(Cartagena) Murcia, Spain.
Built over the Iberian settlement of Massia or Mastia, capital of the Mastieni, by Hasdrubal in 226 B.C., the
Punic town of Qart-Hadasat became the capital of the
Carthaginian empire in SW Spain and the base of its
future operations against the Romans. The new city had
one of the safest harbors in the Mediterranean, rich silver-lead mines, abundant salt pans for the curing industry, and esparto grass plantations which furnished raw
material for the manufacture of ships' tackle.
Scipio captured it by surprise in 209 B.C. after a short
siege, and it became the site of the Roman colony named
Urbs Iulia Nova Carthago, founded by Cn. Statilius
Libus on behalf of Lepidus in 42 B.C. It belonged first
to Hispania Citerior, then to Tarraconsensis, and after
287 was the capital of Carthaginensis. Although destroyed in A.D. 425 by the Vandals, it was for a short
time in the 6th c. A.D. the capital of the Byzantine empire in Spain, as evidenced by an inscription of the patrician Comenciolus praising the towers of the gateway of
the city. It was frequently mentioned by Classical authors: Polyb. 2.13.1; 10.7.6; 10.10; 3.24.2; Livy 26.41-45
26.42.2ff; Diod. 25.12
; Theopomp. 2.5; Avienus 449ff.
The Roman city was adapted to the topography of the
terrain, according to Polybios, who visited it in the second half of the 2d c. B.C. It stood on a promontory
bounded on the N by a large lagoon or Almarjal, and
on the S by the bay guarded by hills 200-300 m high;
the channel joining bay and lagoon was spanned by a
bridge carrying an aqueduct to the city. The mouth of
the bay was protected by the island of Escombreras
(from scomber or mackerel, which abound along the
coast). The town lay in a depression between hills, but
had on the S a level approach from the sea; the highest
hill was named for Aesculapius and was crowned by a
temple dedicated to him (today Castillo de la Concepción); on the E the hills of Hephaistos (Despeñaperros)
and Aletes (San José) guarded the isthmus and the main
landward entry; on the N Mt. Kronos (Sacro) closed the
perimeter with the Arx Hasdrubalis (Mount Molinete)
where stood the Punic palace, the last redoubt to surrender to Scipio.
The hills were connected by walls restored in the Roman period; an inscription mentions a Topilla or Popilla
gate. Outside the walls the Tumulus Mercurii (Santa
Lucía) was the site of Scipio's camp. The walls were
over 3500 m long, and must have had a single gateway
on the isthmus and perhaps an opening near the W
bridge. The town covered more than 25 ha and had
about 30,000 inhabitants. Its wealth came from the harbor, an important market, from the silver mines which
in the 2d c. B.C. produced 25,000 drachmas a day for
the Roman treasury, and from the export of esparto
grass and cured fish.
Remains consist of columns and ashlar walls of the
forum (Plaza de los Tres Reyes), streets (Calle Morería), and the amphitheater (under the present bullring);
statues (head of a child, perhaps Augustus, from the
Calle Cuatro Santos; headless Hermes from the Pl. San
Francisco; a herm with a woman's head; a tutelary Bacchus; togate stele). The Torre Ciega, the tomb of Titus
Didius, dates from the 1st c. B.C. and is rectangular. The
ashes were in a crystal urn enclosed in a leaden one.
The tomb stood on the road leading out of town, with
other similar monuments. On San Antón a late Roman
cemetery has been found. Of the temples that may have
stood on the hills, there is a reference only to that of
Aesculapius, but the coins show a tetrastyle Augustan
temple (19 B.C.), and there are several references to the
cult of Health and its symbol, a snake.
Among the inscriptions there are dedications to Hercules of Gades, the genius of the fortress, to Liber, to
Victoria, and one to Mercury by the fishermen and fishmongers dedicating “columnam, pompam, ludosque” to
the “Genio oppidi.” Prominent persons were sometimes
appointed honorary magistrates of this important colony,
for example, King luba and King Ptolemy. The inscriptions also record the names of the family of the Numisii,
Iulia Mamea, without a damnatio memoriae, and many
others such as guilds of architects and masons.
There are 43 series of Latin coins, aside from the issues of the Barkedas which bear the portraits of Hannibal
and his predecessors. The minting was entrusted to the
duoviri quinquennales and the coins may be arranged by
5-year periods, from that of L. Fibricius and P. Atelius,
57 B.C., to the series of Caius Caesar, A.D. 39. The types
The finds are in the Cartagena Municipal Museum, the
Murcia Provincial Museum, and the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.
A. Beltrán, “La conquista de Cartagena
por Escipión,” Actas y Memorias de la Sociedad española de Antropología, Etnografia y Prehistoria
(1946) 101; id., Las monedas latinas de Cartagena
(1949); id., “El plano arqueológico de Cartegena,”
25 (1952) 47ff; A. García Bellido, “Las
colonias romanas de Hispania,” Anuario de Historia del
29 (1959) 470ff.