hispania

Book review: The Roman Wars in Spain

the roman wars in spain daniel varga

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Review The Roman Wars in Spain

Daniel Varga’s ‘The Roman Wars in Spain: The Military Confrontation with Guerrilla Warfare‘ is a book that focuses on the military aspects of the long Roman conquest of Hispania. Daniel Varga analyzes the strategies and tactics of both the Roman side and the many different native tribes and chiefdoms that fought the Romans. The author uses both literary sources and recent archeological findings, and he examines how the wars in the Iberian Peninsula changed the organization, tactics and equipment of the Roman armies.

This is what buyers of the book said on Amazon:

This is an interesting, mostly valuable and, at times, fascinating book about the Roman wars in Spain over a period of almost two centuries, from the end of the Second Punic War down to the final subjugation of the Galicians, Asturians and Cantabrians during the reign of Augustus. Drawn from the author’s PhD thesis, it seeks to explain why it took so long for the Roman to conquer and “pacify” Iberia, but also to what extent these long and gruelling wars influenced both the development and the equipment of the Roman army.

The book contains a reasonably good – and often a very good – narrative of the numerous conflicts across the whole period, despite a few repetitions. At times, however, the analysis can be a bit unconvincing, partly because the author tends to go too far in seeking to ascribe each and every change in the Roman Army to the influence of the Spanish conflicts. Another limit is that the author’s statement about the Iberian tactics being so problematic for the Romans, and the causes of such problems, are not always clear.

All of the main points are made and well made. However, the author gives the impression of having tried, but not entirely succeeded, to ascribe the Roman armies’ difficulties to a single main cause. The first disadvantage that the Romans had to cope with was the largely mountainous and often forested terrain which tended to put Roman legionaries at a disadvantage against a more mobile and more lightly equipped enemy. This is probably the main reason explaining Rome’s difficulties and numerous defeats. A second point, which is also made, is that Rome’s armies were often commanded by second class or even mediocre generals who lead themselves and their armies be lured onto unfavourable terrain and ambushed. While true, the author does not take into consideration that not all Iberian or Lusitanian warlords were of the same calibre as Viriathus or as the Roman “renegade” general Sertorius.

A more disputable contention is the point that the Iberian and Lusitanian presented a unique challenge among Rome’s enemies in that they were capable of fighting successfully both a guerrilla war and a more “conventional” one with pitched battles. I found this point somewhat controversial.
While the point is correct, strictly speaking, because Iberian and Lusitanian armies were indeed able to fight both “conventionally” and “unconventionally”, they do not seem to have presented the same kind of challenges to Roman armies when fighting the kind of warfare in which the latter excelled. In fact, there seem to have been few pitched battles lost by Roman armies when fighting on level ground, unless such armies had been previously weakened and morally affected by guerrilla warfare and ambushes.

Then there are also other not entirely convincing points made by the author. The traditional view is that, despite all their difficulties, the Romans won their wars through attrition and because of their ability to draw on their superior reserves of manpower. The author rightly challenges this view because it is a bit of an over-simplification. One of the reasons for the time taken to conquer the whole peninsula was that Rome prioritised – and often had to prioritise – other fronts, such as wars in the Hellenistic East, Africa or Gaul during the Second and the First century. The other reason is the alleged difficulties in recruiting sufficient troops for fighting in Spain.

There is clearly some value in these elements and they are both to some extent sustained by the written sources. The problem, however, is that the author gives the impression of exaggerating the points at times. He also gives the somewhat misleading impression that the Roman Senate deliberately chose to prioritise wars in the East, and that these were more popular because the wars were easier to win and the plunder that could be expected was more abundant. While the later point may be correct to some extent, at least once the silver mines of Southern Spain had been secured by Rome; it would be a mistake to believe that the wars against Macedonia and the Seleucids were deemed “easy” just because the Roman victories turned out to be decisive. In fact, Roman senators and generals were rather concerned, not to say nervous, when having to face pike phalanxes, heavy cavalry and elephants and the victories that they won were more closely fought than what is generally believed or even admitted by some of the (Roman, of course) sources.

Finally, there are also a handful of glitches and questionable statements which could perhaps have been corrected through a more thorough editing process. Here are just two examples. One is to mention that “the Roman army was organised according to the Macedonian phalanx formation” until the introduction of manipular legions. Instead of “Macedonian phalanx formation”, the reader should understand “Greek hoplite phalanx formation”, especially since the reference is to the fifth century – a time where Macedonians did not fight in phalanx formation at all – and since the Romans never used pike formations during the Republic. A second questionable statement is that the Romans, at a disadvantage when fighting over broken and/or forested terrain “eventually learned”. They did develop and use more cavalry and more auxiliary units to mitigate the vulnerability of heavy infantry over broken terrain or forests. However, if anything, the persistence of Roman disasters and defeats when Roman forces when ambushed, mauled or even destroyed when fighting under such conditions – think of the annihilation of Varus and his legions in Germany in 9 AD, or the near destruction of the Ninth legion during the revolt of Boudicea, both of which happened well after Spain was pacified – should lead to qualify such a statement.

Four stars.” – JPS

Lots of scholarly errors, such as incorrect info, wrong dates, etc. Not enough maps, I shouldn’t have to use the internet to look for maps to follow the terrain the book describes. The book skips around a lot, isn’t chronological organized, makes it very confusing to read.

This book should not have been published without much more editing.” – Chelsie Steinhauser

Summary of reviews: reviews are mixed, with an average 3/5 stars at the moment of the writing of this article. Criticism mainly comes from some wrong dates and information, the editing of the book and the quite scholarly nature of the book, even though it’s a short book. The positive aspects of the book are the good analysis the author makes about the causes that made the conquest of Hispania so long and how the wars in Spain changed the Roman army.

