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Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. Under the Republic, Hispania was divided into two provinces: Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior. During the Principate, Hispania Ulterior was divided into two new provinces, Baetica and Lusitania, while Hispania Citerior was renamed Tarraconensis. Subsequently, the western part of Tarraconensis was split off, first as Hispania Nova, later renamed Callaecia (or Gallaecia, whence modern Galicia). From Diocletian's Tetrarchy (AD 284) onwards, the south of remaining Tarraconensis was again split off as Carthaginensis, and probably then too the Balearic Islands and all the resulting provinces formed one civil diocese under the vicarius for the Hispaniae (that is, the Celtic provinces). The name, Hispania, was also used in the period of Visigothic rule. The modern name Spain derives from Hispania.


The Roman conquest of Hispania (roughly modern Spain and Portugal) began mainly due to the actions of Carthage. At the end of the First Punic War (264-241 BCE) Rome defeated Carthage and claimed Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. This deprived Carthage of a main source of wealth and manpower. As a result of this burden Carthage placed an increased emphasis on Hispania.

In 228-227 Carthage founded the city of Cathargo Nova on the southeast coast. This coast was rich in silver, and the Carthaginians wished to exploit it. Soon Carthaginian influence spread all along the eastern coast and began to alarm the Massalia who Rome had signed a treaty with. In 226 Rome signed a treaty with Carthage, confining Carthaginian expansion to south of the Ebro river, and Rome to the north. The Romans, however, made an alliance with the town of Seguntum (modern Sagunto), which is located about 100 miles south of the Ebro river.

In 219 BCE Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader, attacked, and laid siege to Saguntum. In 218 BC the Roman senate came to the assistance of their allies. They declared Hispania a Roman province and dispatched Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio with two legions to block Carthaginian forces moving towards Italy. He landed at the Greek colony of Emporion and established a base there. Unfortunately for Scipio, he found that Hannibal had slipped past him and crossed the Pyrenees Mountains to invade Italy.

With Hannibal gone he switched his focus to blocking reinforcements from Carthage, or Cathargo Nova. Cnaeus advanced to Tarraco (modern Tarragona) and established a stronghold. In 217 he defeated a Carthaginian fleet in the mouth of the Ebro River. In 215 BCE his brother Publius Scipio arrived with reinforcements, and in 214 the Romans advanced and recaptured Saguntum. In 213 however disaster struck the Romans. Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, with and army of 40,000 and supported by Iberian mercenaries routed the Romans at Castulo (modern Cazlona) and killed both the Scipio brothers.

Another Scipio, Publius Cornelius Scipio, was sent to replace his father and uncle. In 209 he advanced and succeeded in capturing the city of Cathargo Nova, Carthage's main supply-base in Spain. Following his victory at Cathargo Nova, Scipio fought for three more years before he finally forced the remainder of Carthaginians from Spain. In 206 Scipio returned to Rome and brought the war to Carthage in Africa. There he defeated Hannibal in 202 BC at the Battle of Zama, and earned the name Scipio Africanus.

Rome's control of Hispania however was not uncontested. After the war Rome divided Spain into two provinces, known as Hispania Citerior (Near) and Hispania Ulterior (Far). Both of these provinces were rich in silver and other precious metals, and their governors did not hesitate to extort extra wealth from the local inhabitants. During the second Punic war the native tribes of the region switched between supporting the Carthaginians and the Romans. Eventually they turned fully against the Romans in a series of revolts.

The first to revolt were the Ilergeti tribes. Scipio put down this uprising in 206 BC, but they revolted again the next year. Scipio's successors were able to suppress the tribes, but in 197 the Turdetani who lived in the southeast rebelled and the central and north-eastern tribes soon followed suit. Marcus Porcius Cato became consul in 195 BC, and was given the command of the whole peninsula. Cato put down the rebellion in the northeast and the lower Ebro valley. He then marched southwards and put down a revolt by the Turdetani and Celtiberian tribes. Cato returned to Rome in 194 leaving two praetors in charge of the two provinces.

For the next 175 years Spain was an almost constant battleground. Between 82 and 72 BC the senator Quintus Sertorius fought a civil war against Rome. Sertorius was a supporter of Gaius Marius and later after Marius's death, of Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Sertorius was appointed governor of Hispania Citerior in 83 BC. His first act as governor was the expulsion of the incumbent governor, who was a supporter of Sulla. During the next ten years he fought to gain control of both Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior, and defeated several armies sent by Rome.

These victories won him the support of Lusitanian and Celtiberian mercenaries. By 77 BC Sertorius had control of most of Citerior, and had established a new capital at Osca. Between 79 and 72 BC Sertorius fought against the armies of Caecilius Metellus and Pompey. The long fighting eventually weakened Sertorius' forces, and led to defections by many of his Celtiberian allies. In 72 BC Sertorius was murdered by Perperna, one of his own generals.

The Lusitani and Celtiberians who lived on the west coast and central plains began raiding Roman Spain in the

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160s, and continued to resist Roman attempts to pacify them until 133 BC. The Lusitani tribe revolted again in 61 BC which was put down by Julius Caesar. The final conquest of Hispania was accomplished under Augustus, between the years 39 and 19 BC. In 13 BCE Hispania was divided into three provinces: Baetica, Lusitania, and Tarraconensis.

