Byrsa was a walled citadel above the Phoenician harbour in ancient Carthage, Tunisia. It was also the name of the hill it rested on.
In Virgil's account of Dido's founding of Carthage, when Dido and her party were encamped at Byrsa, the local Berber chieftain offered them as much land as could be covered with a single oxhide. Therefore, Dido cut an oxhide into tiny strips and set them on the ground end to end until she had completely encircled the hilltop of Byrsa (Greek βύρσα meaning "oxhide").
The citadel dominated the city below and formed the principal military installation of Carthage. It was besieged by Scipio Aemilianus Africanus in the Third Punic War and was defeated and destroyed in 146 BC.
Saint Louis Cathedral was built on Byrsa Hill starting in 1884. Today, it serves as a cultural center.
In 1994, the body of an ancient Carthaginian individual was excavated from a 2500-year-old Punic tomb in Byrsa Hill. In 2016, he was found to belong to the rare U5b2c1 maternal haplogroup. The Young Man of Byrsa specimen dates from the late 6th century BCE, and his lineage is believed to represent early gene flow from Iberia to the Maghreb.
Today, Byrsa Hill is part of the archaeological site of Carthage. In addition to a cathedral monument, the Carthage National Museum was erected atop it.
Usage examples of "byrsa".
Some time in the mid-afternoon, the Carthaginians fired the northernmost part of the suburbs, driving the few slaves who had not fled with their masters into the Byrsa out of their hiding places among the empty houses.
By mid-afternoon, Alexander and the hypaspists had fought their way through the city proper to the base of the Byrsa wall, and Charias brought up the rams.
Great plumes of smoke were rising from the Byrsa, and others from the twin harbors, smoke that rose so quickly that the fires had to have been deliberately set and extravagantly fueled: the trap the old woman had spoken of.
We were standing on the summit of Byrsa Hill, with the city of Tunis around us, the water of the Gulf of Tunis behind, and the hills of Cap Bon across the gulf.
Elissa, a clever woman and never one to back down from a challenge, cut the hide into the narrowest of strips and encircled this hill, which is called Byrsa now, after the Greek word for ox hide.