Hispania: Dominate and Expansion of Christianity

This is episode 9 called Hispania: Dominate and Expansion of Christianity and in this episode you will learn:

Show notes

  • What aspects did the Crisis of the Third Century change in Hispania and the Roman Empire
  • About the firsts Germanic raids in Hispania, as well as the brief alliegance of Hispania to the breakaway Gallic Empire
  • A discussion on the three ecclesiastical theories (preaching of Saint James the Greater, preaching of the Seven Apostolic Men and arrival of Paul the Apostle) that try to explain how Christianity expanded into Hispania
  • How did Christianity arrive from North Africa and which were the first Christian persecutions in Hispania
  • What reforms did Diocletian enact to end the Crisis of the Third Century and what was the bagaudae phenomenon
  • A very brief talk about the civil wars that plagued most of the 4th century, Constantine’s Edict of Milan and how was the ecclesiastical hierarchy substituting Roman institutions on a local level
  • What Priscillianism was
  • A discussion on the reign of Theodosius, the last Hispano-Roman emperor and last emperor of a unified Roman Empire
  • Roman legacy in Spain and in the world. A travel guide for those interested in visiting Roman sites in Spain

Script

I’m David Cot, host of The History of Spain Podcast, and this is episode 9, called Hispania: Dominate and Expansion of Christianity. In this episode you will learn the political and economic history of Roman Spain in the Dominate period before the Germanic invasions, as well as the history of early Christianity in Hispania. Subscribe to the podcast to not miss an episode!

map roman empire crisis of the third century

In 235 the Crisis of the Third Century began with the assassination of the last of the Severan dynasty, a crisis that weakened and changed forever the Roman Empire. Emperors and wannabe emperors were continuously proclaimed causing a constant state of civil war, Rome was threatened by external enemies like the Germanic tribes or the Sassanid Empire in the east, plagues reappeared and crippled the population, and all that of course had very negative economic effects. Commerce declined as there were no safe roads or safe maritime trade routes, cities suffered from both plagues and economic depression and that ended the tendency to urbanize and instead there was a tendency to go back to small rural communities. Rome based their economy in the military expansion to capture slaves, spoils of war and new lands for the landowner class. But expansion could hardly continue, and the military apparatus was expensive to maintain. Moreover, as there were less slaves, they became more expensive, so landowners stopped using slaves and instead used farmers who paid landowners for leasing their land to farm it and for protection. That was the germ of feudalism, because free farmers lost their freedom to move to other lands and their condition of semi-slavery was hereditary.

That was what was happening all over the Roman Empire, but what was happening in Hispania? The negative consequences of the Military Anarchy weren’t as obvious in Hispania as in other regions. The reason behind it is that Hispania was already in economic decline during the reign of the Severan dynasty. But outside of the economic crisis and social changes, Germanic tribes entered for the first time the Iberian Peninsula. In 258 thousands of Franks and Alamanni from Germany penetrated into Gaul. They devastated and sacked everything in their path. Hispania had enjoyed peace for more than a century as battles of civil wars occurred in other regions, so cities weren’t properly fortified. Knowing that Hispania could be the next target of the Franks, some cities were able to build fortifications that, because of the hurry, weren’t very solid. Worse was that ever since the Severan dynasty few Hispano-Romans joined the army. The Franks eventually crossed the Pyrenees and razed the Mediterranean coasts of Hispania. They destroyed and left in ruins Emporion, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, Zaragoza and everything in between. Hispania Baetica resisted effectively the invasion, either because they built fortifications after the Berber raids of previous decades or because Postumus intervened. Who is this Postumus, you wonder? Postumus was the Roman governor and general of the Roman forces of Germania. In 260 he was tremendously successful in repelling new waves of Franks who were trying to invade the Roman Empire. In a time of chaos, many saw on him the leader that could ensure their protection and survival. Postumus quickly established the breakaway Gallic Empire, that controlled Gaul, Germania, Britannia, and, for some time, Hispania. Let me clarify this, historiography considers that Postumus created a separate state because he didn’t attempt to conquer Italy and he created institutions that emulated the Roman ones.

Anyway, going back to the point, a military aid from Postumus in 265 or 266 would explain the brief allegiance Hispania showed to the Gallic Empire. The Franks who were in Hispania either had a miserable destiny or fled to Mauritania. Emperor Aurelian reconquered the Gallic Empire in 274, as he did with the Palmyrene Empire of the east. That earned him the title of Restorer of the World, but that didn’t last long. He was assassinated the following year, which made the Roman Empire vulnerable to external threats again. In 276 thousands of Franks and Alamanni invaded Gaul and a few raided Hispania, although presumably not with the devastating magnitude of the previous one. This time they raided Northern Spain, sacking Pamplona, Astorga, Mérida, Lisbon and rural areas too.

Hispano-Roman cities rebuilt their walls and created local militias, but it was too late. Some cities were able to rebuild, some could not, but what all cities had in common is that they lost population. To have better chances of survival many started moving back to the countryside. People in those times of uncertainty moved back to the countryside to avoid plagues and to reduce the odds of suffering an attack from barbarian invaders. The basic pillar of the Roman Empire was the municipality, and municipalities kept disappearing or losing importance. Valuable Spanish industries like olive oil farming, mining or salting diminished their production. It’s very indicative of a loss of purchasing power that there are no pieces of art dating from between 260 and 280. The economy became less market-oriented and more agrarian and local. Europe was one step closer to feudalism.

In this era of desperation, a new religion spread to bring some hope: Christianity. As you know, Spain and Christianity eventually became very tied concepts, so let me dedicate some time to the origins of Christianity in Hispania, how it expanded and the heresies and martyrs of Spain. Before we talk about Christianity, we must talk about the Jewish community of Hispania. We’ve very few literary references about Jews in the Iberian Peninsula before the 4th or 5th centuries. We have some archeological evidence that confirms the presence of Jews in Hispania at least since the 1st century, but judging from the quantity of findings there weren’t many Jews. Why do I bring this up? Well, the followers of Christ were considered a Jewish sect until the 2nd century. It was only then that Christianity became a clearly different thing that competed against Orthodox Judaism as both religions wanted to proselytize. If there weren’t many Jews in Hispania, it makes sense that Christianity took more time to arrive and establish itself.

The ecclesiastical historiography has always made an effort to prove the apostolic origin of Spanish Christianity, based on three independent traditions: the preaching of Apostle James the Greater, the preaching of the Seven Apostolic Men and the arrival of Paul the Apostle. The preaching of James the Greater has no historical basis, because it wasn’t until the 9th century that we have accounts claiming that Apostle James the Greater was buried in Santiago de Compostela. Yeah, we don’t have historical justification for the Camino de Santiago, but this legend helped to boost the morale of the Christians during the Reconquista. Even today James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain and the Spanish armies used for centuries the battle cry “Santiago y cierra España”, which means Saint James and strike for Spain. The second tradition I mentioned was the preaching of the Seven Apostolic Men, who were seven clerics sent to evangelize Spain. Again, it’s only many centuries after the event supposedly happened that we have news of them, so it’s very unlikely that they existed.

Nonetheless, the third tradition about the arrival of Paul the Apostle could be true. Saint Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans that he willed to travel to Hispania and start proselytizing. His will isn’t a confirmation that he actually travelled to Spain, but according to Pope Clement I Paul preached the Gospel of Christ to the edges of the West, a sentence that unquestionably refers to the Iberian Peninsula. There are other mentions of this travel in other early Christian texts as well. The question that arises from it is why there would be a discontinuation between Paul’s preaching and the later Spanish Christianity, something that did not happen in the other places he proselytized.

