The city developed from a Phoenician colony into the capital of an empire dominating the Mediterranean during the first millennium BC. The apocryphal queen Dido is regarded as the founder of the city, though her historicity has been questioned. According to accounts by Timaeus of Tauromenium, she purchased from a local tribe the amount of land that could be covered by an oxhide. Cutting the skin into strips, she laid out her claim and founded an empire that would become, through the Punic Wars, the only existential threat to the Roman Empire until the coming of the Vandals several centuries later.
The ancient city was destroyed by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War in 146 BC then re-developed as Roman Carthage, which became the major city of the Roman Empire in the province of Africa. The Roman city was again occupied by the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb, in 698. The site remained uninhabited, the regional power shifting to the Medina of Tunis in the medieval period, until the early 20th century, when it began to develop into a coastal suburb of Tunis, incorporated as Carthage municipality in 1919.
The archaeological site was first surveyed in 1830, by Danish consul Christian Tuxen Falbe. Excavations were performed in the second half of the 19th century by Charles Ernest Beulé and by Alfred Louis Delattre. The Carthage National Museum was founded in 1875 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie. Excavations performed by French archaeologists in the 1920s attracted an extraordinary amount of attention because of the evidence they produced for child sacrifice, in Greco-Roman and Biblical tradition associated with the Canaanite god Baal Hammon. The open-air Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum has exhibits excavated under the auspices of UNESCO from 1975 to 1984.