Information about the place CARTAGENA (Town) MURCIA - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Carthago Nova

Carthago Nova (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 Concepcion); on the E the hills of Hephaistos (Despenaperros) and Aletes (San Jose) 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 Lucia) 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 Moreria), 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 Anton 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 vary enormously.
The finds are in the Cartagena Municipal Museum, the Murcia Provincial Museum, and the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.

A. Beltran, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Jan 2006 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


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