Whatever is the truth behind the arrival of Paul the Apostle in Hispania, the most widely accepted and corroborated theory is that Christianity in Hispania came from Africa. Both the military and commerce with Africa had a very important role in the expansion of Christianity. The Legio VII Germina was moved from North Africa to northern Spain, using the Vía de la Plata that connected Mérida with Astorga in Asturias. That would explain why the churches of Mérida, Astorga and also Zaragoza, the capital of modern Aragon, appealed to the bishop of Carthage to solve an issue instead of Rome in 254. It’s good to remind that Early Christian churches were very independent from each other, but the appeal to Carthage would demonstrate a relationship that Spanish churches didn’t have with Rome. There are other evidences that reinforce the veracity of this theory. The Synod of Elvira, in modern-day Granada, mentions characteristics that could only be found in North African churches. Besides, the liturgy and the architecture of the firsts Spanish churches have strong North African characteristics.

About persecutions against Christians, we don’t have news of any in the 1st or 2nd centuries. The first Christian persecution that affected Hispania was ordered by Decius in 250. A major persecution was ordered by Valerian and some important priests of the Spanish Church were affected. For instance, the bishop of Tarragona Fructuosus and deacons Augurius and Eulogius were sentenced to death by burning in 259. Diocletian had the dubious honor to be the last Roman emperor to persecute Christians, and in Hispania many became martyrs because of him.

diocletian reform hispania

However, it was also Diocletian the man to reform the empire to end the Crisis of the Third Century. His reforms consisted in the division of the empire into the Western and Eastern Roman Empires and the centralization of power, expanding the bureaucracy of the empire and ruling more autocratically than ever. Diocletian doubled the number of provinces of the empire to make them easier to manage and to reduce the power of provincial governors.  Hispania specifically had the province of Hispania Tarraconensis divided in three: Hispania Gallaeica, Hispania Carthaginensis and a smaller Hispania Tarraconensis. To control and coordinate provincial governors Diocletian created dioceses that grouped several provinces. The Diocese of Hispania not only grouped the provinces of Hispania but also Mauretania Tingitana, modern Morocco.

Aside from the administrative reforms, Hispania experienced economic and urban changes. Hispania was one of the first regions of the Roman Empire to partly recover its former economic importance. Of course, Hispania did not completely recover until many centuries later with the Emirate and Caliphate of Cordoba, but at least people didn’t live fearing attacks or suffering massive epidemics. Hispalis, modern Seville, became the most important city of Hispania, due to the flourishing waterway transportation of goods of the Guadalquivir Valley, like olive oil, wine, horses or Serrano ham. Barcelona gained importance as Tarragona never recovered from the destruction the Germanic invaders caused, and Cádiz also declined in importance. On another note, brigandage was rampant in the countryside, with special importance in the Pyrenees and Northern Spain. This phenomenon was called bagaudae and it was not just brigandage but a revolutionary movement against the upper classes as well, led by groups of impoverished peasants, runaway slaves and army deserters. The crème de la crème of society, right? They were more or less subdued in the late 3rd century, but bandits continued to cause problems for centuries.

With the abdication of Diocletian, a new civil war started to seize power. Man, it’s like if they wanted their empire to fall. Constantine emerged as victor in this conflict and reunified the empire. Constantine moved the imperial capital to Byzantium in 330, renaming the city Constantinople, a decision that ensured the survival of Rome in a different form until the Late Middle Ages. More importantly for us, he proclaimed the Edict of Milan in 313 that ordered the toleration of Christianity across the Roman Empire. The Synod of Elvira is contemporary of the Edict of Milan, and I would like to analyze a bit the text of this synod to understand the influence of the Church in Hispania in the early 4th century. The texts left by this synod reveal that Christianity had a strong presence in the cities and especially in the most urbanized region of Hispania, the Baetica. We can also conclude that Christianity had followers from every social class, from oligarchs to slaves. Churches in Spain had enough power to start condemning some jobs and behaviors, and the Christian Hispano-Roman leaders showed concern in relation to the competing Judaism. Even though the Edict of Milan tolerated Christianity, the process of gaining followers wasn’t easy, and in the less-Romanized Asturias, Cantabria and Basque Country, Christianity had a hard time expanding.

After the death of Constantine, guess what happened? Yeah, chaos came back to the Roman Empire. Numerous civil wars and usurpations took place between 337 and 394. Yes, during more than 50 years the empire was in chaos, again, after the disastrous Crisis of the Third Century. I could name all the usurpers and pretenders, but you know, there’s few relevant political stuff from this period, aside from the fact that the Roman Empire was dooming itself. On the religious side though, interesting things were happening. The declining Roman institutions were being replaced by Christian churches that had a capacity to work on a local level that Rome didn’t have.

The faith in the Gospel of Jesus kept expanding, but with the lack of a strong central Church and with the discontentment of some against the increasingly wealthy hierarchies of Nicene Churches, numerous heresies raised as well. In Hispania we have the case of Priscillianism, a Christian movement with characteristics derived from Gnosticism and Manichaeism that promoted a strict ascetic lifestyle. The word of the Hispano-Roman Priscillian expanded in the 370s, and the Synod of Zaragoza in 380 and the First Council of Toledo condemned Priscillianism and showed the increasing political confluence of the religious power with the secular power. The dream of a new fair and more egalitarian social order that Jesus talked about was dead. Priscillian was executed in 385, but his doctrine was stilled followed by many in Hispania and Gaul until the 6th century.

There was little to be saved when Theodosius became the last emperor of the unified Roman Empire and the last Hispano-Roman emperor. Theodosius made Nicene Christianity the official and sole religion of the Roman Empire, any other religion or heresy was banned. Theodosius recognized that many Roman citizens, including himself, had converted to Christianity between the 3rd and 4th centuries, and it made sense to consolidate a political alliance with the Church, a Church that had the Hispano-Roman Damasus as its Pope. During his rule he persecuted paganism, heresies and other faiths, and he tolerated or encouraged the destruction of pagan temples. To mention a specific event that shows how powerful was the Church at this point, Ambroise, bishop of Milan, refused to let Theodosius enter his church until he showed remorse for the Massacre of Thessalonica, a tragic massacre of 7,000 people ordered by Theodosius. If you have watched Game of Thrones, you may see a parallelism with this and how the High Sparrow humiliated Tommen and Cersei in public.

ambroise barring theodosius from milan cathedral

His decision to allow barbarian Germanic peoples to settle in Thrace, very close to the heart of the Roman Empire, has been a matter of controversy for centuries. That certainly was a policy that demonstrated how weak the empire was at the time, but did he have another possible choice? Probably not. While the Huns were massacring Germans, Germans were forced to move to the Roman Empire. They started filling the ranks of the Roman army, to the point where most of the Roman army was Germanic. I mentioned that Theodosius was the last emperor of the unified Roman Empire, but why he decided so? Theodosius knew that if he tried to appoint a sole successor civil wars would continue, so instead he opted to divide the empire once and for all.

