposing tribes and all the while Carthaginian influence but also Barcid influence grew which wasn't missed by other families back in Carthage just as Caesar's rise was opposed by political opponents more vehemently the more success he had in Gaul.

The only other information on Carthaginian government I can add is that family connections seemed a bit more important even than individual merit for Carthage compared to Rome and there concept of extending citizenship to people outside of Carthage was not acceptable. Most of the less wealthy but still citizens of Carthage were expected to serve in the fleets and thus Carthage was more hesitant to engage in naval warfare once Rome proved it could compete because rather than mostly mercenaries and Libyo Phoenician non-citizens who served in the armies it was actual citizens at risk in the fleets as well the fleet represented not only Carthage but the various client cities and Carthaginian colonies spread out around the western Mediterranean who only came together to oppose Rome a few times after their trade interests were directly threatened such as by the Roman seizure of Sardinia and the Roman patronage of competing Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean.
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Aug 2018
There is a depiction of the Cathage government in Aristotle's politics, I can provide page numbers or photos if you are interested.