Brief history of Tunisia summarized
A brief and enjoyable review of the history of Tunisia, an African country.
Around 8,000 BC, humans lived in what is now Tunisia by hunting and gathering. After about 5,000 BC they began to farm, although they still used stone tools. Then, around 1100 BC, the Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon settled and traded in the area.
Around the year 480 BC the Phoenicians founded Carthage. Little by little this city became stronger. Over time, the Carthaginians built an empire in the Mediterranean.
However, they came into conflict with Rome. The first Punic War between Carthage and Rome began in 263 BC and lasted until 241 BC. It ended in a Carthaginian defeat. A second war followed in 218 BC. This time Hannibal led an army across the Alps into Italy, but failed to capture Rome.
Finally in 202 the Carthaginians were crushed by the Romans at the Battle of Zama. A third was fought between 149 and 146 BC This time Carthage was destroyed. However, the Romans later rebuilt Carthage as a Roman city.
Under Roman rule, Tunisia prospered and exported grain and olive oil to other parts of the empire. Also, many Romans settled in the area and trade flourished.
However, by the 5th century the Roman Empire was falling apart. A people called the Vandals had conquered Spain. In 429 80,000 Vandals led by Genseric crossed into North Africa. In 439 they captured Carthage and created a new kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Roman Empire had split into two halves, East and West. The eastern half became known as the Byzantine Empire. In 533 the Byzantine emperor Justinian sent an army under his general Belisarius, who crushed the Vandals and took Carthage.
Byzantine rule in Tunisia lasted until 698. In that year the Arabs took Carthage. At first, Arab Tunisia was ruled by the caliphs, but in the year 800 Ibrahim ibn al Aghlab became the hereditary ruler of the country. Under the Aghlabid dynasty, Tunisia prospered and trade flourished.
Tunisia in the Middle Ages
However, in the year 909, a strict sect called the Ismailis led a rebellion and expelled the Aghlabids. The leader of the Ismailis seized Tunisia. He claimed to be a descendant of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, so his dynasty was called the Fatimids.
In the year 921 the Fatimids founded Mahida, which became the capital. In 969 the Fatimids captured Egypt and soon after made Cairo their new capital. From then on, Tunisia was ruled by a dynasty of semi-independent governors called the Zirids.
However, the Zirids broke away from the Fatimids and became fully independent in 1049. In revenge, the Fatimids persuaded two Bedouin tribes, the Banu Hilal and the Banu Sulaym, to attack the Zirids.
Furthermore, in the 12th century the Normans (who ruled Sicily) captured most of the Tunisian ports. They captured Jerba in 1135 and Mahdia in 1148. However, the Almohads who came from Morocco expelled them. The Almohads captured Tunis in 1159.
However, in 1229 the governor of Tunisia broke away and formed a new dynasty. The Hafsids managed to restore order in Tunisia. During the 13th century Tunisia prospered and trade flourished.
In 1574 Tunisia was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. During the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries many Tunisians were pirates. They were called Barbary pirates (the word Barbary is derived from Berber).
From time to time the European powers took action against the Barbary pirates (for example, in 1655 the English admiral Blake bombarded Porto Farina). The Europeans also extorted various treaties, none of which ended piracy.
Turkish rule in Tunisia ended in 1705 when Hussain Ibn Ali started the Hussainid dynasty.
Then, during the 19th century, European, especially Italian, influence increased in Tunisia. When Tunisia went bankrupt in 1869, Britain, France, and Italy took control of Tunisian finances. Then in 1881 French troops entered from Algeria and forced the Tunisians to accept a French protectorate.
Tunisian nationalism soon grew and in the early 20th century an independence movement was formed. Then in 1940, when Germany conquered France, Tunisia came under Vichy French rule. The Germans occupied Tunisia in November 1942, but their troops surrendered to the Allies in May 1943.
After World War II, Tunisians continued to agitate for freedom. Finally, on March 20, 1956, France accepted the independence of Tunisia. The first elections were held on March 25, 1956. At first Tunisia was a constitutional monarchy, but in 1957 it became a republic.
Habib Bourguiba became the first president. In 1975 he was appointed president for life, but in 1987 he was removed and replaced by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Meanwhile, in 1964, oil was discovered in Tunisia, while in international affairs, Tunisia adopted a position of non-alignment.
However, in 2011 there were riots in Tunisia and Ben Ali was forced to flee. A new chapter began in the history of Tunisia. Elections were held in Tunisia in October 2011 and a new constitution was approved in 2014.
Today, the Tunisian economy is growing and poverty is declining. Tourism is an important industry. At present, the population of Tunisia is 11 million inhabitants.
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