In the West Honorius succeeded Theodosius at the age of 10 in 395. For obvious reasons, the one who was actually ruling the Western Roman Empire was a regent, Stilicho, a general with both Roman and Vandal ancestry. This and the fact that most of the Roman army was German proves how decadent Roman society was at this point. I mean, if your own citizens refuse to serve and defend the country, your state sooner rather than later will fall. I will talk about his rule and that of his successors in upcoming episodes, but spoiler alert, the Western Roman Empire won’t survive the 5th century.

I can’t end this episode without talking about the legacy Rome left in Spain. As you know, the Roman Empire was the most solid foundation of Western civilizations that later expanded to America and beyond. To start with, Romans left the Roman laws that developed the framework that the majority of legal systems use today. Then of course Latin became the common language and lingua franca of the empire. Latin survived the empire and was still used in intellectual, cultural, theological and scientific works for centuries. The common people kept using Latin but it eventually evolved into multiple European languages. In the Iberian Peninsula all languages except for Basque derive from Latin, including Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan or Galician. Today 1/3 of the world’s population speaks a language derived from Latin, with Spanish being the third most spoken language after Chinese and English.

Continuing with the cultural legacy, Romans left an amazing artistic legacy that they pretty much copied from the Greeks, with idealistic and narrative sculptures, paintings and mosaics. There were prominent Hispano-Roman writers, playwrights, poets and philosophers. We have Seneca the Elder and the Younger, Lucano, Martial, Columella, Orosius… The existence of a Mediterranean Empire allowed an intercultural and religious exchange that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Under the Roman Empire the Roman polytheist faith expanded, but also Egyptian, Syrian, and other Oriental beliefs. Eventually that also helped in the expansion of Judaism and Christianity, even if the Roman elites were opposed to these monotheists faiths that challenged their political system. It’s difficult to imagine all these religions expanding if Europe, Africa and Asia had had different rival states.

aqueduct of segovia

Then we have a more material legacy. Here I’m going to comment public works and monuments that are still standing in Spain, so if you travel to Spain I highly recommend you to visit a few sites I’m going to mention. You have the script of the podcast in the website thehistoryofspain.com if you want to see photos or have all the names written down. That said, the Romans were very pragmatic people, that’s why they were great engineers and they heavily invested in public works to connect the empire. We have the system of Roman roads that allowed to move troops, people and goods in Hispania and beyond, that’s why we have this proverb that says that All roads lead to Rome. It’s very unlikely that the empire would have survived as long as it did without such a network of roads. During the Middle Ages and until the 18th and 19th centuries no one in Europe invested in constructing and maintaining roads as the Romans did. Many highways in Spain go over the old Roman roads, although there are still some visible remnants of Roman roads here and there. To provide water to sustain urban populations they built aqueducts that were incredible works of civil engineering. We have the aqueducts of Segovia, Les Ferreres Aqueduct in Tarragona, or the Aqueduct de los Milagros in Mérida, Extremadura.

theater of merida

temple of diana merida

The Romans built amphitheaters for spectacles and sports, like the amphitheaters of Santiponce, Mérida, Tarragona or Segóbriga; and theaters for plays like the theaters of Mérida, Málaga, Medellín or Zaragoza. There is also a substantial amount of Roman bridges, the problem is that in the Medieval or Early Modern Era many needed to be reformed and restored, so it’s difficult to tell how Roman they are now. We have the Roman bridges of Córdoba, Mérida, Salamanca or Alcantara. The same that happened with bridges happened with Roman walls and many Medieval walls have a Roman origin. You can visit the walls of Zaragoza, Tarragona or the Portal del Bisbe in Barcelona that is the only door preserved from the original Roman walls. We have a few Roman pagan temples or temples dedicated to the cult to the emperor, like the Temple of Diana in Mérida, the temple of Vic or the four columns of the Temple of Augustus that are still standing in Barcelona.

mosaic roman villa la olmeda

Romans loved public baths too, not only for hygienic purposes but also to chat and do business. There are not too many relevant rests of Roman bathhouses, but to mention a few, there are the Roman baths of Lucentum in Alicante, Lugo, Segóbriga or Caldas de Montbui. On the other hand, rural villas are very useful to study the lifestyle of wealthy Roman landowners and to contemplate the luxury of their buildings. If you had to visit one Roman villa in Spain you should visit the villa of La Olmeda in Palencia, but you could also visit Fuente Álamo in Puente Gentil, Córdoba, or Almenara in Puras, Valladolid. But apart from all the infrastructures and buildings I mentioned, there are other buildings and monuments that I can’t leave out from this episode. The first would be the Proserpina and Cornalvo dams that were used to ensure the supply of water of Mérida. Then we have the Roman arch of Medinaceli and the arch of Berá, but these arches aren’t as extraordinary as others you can find in Italy, France or Algeria. To end this list, we have the Mines of Las Médulas in León, where the Romans left an impressive landscape with their method to extract gold, and the Tower of Hercules in Galicia, which is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use today. If you can only go to a few places, the first on the list is of course Mérida, but Zaragoza, Santiponce or Tarragona also have very remarkable Roman archaeological sites.

mines las medulas leon roman gold extract method mines las medulas leon

tower of hercules a corunna

THE VERDICT: In today’s verdict I want to bring up this question: is history cyclical? Does history repeat itself? Ancient historians like Thucydides in Greece or Sima Qian in China believed so, and there are many modern theories that stand up for historic recurrence, like social cycle theory or the Strauss-Howe generational theory. I bring this up because some see parallelisms in the contemporary decline of the West with the decadence of the Late Roman Empire, even though the world at that time was very different from the current era we live in. I don’t want to enter the eternal debate of whether history is linear or cyclical, instead I want to encourage you to look up information from both perspectives. Something is clear though, unless we evolve biologically, human nature will not change and similar events will occur in new historical contexts. And with that, The Verdict ends.

In episode 10 I will talk about the first Barbarian invasions of the Iberian Peninsula, with the Suebi, Vandals and Alans, and from then on, I expect to cover each period of the history of Spain more deeply. To end this episode, let me remind you that the podcast has a website, thehistoryofspain.com, where you can find the scripts of the episodes, a list of books about the history of Spain and subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube and more, review the podcast, and follow the social media accounts of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I hope you enjoyed the episode and thank you for listening!

