Cultures > Carthaginian Iberia

Carthaginian Iberia


Carthaginian Iberia refers to the territories in the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal) that were controlled by Carthage during the Hellenistic period. Carthage's influence in this region played a significant role in its conflicts with Rome, particularly during the Punic Wars. Here's an overview of Carthaginian Iberia during the Hellenistic period:

Early Carthaginian Presence

  1. Initial Colonization:
    • Phoenician Settlements: The Carthaginians, originally from the Phoenician city of Tyre, established colonies in the Iberian Peninsula as early as the 9th century BC. These settlements, such as Gadir (modern Cádiz), served as trading posts.
    • Economic Interests: Carthage's primary interest in Iberia was economic, focusing on trade, mining, and resource extraction. Iberia was rich in metals such as silver, which were crucial for Carthage's economy.

Expansion and Control

  1. Barcid Dynasty:

    • Hamilcar Barca: After the First Punic War (264-241 BC), Carthage sought to compensate for its losses by expanding its territories in Iberia. Hamilcar Barca, a prominent Carthaginian general, led this expansion. He established a strong military presence and laid the foundations for Carthaginian control in the region.
    • Hasdrubal the Fair: Following Hamilcar's death, his son-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair continued the expansion. He founded the city of Qart Hadasht (New Carthage, modern Cartagena) around 228 BC, which became the administrative and military center of Carthaginian Iberia.
  2. Hannibal Barca:

    • Further Expansion: Hannibal Barca, the son of Hamilcar, succeeded Hasdrubal. He continued to consolidate Carthaginian power in Iberia and expanded their territories further north.
    • Prelude to the Second Punic War: Hannibal's capture of the city of Saguntum in 219 BC, which was under Roman protection, directly led to the outbreak of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) between Rome and Carthage.

Second Punic War (218-201 BC)

  1. Conflict with Rome:

    • Hannibal's Campaign: Hannibal famously crossed the Alps to invade Italy, drawing significant Roman military resources away from Iberia. This allowed Carthage to maintain control over Iberian territories initially.
    • Roman Counterattack: Rome, under the command of the Scipio family, launched a counterattack in Iberia. Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius Scipio initially led the campaign but were eventually defeated and killed.
  2. Scipio Africanus:

    • Turn of the Tide: Publius Cornelius Scipio, later known as Scipio Africanus, took command of the Roman forces in Iberia. He successfully captured New Carthage in 209 BC, dealing a significant blow to Carthaginian control.
    • Battle of Ilipa: In 206 BC, Scipio defeated the Carthaginian forces decisively at the Battle of Ilipa, effectively ending Carthaginian rule in Iberia.

Aftermath and Roman Control

  1. End of Carthaginian Iberia:
    • Roman Conquest: Following their victory in the Second Punic War, Rome consolidated its control over the Iberian Peninsula. Carthaginian territories were incorporated into the Roman Republic, leading to the establishment of Roman provinces in the region.
    • Continued Resistance: Although Carthage lost its territories in Iberia, local tribes and former Carthaginian allies continued to resist Roman rule for several decades.


Carthaginian Iberia was a crucial region for Carthage during the Hellenistic period, serving as a base for military and economic activities. The expansion of Carthaginian control in Iberia, particularly under the Barcid dynasty, played a pivotal role in the lead-up to the Second Punic War. Despite initial successes, Carthage ultimately lost its Iberian territories to Rome, marking a significant shift in the power dynamics of the Western Mediterranean. The Roman conquest of Iberia following the Second Punic War laid the foundations for the Romanization of the region and its integration into the Roman Republic.


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