Hispania was significantly Romanized throughout the imperial period and it came to be one of the most important territories of the Roman Empire. Emperors Trajan and Hadrian were both born there and most all of the people of Hispania were granted Roman citizen status. Despite this, Legio VII Gemina was permanently stationed in Hispania Tarraconensis. Its base was at Leon to be close to, and to protect the gold and iron mines of Gallica. Hispania finally fell from the Roman Empire with the great Germanic migrations of the 4th and 5th centuries AD. Alani, Seuvi, Vandals and Visigoths poured through Gaul and into the west, effectively removing Hispania from Roman control by about 409 AD.

Hispania's economy expanded greatly under Roman Rule. The province, along with North Africa, served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use even today. Much of daily life consisted of agricultural work under which the region flourished. Much of the eastern region cultivated grapes and olives to supplement the economy. Silver mining within the Guadalquivir River valley became an integral part of Iberian society. In fact some of the Empire's most important metal resources were in Hispania. Gold, Iron, Tin, Copper and Lead were also all mined in abundance.

Carthaginian Hispania[]

The Phoenicians had first settled in coastal Iberia at the turn of the First Millennium BCE. Gadir (Cadiz) is believed to be one of the first colonies. When Carthage rose as the foremost military and commercial power in the western Mediterranean by the 5th century BCE, many Phoenician city-states in Sicily, coastal North Africa and Spain would become colonies or protectorates of Carthage. Many Punics (western Phoenicians) and Libyan settlers were brought into the Carthaginian-held countryside to help improve the agricultural output of the region. The city of Cordoba on the Guadalquivir River, is said to have been named Kartuba for a Numidian prince named Juba, whom served as a mercenary commander under Hamilcar Barca, so possibly some Numidians were allowed to settle further inland.

Control of southern Spain meant that Phoenician seamen could venture beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibralter) and sailed as far north as the British Isles and as far south as the Tropic of Cancer.

After its defeat by the Romans in the First Punic War (264 BC–241 BC), Carthage compensated for its loss of Sicily


by rebuilding a commercial empire in Hispania.

The major part of the Punic Wars, fought between the Punic Carthaginians and the Romans, was fought on the Iberian Peninsula. Carthage gave control of the Iberian Peninsula and much of its empire to Rome in 201 BC as part of the peace treaty after its defeat in the Second Punic War, and Rome completed its replacement of Carthage as the dominant power in the Mediterranean area. By then the Romans had adopted the Carthaginian name Ishfania, Romanized first as Ispania. The term later received an H, much like what happened with Hibernia, and was pluralized as Hispaniae, as had been done with the Three Gauls.

Roman Hispania[]

Roman armies invaded Hispania in 218 BC and used it as a training ground for officers and as a proving ground for

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tactics during campaigns against the Carthaginians, the Iberians, the Lusitanians, the Gallaecians and other Celts. It was not until 19 BC that the Roman emperor Augustus (r. 27 BC–AD 14) was able to complete the conquest (see Cantabrian Wars). Until then, much of Hispania remained autonomous.

Romanization proceeded quickly in some regions where we have references to the togati, and very slowly in others, after the time of Augustus, and Hispania was divided into three separately governed provinces (nine provinces by the 4th century). More importantly, Hispania was for 500 years part of a cosmopolitan world empire bound together by law, language, and the Roman road. But the impact of Hispania in the newcomers was also big. Caesar wrote on the Civil Wars that the soldiers from the Second Legion had become Hispanicized and regarded themselves as hispanicus. Some of the peninsula's population were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class and they participated in governing Hispania and the Roman empire, although there was a native aristocracy class who ruled each local tribe. The latifundia (sing., latifundium), large estates controlled by the aristocracy, were superimposed on the existing Iberian landholding system. The Romans improved existing cities, such as Lisbon (Olissipo) and Tarragona (Tarraco), established Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta), Mérida (Augusta Emerita), and Valencia (Valentia), and reduced other native cities to mere villages. The peninsula's economy expanded under Roman tutelage. Hispania served as a granary and a major source of metals for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, tin, silver, lead, wool, wheat, olive oil, wine, fish, and garum . Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use today. The Romanized Iberian populations and the Iberian-born descendants of Roman soldiers and colonists had all achieved the status of full Roman citizenship by the end of the 1st century. The emperors Trajan (r. 98–117), Hadrian (r. 117–138), and Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180) were of Hispanic origin. The Iberian denarii, also called argentum oscense by Roman soldiers, circulated until the 1st century BC, after which it was replaced by Roman coins. Hispania was separated into two provinces (in 197 BC), each ruled by a praetor: Hispania Citerior ("Nearer Hispania") and Hispania Ulterior ("Farther Hispania"). The long wars of conquest lasted two centuries, and only by the time of Augustus did Rome managed to control Hispania Ulterior. Hispania was divided into three provinces in the 1st century BC. In the 4th century, Latinius Pacatus Drepanius, a Gallic rhetorician, dedicated part of his work to the depiction of the geography, climate and inhabitants of the peninsula, writing: This Hispania produces tough soldiers, very skilled captains, prolific speakers, luminous bards. It is a mother of judges and princes; it has given Trajan, Hadrian, and Theodosius to the Empire. With time, the name Hispania was used to describe the collective names of the Iberian Peninsula kingdoms of the Middle Ages, which came to designate all of the Iberian Peninsula plus the Balearic Islands.

Notable Hispanians[]

External Links[]

Hispanic article on Wikipedia