Sources

HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA ANTIGUA. TOMO II. HISPANIA ROMANA. José María Blázquez and others

LATE ROMAN SPAIN AND ITS CITIES. Michael Kulikowski

https://memoriasdeuntambor.com/hispania-romana

http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra/posible-origen-africano-del-cristianismo-espaol-0/

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historia_del_cristianismo_en_Espa%C3%B1a#Hispania_romana

NOTE: Credit for the intro and outro music to Jeris and Clarence Simpsons, the song is called ‘Conquistador’and it’s under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license

Book review: Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain

cover sertorius and the struggle for spain

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Review Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain

Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain is a book written by Philip Matyszak where the author tells the story of the epic struggle between Sertorius and Sulla to control the Roman Republic, a civil war that was a prelude of the end of the Republic. The Sertorian War developed in Hispania and there Sertorius made alliances with the natives, especially the Lusitanians, and used guerrilla tactics to defeat larger Roman legions. I talk about the Sertorian War in episode 7, Roman Conquest of Hispania: Native Resistance.

This is what customers say on Amazon:

“I am grateful that there are authors such as Matyzsak to write books like this, and publishers such as Pen and Sword to publish them. Considering the scarcity of sources on the topic, as Matyzak recognizes in the introduction, he still does an excellent job of using everything available to craft as complete account as possible on the career of the Roman rebel. A book like this is useful for those who want to learn more about Sertorius, but who have neither the time nor expertise to gather all the material together to form a thorough portrait. Although the author has written many books on ancient Rome, this is the first I have ever read. I am now looking forward to reading his next book on the Social War, and perhaps some of his previous titles as well.

The book has ten chapters and is a short read, about 180 pages. Besides the life and career of the man himself, the author also includes a brief summary of the history of Roman rule from the time of Scipio Africanus to the time of Sertorius, and includes a survey of different tribes living in Iberia. The last chapter also follows the remnants of Sertorius’ troops as they continue their struggles for and against Rome in later wars up to the time of Augustus.” – Luis A. Hernández

The book details the Sertorian War in Spain between populated and coordinates forces. The continuation of the Roman Revolution in Spain provides powerful insights into the issues and personalities that drove this great conflict. Quintus Sertorius is properly portrayed by using Plutarch and Sallust as the tragic genius, defeating superior forces through brilliant leadership, but ultimately unable to overcome imperial resources. The book also analyses the strategies of Roman assimilation and their profound consequences. It is a very good read!!!” – José Gómez-Rivera

And this is what users of Goodreads say:

As far as tragic historical figures go, Sertorius must rank among the top. Through no fault of his own, he wound up on the wrong side of history on multiple occasions, finding himself on the losing side of politics and civil wars.

Matyszak is explicit in stating his unequivocal opinion that Sertorius was a military genius of the highest order. At each mention of his prowess (dealing with other generals accomplished in their own right the way a professional athlete would beat an amateur) the reader is left wondering what could have been had Sertorius made different allegiances, or been born in a happier time. Surely, a general of his caliber could have been one of Rome’s greatest heroes rather than one of its most notorious rebels. In an era where lesser generals made names for themselves with epic conquests for the Republic Sertorius could have achieved a great deal for the state.

The author does a wonderful job of weaving the patchwork sources into a coherent narrative, and when the sources are silent he does well to fill in the blanks and inform the reader of the logic behind his assumptions. For a book that could easily fall into hero-worship, Matyszak does excellently to avoid the blunder of excusing the atrocities committed by Sertorius however tame they might be relative to his contemporaries.

Any story about a supremely tragic and dramatic figure is attractive to a wide audience, and as this is one of most readable books on Sertorius I would highly recommend it. The story is essentially the tale of one man against the world in a battle he knew he would inevitably lose. In the forward Matyszak says that Sertorius’ story should serve as an example to give hope to the hopeless, but I believe it would be more accurate to say that his story should serve as an example of how to preserve one’s dignity in the face of hopelessness.” – Daniel

A fascinating and generally balanced account of the Roman general who fled to Spain after Sulla mounted a coup in Rome, and largely controlled the Spanish peninsula in the 70s BC, resisting Roman armies until he was assassinated. My main reservations are that in the first part of the book, Philip Matyszak too uncritically accepts some of the belittling of the great general Marius in some of the Roman sources, and is also a bit uncritical in accepting accounts of Sertorius’s alleged change of character for the worse in his final year of life.” – Michael Cayley

Summary of reviews: reviews are generally positive, remarking how narrative the story is and the analysis that Matyszak gives focused on the natives. Some of the critics say that the author praises maybe too much Sertorius and takes for granted that Sertorius knew he was going to lose in the last year of his life.

Roman Conquest of Hispania: Second Punic War

This is episode 6 called Roman Conquest of Hispania: Second Punic War and in this episode you will learn:

Show notes

  • Which were the two rising Mediterranean powers: Carthage and Rome
  • Why was Carthage interested in controlling Spain
  • How and why the Second Punic War started
  • Which was the Hannibal’s strategy to win the war
  • How did Rome almost fall
  • About the hopes of winning with the campaigns of Scipio Africanus in Spain and the decisive Battle of Illipa in 206 BC
  • How did the Second Punic War end
  • How the war affected Spain and the long-term impact of the Second Punic War for Rome and Hispania
  • Reflections about an alternative scenario where Carthage wins the war

Script

I’m David Cot, host of The History of Spain Podcast, and this is episode 6, called Roman Conquest of Hispania: Second Punic War. In this episode we abandon the Prehistory and Protohistory and start the Ancient Era. Because of that it’s going to be a very narrative and entertaining episode compared to the previous ones. You will learn the story of the Second Punic War, a war between two emerging Mediterranean powers, Carthage and Rome, and the implications that that had for Spain. Subscribe to the podcast to not miss an episode!

Two powers emerged between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC, one in each side of the Mediterranean, Carthage and Rome. After the fall of the old Phoenician metropolis of Tyre, Carthage, in modern-day Tunis, assumed the leadership of the Phoenician settlements of the Western Mediterranean, and they expanded their power through both trade and military action. Rome, on the other hand, relied more on the military and land-property interests to expand themselves rather than trade and naval power. Already in 509 BC, when the Roman Republic was founded, Carthage and Rome made a treaty to determine their areas of influence. At that time, Carthage was much more powerful than Rome, the Punics had influence over the entire North African coast, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, and of course the southern and levant regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Meanwhile Rome didn’t even have complete control over the Italian Peninsula.

