Tunisia – History of Tunisia Series – Phoenicia Commemorative issue
The reverse features a Carthaginian war bireme. Carthage was a settlement founded by the Phoenicians in 814 BCE outside the site of modern Tunis. By the beginning of the 5th century BCE it had become the commercial center of the western Mediterranean. It fought with Rome for the domination over the Mediterranean in the three Punic wars (264-146 BCE) until being overthrown by the Roman Republic. The Phoenicians were among the first to develop the bireme, a two-banked sailing vessel with oars. It had a narrow stretched hull, its length was approximately 100 ft (30 m) and it stepped one mast with a square sail. The mast and sail were removable. The bireme was propelled by 40-50 rowers sitting on an upper bank and a lower bank, one rower for each oar. The lower oars extended through the sides of the ship. The main weapon of the bireme was a ram. The upper floor was used by the officers and soldiers who fought from behind the warrior shields fastened on the wickerwork sides. The sail of the bireme on the reverse bears the so-called “Sign of Tanit,” which is generally accepted as representing Tanit, Carthage’s mother deity, protector of the city and provider of fertility. The goddess was often associated with the moon and was a patron of sailors. The reverse legend is PHOENICES (Latin for Phoenicians).
[The obverse portrays President Habib Bourguiba (1903-2000, president in 1957-1987). ]