Who were the Berbers?
The first people to live along the North African coast were Berbers, nomadic shepherds and cattle herders. These people spoke a Hamitic language related to Ancient Egyptian. They were probably a genetic mixture of people from West Asia with people from southern Africa. These Hamitic people frequently invaded Egypt. Egyptians called them Libyans. Sometimes the Libyans had a lot of power in Egyptian politics.
Phoenicians start the city of Carthage
But about 800 BC, Phoenician colonists arrived from West Asia and started the city of Carthage, in modern Tunisia. Carthage had a good port, and an important military location. It is located at a narrow point of the Mediterranean Sea, opposite the island of Sicily. So a navy that controls both southern Sicily and Carthage (as the Phoenicians did) can control shipping in the Mediterranean. Because of its good port and strategic location, Carthage quickly grew into an important city.
Carthage colonizes Spain
When the Persians conquered Phoenicia in the late 500s BC, Carthage gained its independence. The Persians had no navy, and were not that interested in the Mediterranean, so Carthage was able to become an independent country. In addition to North Africa and southern Sicily, Carthage also conquered and colonized a lot of Spain. The Carthaginians wanted to rule Spain because there were big silver mines there.
Did you find out what you wanted to know about North African history? Click below to read about the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome, or to find out about North African history under the Roman Empire.
Umm El Madayan: An Islamic City Through the Ages
by Abderrahman Ayoub, Jamila Binous, Abderrazak Gragueb (1994)
Hannibal (First Book) by Robert Green (1997)
The Young Carthaginian by G. A. Henty (1860s, reprinted 2001) This is a good adventure story that can introduce you to the wars between Rome and Carthage, but because it was written more than 100 years ago, it has some racist and unfair assumptions about the Romans being better people than the Carthaginians – watch out!
The Late Roman West and the Vandals by Frank M. Clover (not a kids’ book) (1993)