Nonetheless the weak situation of Rome changed during the course of the 4th century BC, and by the 3rd century BC Rome was a threat to Carthaginian interests. The clash of interests over Sicily resulted in the 23-years-long First Punic War that exhausted economically and demographically both powers, but the Roman Republic won. Carthage lost first Sicily and then Sardinia and Corsica as well. But even worse was that Carthage couldn’t pay its mercenary soldiers due to the economic exhaustion and the high indemnities imposed by Rome, which caused the Mercenary War that almost destroyed Carthage. Punic naval power declined as well and the Carthaginian oligarchy had to do something to make up the territorial and economic losses, so the Punic oligarchy debated about what should they do next. The landowner class wanted to renounce to any military action that could cause a new conflict with Rome, they preferred to focus their attention in controlling North Africa and maybe expand westwards to Numidia and Mauritania, modern-day Algeria and Morocco. But then you had the powerful families that had enriched themselves with maritime trade that wanted to expand overseas. The mercantile faction led by Hamilcar Barca of the Barcid family won the debate and the Carthaginian senate allowed the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

map second punic war

Therefore, in 237 BC Hamilcar Barca and his army got ashore Cádiz and started their military conquest in southern Iberia. He came along with his son-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair and his son Hannibal, who was at the time 9 years old. Hamilcar focused his initial campaign in conquering the territories that used to be Tartessos, with its fertile lands and still important mineral resources. There they fought the Iberians and Turdetani. The Turdetani who opposed Punic expansion hired Celtic and Celtiberian mercenaries. Carthaginian troops defeated them, killed the leaders of the confederate army and incorporated 3,000 of them into their army. Hamilcar gained control over the mines of Sierra Morena and the lands of the Guadalquivir River in a year. That allowed Hamilcar Barca to pay his army, pay part of the indemnities imposed by Rome and buy loyalties. But Carthaginian expansion eastwards proved more difficult. It took 4 years to control the area that is now Murcia and Alicante. Rome already warned Carthage in 229 BC to not advance towards the Iberian Levant because the cities of Emporion and Sagunto asked for Roman aid. Hamilcar replied saying that he was collecting the booty to pay the indemnities, and the Romans left the Carthaginians alone for some years.

Hamilcar moved his campaign to the northwest, in what’s now northeastern Andalusia, where he fought the Oretani tribes led by Orissus. Orissus apparently offered him an alliance to later betray him, as he killed Hamilcar in battle in 228 BC. His son-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair succeeded him and founded the most important strategic base of the Carthaginians in Iberia, Carthago Nova in the region of Murcia. Hasdrubal preferred diplomacy rather than war, so he arranged pacts and marriages with the native elites to pacify the conquered territories. He even signed a treaty with the Roman Republic in 226 BC that delimited the boundaries of the two powers in the Iberus River, which is not clear whether it means the Ebro or the Júcar, which would make sense since the city of Sagunto that is below the Ebro asked for Roman protection. In any case, Hasdrubal was killed in 221 BC by a former slave of Celtic king Tagus, who avenged his dead master. Yeah, a truly moving story of loyalty.

Before I continue with the narrative, let me talk a bit about how the Carthaginians managed the occupied territories to fuel the war machine. The conquered regions were forced to give soldiers, hostages and slaves to the Carthaginians. Punic advanced techniques were implemented in agriculture and mining to increase production, and they also developed the shipbuilding, salting and minting industries in Cádiz and Carthago Nova. Their way to govern the conquered lands is clear: they brought their technologies with them to improve the efficiency of production and either enslaved the local populations or arranged pacts with the local elites.

At the age of 25, Hannibal Barca became the Supreme Commander of the Carthaginian Army, an army made up of professional North African, Balearic and Iberian and Celtic soldiers. Really makes you think that great commanders like Alexander or Hannibal accomplished many things while being young, while most of us haven’t done shit at that age. Anyway, he started his campaign by marching north, where he fought and defeated the Celts and Celtiberians of the Meseta. In the winter of 220 BC Hannibal was planning something no one was expecting. He planned with his brothers the invasion of Italy to revenge the Carthaginian defeat of the First Punic War.

The Second Punic War started in 218 BC, because Hannibal attacked the city of Sagunto that was somehow under the protection of Rome. The causes of the attack and the justification for the war have been a matter of controversy for centuries. The citizens of Sagunto weren’t saints, they raided territories that were under Punic control, so it’s understandable that the Carthaginians could be pissed off. The Romans declared war claiming that Carthage had violated the Ebro Treaty signed a few years before, but it’s not clear if Sagunto was included in the treaty. In any case, the siege of Sagunto lasted 8 months and the Carthaginian troops sacked the city. The city wasn’t destroyed though, as Roman sources try to make us believe. Another very interesting fact is that Rome didn’t aid their supposed allies, they only declared war on Carthage after they heard that the city had fallen and, more importantly, after they had come up with a strategic plan.

About the strategic plans that both sides came up with, we first have the Hannibal strategy that consisted in marching fast and undetected to the Roman homeland, crossing the Alps to then destroy Rome. Hannibal split the army, the majority followed him, but some soldiers needed to remain in Iberia and Carthage. The Carthaginian plan depended on speed and the surprise effect to be successful, but also on the capacity of Hannibal to provoke a revolt among the Italian cities and towns to give a final blow to Rome. On the other hand, the two Roman consuls planned to march one to Iberia through the coasts of southern France, while the other would move to Sicily to then attack Carthage itself. Here is an important detail to know about Roman politics, the senate elected each year two consuls that had the same power, and those consuls were also the supreme commanders of the Roman military. This dual system of course caused disagreements and all sorts of problems, but worse was the yearly term, especially in times of war, because that generated incentives to make stupid military moves for the sake of personal glory. More on that in a second.

hannibal crossing the alps

So, Hannibal marched from Carthago Nova northwards, first defeating the tribes of Catalonia and then crossing the Pyrenees. The Carthaginian Army took an inland route to travel through France, because they didn’t want the Romans or their Greek allies of Massalia to notice them. But the Romans did detect them, and Publius Cornelius Scipio, the consul that had to attack Carthaginian possessions in Iberia, returned to Rome to protect the Roman homeland. The Carthaginian Army was able to cross the Alps under the leadership of Hannibal, something that no one was expecting considering the difficulties of the terrain and that they crossed it when the cold winter was approaching. Take into account that Hannibal was brining thousands of men with him as well as war elephants, so it was a real accomplishment and that’s why it’s a very epic event of world military history. When the news of such an unthinkable action reached Rome, the Roman Senate panicked and the plan to invade the core North African territories of Carthage was aborted. Consul Sempronius Longus joined Scipio and they faced together Hannibal, in a desperate attempt to defeat Hannibal before they were replaced as consuls. The Battle of the Trebia River was the result of that impulsiveness, and of the 42,000 soldiers of the Roman Republic that participated in the battle, only 10,000 managed to retreat. 218 BC was a fantastic year for Hannibal, not only had he defeated the Romans but he was also making alliances with the Gauls, Celts and other people who had recently been conquered by Rome or that felt threatened because of them.

