A Taste Of History
Cartagena, in common with many natural harbours around the Mediterranean, has a long history. The Phoenicians had been using its sheltered waters for hundreds of years before the city itself was founded in 223BC by a Carthaginian named Hamilcar Barca. At that time the Carthaginian Empire extended over much of the coast of North Africa, its capital, Carthage, was nearly 600 years old. Hamilcar gave this new port on the Iberian coast the same name as their capital; Qart Hadasht (New City).
At that time the Roman Empire was expanding, they wanted Qart Hadasht for themselves but lacked the strength to take it. They even feared that the Carthaginians might take their own trading port of Sagunto further North. They made a treaty with Hamilcar that they’d keep away from Quart Hadasht as long as the Carthaginians kept clear of Sagunto. The treaty and the peace didn’t last long.
I’d heard of General Hannibal and his elephants crossing the Alps but I had no idea why or when he did it. I certainly didn’t know that he started that journey right here in Cartagena 2233 years ago.
Hasdrubal and Hannibal weren’t interested in treaties, they wanted to fight. Hannibal first went North and took Sagunto, then decided he’d strike right at the heart of the Roman Empire and attack Rome. That’s where the march over the Alps came in. 100,000 infantry, 12,000 horseman and, they reckon, about 40 elephants.
Hannibal is considered to be one of the greatest military commanders and strategists in history. But this campaign was a disaster. Thousands of men died, his army fell apart, he never attacked Rome. Worse, his departure left Quart Hadasht vulnerable. The Romans grabbed the opportunity and in 209 BC the city fell to them. It was the end of the Carthaginians in Iberia, they lost everything.
Renamed Carthage Nova the city prospered for hundreds of years. The Romans did what the Romans did, they built roads, temples, theatres, villas. An amazing amount of that construction still exists, we’ve seen it and I’ll write more about it over the coming weeks.
Ultimately though the Roman Empire weakened and lost control. The city was devastated by the Vandals around AD 425.
Between them the Carthaginians and the Romans had ruled Cartagena for nearly 600 years, but in the end both Empires collapsed.
For 10 days the Fiesta De Carthagineses y Romanos takes over the city. It’s an amazing sight.
There were plays.
There were parades.
I took this short video at one that took over 2 hours to pass by.
There were gals.
There were guys (Don’t seem to have as many photos?)
I thought this guy reminded me of someone though.
There were cute kids
There were animals
There were crazy people
There were spectacles.
Oh. And there was a big battle.
We made a special effort to get here for this festival. We didn’t know what to expect, we weren’t sure it’d be worth it. It was. Totally. My efforts here don’t come close to doing it justice.
If you ever get the chance to come here in September take it. See what we saw, you’ll not regret it.