Punic people

Sardo-Punic mask showing a Sardonic grin
Punic praying statuette, c. 3rd century BC
The Punic Building in Żurrieq, a modern structure incorporating Punic ruins
Model of the Punic port, Carthage

The Punic people or Western Phoenicians, were a group of Semitic peoples in the Western Mediterranean who traced their origins to the Phoenicians of the coasts of Western Asia. In modern scholarship, the term 'Punic' – the Latin equivalent of the Greek-derived term 'Phoenician' – is exclusively used to refer to Phoenicians in the Western Mediterranean, following the line of the Greek East and Latin West.

The largest Punic settlement was Ancient Carthage (essentially modern Tunis), but there were other settlements along the North African coast from Leptis Magna in modern Libya to the Atlantic, as well as western Sicily, southern Sardinia, the southern and western coasts of the Iberian Peninsula, Malta, and Ibiza. Their language, Punic, was a dialect of Phoenician, which is a Northwest Semitic language originating in the Levant.[1]

The first Phoenicians settled in the western Mediterranean in the twelfth century BC[citation needed] and formed part of trading networks linked to Tyre, Arvad, Byblos, Berytus, Ekron and Sidon in Phoenicia proper. Although links with Phoenicia were retained throughout their history, they also developed close relations with other peoples of the western Mediterranean such as Sicilians, Berbers, Greeks and Iberians, and developed some cultural traits distinct from those of their Phoenician motherland. Some of these were shared by all western Phoenicians, while others were restricted to individual regions within the Punic sphere.

The western Phoenicians were arranged into a multitude of self-governing city-states. Carthage had grown to be the largest and most powerful of these city-states by the fifth century BC and gained increasingly close control over Punic Sicily and Sardinia in the fourth century BC, but communities in Iberia remained outside their control until the second half of the third century BC. In the course of the Punic wars (264–146 BC), the Romans challenged Carthaginian hegemony in the western Mediterranean, culminating in the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, but the Punic language and Punic culture endured under Roman rule, surviving in some places until Late Antiquity.