In the following year, new consuls were elected but they were also defeated, most prominently in the Battle of Lake Trasimene. This battle is one of the largest ambushes in military history, and it’s because of his creativity that Hannibal has been so praised in military history. With around 50 or 60,000 men, he killed or captured the entire Roman Army that was made up of 30,000 men. Hannibal held captive those who were Romans and released those who weren’t, to brand himself as a liberator and fighter for freedom against Rome. After the Battle of Lake Trasimene, the Romans panicked, and the Senate decided to appoint Quintus Fabius Maximus dictator. A dictator for the Roman Republic, that is before the transition to the Roman Empire, was a man entrusted with full authority but with some limitations to avoid the end of the Republican system. Within months or a few years, the dictator abandoned that position and everything got back to normal. Fabius famously adopted the so-called Fabian strategy of avoiding pitched battles and open battles, and instead provoke skirmishes that exhausted the enemy. He was called a coward for that and some thought that he only adopted this kind of strategy because he couldn’t come up with anything better.

Due to his unpopularity, new consuls were elected in 216 BC, consuls that adopted a more aggressive approach. The Roman Republic raised an army of 86,000 soldiers to confront Hannibal, who was failing to get support from the Italian people. But all that was for nothing, because this very large army by Ancient standards was led by incompetent generals. The Battle of Cannae is the most well-known victory of the Carthaginians. Hannibal accomplished his greatest military feat, destroying most of the Roman Army with his powerful cavalry and superior tactics. Estimates of the casualties vary, ancient historians like Livy said that Rome suffered more than 60,000 casualties, while modern historians lower that number to maybe 20,000. In any case, the battle was a disaster for Rome and many feared that Rome would fell. The city was on the brink of collapse. The Roman Legions had suffered defeat after defeat, some Italian regions were devastated due to the supply needs of both the Carthaginians and Romans, their morale was very low, and Romans were so desperate that they briefly restored human sacrifice. The Greek colonies and some Italian cities of southern Italy, Macedonia in Greece and the small independent Sicilian state of Syracuse all joined Hannibal. Few believed that the Roman Republic could survive, and everyone wanted to divide the spoils of the Roman Republic.

Yet Hannibal believed that he couldn’t attack Rome yet, because he had an army of around 40,000 and Rome itself had 200,000 inhabitants and still many allied cities and towns. Hannibal offered peace, but the Roman Senate rejected it. With the alliances Hannibal made with some coastal cities, Carthage was able to send reinforcements for the first and only time. Hannibal was basically acting without the support of Carthage, he used the manpower that was left from the initial expedition plus the natives he could ally himself with. Meanwhile, the Roman Senate turned again to Quintus Fabius Maximus and elected him consul in 215 and 214 BC. His strategy may have been the right one, they thought. Even though Carthage was conquering some cities, the Romans at least defeated the Carthaginian expedition to Sardinia, an island that was important to feed Rome, and they also prevented Hasdrubal, brother of Hannibal, to join him, since the Romans defeated Hasdrubal in Iberia.

In 213 and 212 BC two good things happened to Rome: they allied with Syphax, a king of Numidia, and they laid siege and captured Syracuse in Sicily. The Carthaginians were losing the initiative and the momentum they used to have. There were hopes for Rome. Oh, but wait because now there is an unexpected and dramatic turn of events, Hannibal captures the largest Greek city in Italy, Tarentum. Furthermore, the Romans are being defeated in their homeland and the Roman legions located in Iberia are struggling to maintain their position in Catalonia.

Now to continue with what was happening in Spain, the old Scipios captured Sagunto and they were able to hire 20,000 Celtiberian warriors. They launched a major offensive in 211 BC and Hasdrubal and Mago, brothers of Hannibal that led the Carthaginians in Iberia, had to not only keep their position but to try to decisively defeat the Romans in the Peninsula. Remember that Carthage wasn’t sending any reinforcements to Hannibal in Italy, so to have the chance of destroying Rome Hannibal needed the armies of his brothers. The Barca brothers actually managed to crush the Roman Army of Hispania and to kill the old Scipios in the Battle of the Upper Baetis. For the time being, the remaining Roman Army had to go back to its initial position in Catalonia. Who was going to lead them now? Although they were stabilized and reinforced by a general named Gaius Claudius Nero, it was the young son of Publius Scipio the one who replaced him. He would be known as Scipio Africanus, but he hadn’t earned that nickname yet.

Scipio Africanus wanted to avenge his father, keep his legacy alive and save the Roman Republic. He raised a 31,000 strong army, marched south and captured the base of Carthaginian operations in Iberia, Carthago Nova. He slaughtered its inhabitants, its riches were sacked, and the Spanish hostages were liberated to gain more allies. Moving to Italy, the Romans were successful in securing their control over Sicily and in the Italian mainland the war was essentially in a stalemate. Meanwhile, remember that Macedonia also declared war on Rome, and the Roman Republic relied on their Greek allies to fight for them. As in Spain, the Macedonians couldn’t breakthrough and that prevented them from aiding Hannibal in Italy.

It was clear that the Romans had their composure back, while the Carthaginians were making little progress. Hasdrubal was defeated by Scipio, but he was able to cross the Pyrenees and march towards Italy to reinforce the army of his brother and decisively crush Rome. I briefly mentioned Gaius Claudius Nero earlier, but it’s in Italy where he critically participated. This consul prevented the existence of a combined Hannibal and Hasdrubal army that would have been almost impossible to defeat. He tricked the master of tricks and while the lion was distracted, Claudius Nero joined forces with another Roman general and defeated and killed Hasdrubal Barca. The Battle of the Metaurus was a turning point of the Second Punic War, as Hasdrubal was killed and Hannibal was forced to retreat to the Southern Italian region of Calabria.

With Hannibal in a weak position in Italy, the Romans decided to leave him alone, avoid a costly frontal battle and focus on the other major theatre of the war, the Iberian Peninsula. The young and smart Scipio had been forging alliances and hiring native warriors for some time, and the time for a critical action in Spain had arrived. The Iberians, Celts and Celtiberian tribes were massively defecting the Carthaginian side, and the only territories the Punics still controlled were the lands of the south. They were soon to even lose those territories as well. Scipio had a combined Italian-Spanish army of around 50,000 men when he faced and defeated an equally large Carthaginian army led by Hannibal’s brother Mago. The defeat in the Battle of Ilipa of 206 BC was catastrophic for Carthage, and it was the decisive battle that sealed the outcome of the war. Even the old Phoenician colony of Cádiz revolted against Carthage at this point. Scipio had to face an Iberian revolt led by Indibilis and Mandonius, but they were quickly put down. The Iberians had to accept their new rulers, because nothing would be like it had been before the Second Punic War started. Mago Barca attempted to recapture Carthago Nova, but he failed. Scipio didn’t wait to pay a visit to the Numidian Kings Syphax and Masinissa. Syphax used to be an ally of Rome but switched sides, but Masinissa did the reverse, giving Rome the Numidian cavalry that was so highly regarded.

