Dr. Nathan Pilkington

By Kristian Buiter

Mobility and Migration in the Carthaginian Empire

Pilkington focusses on identification of early Carthaginian colonization, especially in the Cape Bon region. In contrast to Roman colonization, the sources and archaeological record are scarce. Pilkington says that there is no textual record about Carthaginian Colonialism from Carthaginians themselves, compared to Roman colonization which is widely described. Because of that, identifying Carthaginian colonization is hard and, according to Pilkington, its demography is rarely considered. Mainly because there is no such data for Carthage.

In his presentation, Pilkington proposes a statistical approach to map the reproductive population of Carthage and tries to model the possible scope of early Carthaginian colonization from 805 till 550 BC. He uses two scenarios to test his approach: in the first Carthage founded 4 colonies in 150 years and in the second one 10 colonies in 150 years. Starting with 2000 reproductive adults and with some added parameters about mortality, immigration and age, the result is an exponential growth curve. With this curve, Pilkington tests his two scenarios. The first scenario with four colonies still gives a relatively high population growth in the aforementioned time-period. In the second scenario with 10 colonies, the curve is much less steep. Both scenarios suggest a total Carthaginian population of 70.000-90.000 by 400 BC, but the first scenario has a higher population in Carthage itself and the second scenario suggests a third of the population lived in colonies. 

Pilkington concludes that only the second scenario gives the necessary kind of acculturalization necessary to create a kind of imperial home territory which can be compared to, for example, Roman colonization in Latium. So, Pilkington proposes, if colonization for Rome was a function of empire building, why not also in Carthage?  

I find Pilkington’s approach very interesting. He tries to analyze early Carthaginian colonization in an innovative way, which he must do because of the lack of textual and basic archaeological evidence. Also, innovative because historians in general tend to ignore statistics and numbers and favor textual descriptions.  The way in which he presented his approach was very understandable and his PowerPoint made clear use of facts, maps, and diagrams to support his approach. But what kept gnawing at me, was the rather direct comparison to Roman colonization: ‘if in Rome, then why not in Carthage?’ This comparison, in my humble opinion, is somewhat blunt. Especially when I compare it to the view of C.R. Whittaker, who argues that Carthage was not as focused on territorial colonization and control as Rome was in the sixth and fifth century BC. But nonetheless, Pilkington’s statistical approach could start a new way of researching early Carthaginian colonization with a focus on numbers and statistical models, instead of focusing on the almost absent textual and archaeological evidence for this early period of Carthaginian colonization.