Cultures > Iberians



During the Hellenistic period (roughly the 4th to 1st centuries BC), the Iberian Peninsula was a region marked by significant cultural and political complexity. This period saw the interaction between indigenous Iberian cultures and external influences, particularly from the Carthaginians and later the Romans. Here’s an overview of the Iberians during the Hellenistic period:

Indigenous Cultures

  1. Iberians:

    • Location: The Iberians inhabited the eastern and southeastern parts of the peninsula, along the Mediterranean coast.
    • Culture and Society: They had a well-developed urban culture with advanced metallurgy, agriculture, and trade. Iberian society was organized into various tribes, each with its own social and political structures.
    • Language: The Iberians spoke a non-Indo-European language, and their script was used for writing inscriptions, some of which have been found on pottery and coins.
  2. Celts:

    • Location: The Celts lived primarily in the central and northwestern regions of the peninsula.
    • Culture and Society: They were organized into various tribes and were known for their warrior culture and distinct La Tène art style. The Celts brought their own cultural elements, which mixed with those of the indigenous Iberians.
  3. Celtiberians:

    • Location: The Celtiberians inhabited the central part of the peninsula, where Celtic and Iberian cultures mixed.
    • Culture and Society: They lived in fortified settlements known as castros and were known for their warrior society. The Celtiberians played a significant role in the military history of the region, particularly during the Roman conquest.

Carthaginian Influence

  1. Phoenician and Carthaginian Colonies:

    • Early Settlements: The Phoenicians established trading posts along the southern and eastern coasts, such as Gadir (modern Cádiz) and Malaka (Málaga).
    • Carthaginian Expansion: After the decline of Phoenician power, Carthage took over these colonies and expanded its influence, especially in the southeastern part of the peninsula.
  2. Economic and Military Significance:

    • Resources: The Iberian Peninsula was rich in natural resources, particularly silver, which was essential for Carthage’s economy and war efforts against Rome.
    • Military Base: Iberia served as a strategic base for Carthaginian military operations during the Punic Wars, providing troops, supplies, and launching points for campaigns against Rome.

Roman Conquest

  1. Punic Wars:

    • First Punic War (264-241 BC): While primarily fought in Sicily, the First Punic War set the stage for Roman and Carthaginian rivalry, affecting their interests in Iberia.
    • Second Punic War (218-201 BC): Iberia became a major theater of conflict. Hannibal’s famous crossing of the Alps began in Iberia, and the Romans, led by the Scipio family, launched significant campaigns in the peninsula.
  2. Key Battles and Campaigns:

    • Siege of Saguntum (219 BC): Hannibal’s attack on the Roman ally Saguntum sparked the Second Punic War.
    • Roman Counterattacks: The Romans, under Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius Scipio, fought to reclaim and control Iberian territories. Scipio Africanus’ capture of New Carthage (Cartagena) in 209 BC was a turning point.
  3. Final Conquest:

    • Post-Punic Wars: After defeating Carthage, Rome turned its attention to consolidating control over the peninsula. This involved numerous campaigns against various Iberian and Celtiberian tribes, such as the Lusitanians and the Celtiberians.
    • Numantine War (143-133 BC): The long and brutal siege of Numantia exemplified the fierce resistance of the Iberian tribes against Roman conquest.

Integration into the Roman Empire

  1. Provincial Organization:

    • Division of Territories: Rome organized the Iberian Peninsula into provinces. Initially, these were Hispania Citerior (Nearer Spain) and Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain). Later, these were subdivided into additional provinces like Baetica, Lusitania, and Tarraconensis.
    • Romanization: The process of Romanization involved the spread of Roman culture, language (Latin), law, and infrastructure (roads, aqueducts, and cities).
  2. Economic and Social Changes:

    • Urbanization: Roman rule brought significant urban development. Cities like Tarraco (Tarragona), Emerita Augusta (Mérida), and Hispalis (Seville) became important centers.
    • Trade and Economy: The integration into the Roman economy boosted trade. Iberia became a major supplier of olive oil, wine, metals, and other goods to the rest of the Roman Empire.


During the Hellenistic period, the Iberian Peninsula was a region of significant strategic and economic importance. It was characterized by a mosaic of indigenous cultures influenced by external powers such as Carthage and, ultimately, Rome. The Carthaginian expansion in Iberia set the stage for the conflicts of the Punic Wars, which led to the Roman conquest and integration of the peninsula into the Roman Empire. This period marked the beginning of profound changes in the social, economic, and cultural landscape of Iberia, laying the foundations for its future development under Roman rule.


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