Before the Muslims
Since history has been recorded, there were Berber tribes living in what is now Tunisia. Most of them built little towns and ports along the coastline so they could trade with different travellers from everywhere in the Mediterranean Sea.
Most of the travellers that used to pass by Tunisia were Phoenicians who started to settle on the Tunisian coast during the 10th Century BC.
Later, in the 8th Century BC, Carthage was built by some settlers that came from Phoenicia and regions abroad.
After many wars against Greece in 6th Century BC, Carthage dominated the Mediterranean Sea.
During the Second Punic War, Carthage invaded Italy with an army led by Hannibal.
The series of wars between the Roman Empire and Carthage ended with the destruction of Carthage in the 2nd Century BC.
After the destruction of the Carthaginian civilization, the region became under the Roman Empire control.
When the Roman Empire became weak, the Vandals occupied that region. This was in the 5th Century AD, and one hundred years after that, it became under the control of the Byzantine emperor Justinian.
Beginning of Islam
In the 7th Century, it was conquered by the Arab Muslims who built a city which they called
Kairouan. This was the first Arab Muslim city in Tunisia. Many Muslim dynasties (monarchies) ruled Tunisia. One of the best known dynasties was the Zirids dynasty. The
Zirids were Berber people and followed the rules of the
Fatimides, a bigger dynasty in Cairo.
Zirids angered the Fatimides, the
Fatimides sent some tribes known as Banu Hilal who ravaged (destroyed and vandalized) Tunisia.
After a brief occupation of Tunisia by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th Century, the Almohad re-conquered it. After that came the
In the last years of their reign, the
Hafsids became weak and Spain took control of many cities on the coast until they were finally occupied by the Ottoman Empire.
In 1705, Tunisia became virtually independent during the
Hussein dynasty, but still had to follow orders from the Ottoman Empire.
Some controversial financial decisions (money-lending) taken by the Bey in mid-1800s in an attempt to repair the country led Tunisia to become under the control of France.
Tunisia became officially a French protectorate in on May 12, 1881, but with the strong opposition of the kingdom of Italy because there was a huge Italian community in Tunisia.
World War II
Important parts of the North African Campaign of World War II were fought in Tunisia from 1941 to 1943.
General Erwin Rommel, the German commander in Africa, wished to defeat the Allies in Tunisia, as the Germans had done in the Battle of France when the Allies were inexperienced against the German Blitzkrieg. On February 19, 1943, Rommel launched an attack against the U.S. Forces, with his German and Italian troops, in the western area of Tunisia. That was a disaster for the United States.
After that, the Allies understood the importance of tank warfare. With better supplies than the Germans, they easily broke into the German lines in southern Tunisia on March 20, 1943. In May 11, 1943 the last German troops surrendered, followed two days later by the Italian troops.
Independence and revolution
Tunisia became independent in 1956 and Habib Bourguiba became the first president. In 1957 it became a republic. Bourguiba focused on education and economic development. He was quite supportive of women's rights. However, he had a cult of personality around him and most of the power in the country was held by Bourguiba.
In 1987, Bourguiba was removed from power by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali ruled as dictator of the country until 2011, when he was overthrown in a revolution. The revolution was the first major revolution of the Arab Spring. Tunisia began becoming more democratic, and in 2014, the country held its first free presidential election. The election was won by Beji Caid Essebsi, a secular, liberal candidate.