But what was next? Should Rome sign a treaty in favorable conditions? Should they focus on annihilating the remaining forces of Hannibal in Italy? Or should they attack Carthage itself in North Africa? The Roman Senate had disagreements, in part because Scipio was elected consul at the age of 31 in 205 BC, and many senators, including Quintus Fabius, were envious and questioned the ambitions of Scipio. He was already very popular because he secured the former Carthaginian possessions of Hispania for Rome, but what if he campaigned in Africa and destroyed Carthage? The glory of such an action would make him extremely powerful. Therefore, the Senate decided to not give him more troops that the ones stationed in Sicily. But due to his popularity, Scipio was able to hire more men and ships that the ones Rome gave him.

Scipio get away with his desired African campaign, he landed near Carthage, put the city of Utica under siege and set on fire the camp of the Carthaginians and Numidians of Syphax, slaughtering most of the Carthaginian army with a not very honorable but effective move. Scipio Africanus then chased down another Carthaginian and Numidian army, capturing King Syphax and helping King Masinissa unite Numidia under him. The Carthaginians were very worried, and some wanted to sue for peace while others wanted Hannibal and the rest of the Carthaginian army of Italy to go back home and protect the motherland. Carthage and Rome were arranging an armistice in 203 BC and Scipio proposed moderate peace terms, but Hannibal was recalled from Italy and once he arrived the Carthaginian senators that wanted to keep the war going won popularity and peace negotiations stopped. Hannibal and Scipio fought a final battle in 202 BC, the Battle of Zama. In this battle, Rome had for the first time cavalry superiority thanks to the Numidians, and although the battle was fierce and bloody, Scipio Africanus managed to win. After the battle, Hannibal convinced the few that still wanted the war to continue to stop and negotiate peace.

The Roman Senate wanted the destruction of Carthage and the death of Hannibal and his family, but Scipio instead offered more acceptable terms. The Carthaginians were banned to raise an army without Roman permission, their naval fleet was severely limited and they would have to pay an indemnity. Carthage lost all their Spanish possessions, and the Romans were able to keep the former Carthaginian Spanish territories under their control, except for the Balearic Islands that would take a little longer to conquer.

Now, since this podcast is called The History of Spain Podcast, let’s focus on the influence the Second Punic War had in the Iberian Peninsula. The conquered part of the peninsula was divided in two provinces, Hispania Citerior in the north and Hispania Ulterior In the south. The tribes that lived in what used to be Carthaginian Hispania lost their political autonomy, they had to pay taxes to the Romans and the Senate could ask for extraordinary contributions or the recruitment of auxiliary troops any time. Only Ampurias, Sagunto and Málaga maintained their status of free cities for some time as a reward for their collaboration. Nonetheless, the Romans in the initial phase of the conquest were very respectful with the local oligarchies. Rome essentially practiced exploitation colonialism, which means that with few colonists they kept the Iberian territories under their control to exploit the natural resources, manpower and trade opportunities to benefit the metropole. And how did they do that? Mainly using military force but also with the arrangement of pacts and marriages. But we will see in the next episode that the domination of Hispania wouldn’t be easy for Rome.

THE VERDICT: Okay, I know that this is alternate history stuff but, what if Carthage won the Second Punic War and destroyed Rome? The entire history of Europe would be incredibly different, I mean, the consequences of that are of such a magnitude that are almost unthinkable. Maybe more Oriental ideas would have influenced Europe, or maybe trade, instead of militarism, would have influenced more heavily European cultures. Would we even have Christianity and Islam, or Latin languages? But the survival of the Roman Republic and the conquest of the Carthaginian territories of Hispania provoked the rise of an unstoppable Roman imperialism that would eventually transform the Republic into an Empire, and change Europe, North Africa and the Near East forever. Carthage was a bit like Germany in the Second World War. They lost the first, they sought revenge and they were crushed again, this time much more decisively. In the end, I think that the chances of Carthage winning were lower than thus of Rome. The fact that it was mostly a defensive war for the Romans also created stronger loyalties, which is easy to understand because if you saw those foreign Carthaginians sacking and razing your region, would you be happy to collaborate with them? Would you see them as liberators? Carthage didn’t treat the rest of North Africans as equals and relied on a less-devoted mercenary force to combat, while Rome had more citizens and strong alliances with other Italians. That’s why Hannibal, speaking in broad terms, didn’t succeed in convincing the Italians outside Rome to join him, and that’s also why the Roman Republic could raise a new army every time they were severely defeated. And with that, The Verdict ends.

The Second Punic War supposed the unstoppable rise of one Mediterranean power, the Roman Republic, and the critical defeat of the other one, the Republic of Carthage. Never again Carthage supposed a serious threat to Rome, even though there was the Third Punic War, but that one was very asymmetrical and supposed the existential destruction of Carthage. Anyway, Rome consolidated its presence not only in Italy, but expanded or critically gained influence in Hispania, Africa and Greece. With the decline of Carthage as a trading power, Rome grew economically too, even though many parts of Italy and especially the south had been razed by the Carthaginian Army. That also brought social changes like the rise of the equites, a social class that unlike patricians could participate in trade, more and more poor common people and slaves moved to Rome, which increased social tensions, and Greek culture started influencing substantially Roman culture. Only time showed how relevant was the Second Punic War and how important would be Rome for Spain. To end this episode, let me remind you that the podcast has a website, thehistoryofspain.com, where you can find the scripts of the episodes and a list of books about the history of Spain available on Amazon. Please subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube and more, review the podcast, and follow the social media accounts of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I hope you enjoyed the episode and thank you for listening!

Sources

HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA. LA ESPAÑA ROMANA Y VISIGODA. Planeta

HISTORIA DE ESPAÑA. HISPANIA ANTIGUA. Domingo Plácido

“EL IMPACTO DE LA CONQUISTA DE HISPANIA EN ROMA (218-154 a.C.)”. José María Blázquez Martínez

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KydeB-faeE8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueiAqnVD3IQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a3-KsyyJR8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf0-Yki5p40

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT_rev5VAQc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT_rev5VAQc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McT1H-NVCMQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3yIiAZgQLI

NOTE: Credit for the intro and outro music to Jeris and Clarence Simpsons, the song is called ‘Conquistador’and it’s under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license