Byrsa Hill - History and Facts | History Hit

Byrsa Hill

Tunis, Tunisia

Part of the archaeological site of Carthage, Byrsa Hill contains a number of remains from the original Punic city as well as the Carthage National Museum and St Louis Cathedral.

Lily Johnson

18 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Byrsa Hill

Byrsa Hill is an important ancient site that once sat at the centre of the thriving city of Carthage, one of the most affluent cities of the classical world. Today containing a host of the city’s archaeological remains and a number of interesting historical sites, Byrsa Hill is a must-visit for lovers of ancient history and the perfect place to begin explorations of Carthage’s vibrant past.

Byrsa Hill history

Once the site of Carthage’s powerful citadel, Byrsa Hill cast an unmissable silhouette over the city’s skyline, housing its central military installation and a temple dedicated to Eshmun, the Punic god of healing.

Byrsa’s name, meaning ‘oxhide’ in Greek, derives from a legendary origin story surrounding Carthage’s founder, Dido. When Dido’s party were camped as Byrsa, a local Berber chieftain told her she may keep as much land as could by covered by a single oxhide. Cleverly, Dido cut the oxhide into tiny pieces and lay them end-to-end until they encircled the entire Byrsa Hill.

In 146 BC the city was besieged and destroyed by the Romans during the Third Punic War, however when they rebuilt it Byrsa Hill remained central to their administration. A number of important public buildings were constructed at the site and it was installed as the seat of the proconsul of Africa within the Roman Empire.

In 1884, St Louis Cathedral was constructed on Byrsa Hill over the ruins of the ancient temple dedicated to Eshmun. Intended to honour Louis IX of France who had died in Carthage in 1270 during the Eighth Crusade, the Cathedral was constructed by the French consul-general with the permission of the Bey of Tunis, Al-Husayn II ibn Mahmud.

Byrsa Hill today

Today the ruins of the ancient Punic city may be viewed atop Byrsa Hill in an area now known as the Punic Quarter, or ‘Hannibal‘s neighbourhood’. Here the remains of a Carthaginian residential neighbourhood may be explored, complete with street grids, houses, and a series of Punic tombs.

Also found on Byrsa Hill is the Carthage National Museum, which contains a wealth of exhibitions and information about the history of Carthage, as well as St Louis Cathedral which is now widely known as the Acropolium and is no longer used for worship but instead public events and concerts.

Byrsa Hill features as one of our Top Tunisian Attractions.

Getting to Byrsa Hill

Byrsa Hill is located in the centre of Tunis in Tunisia just off the N10 road, with parking available a 15-minute walk away next to Parc Montazah de Carthage. Carthage Hannibal train station is an 8-minute walk away, while Tunis-Carthage International Airport is an 18-minute taxi journey.