Let battle commence
The spectacular Carthaginians and Romans fiestas get underway in Cartagena today (Friday).
THE IMPRESSIVE Carthaginian and Roman fiestas have started today (Friday September 15) in Cartagena.
The festival pays tribute to the rich ancient history of the city and residents re-enact key events from when it was under the rule of the Punic commanders Hasdrubal and Hannibal, and the Roman commander Scipio. For 10 days hundreds of residents put on beautifully made costumes and become either Carthaginian or Roman soldiers, warriors, mercenaries, commanders, citizens, oracles, Amazons and other characters.
Cartagena was founded in 227 BC by the Punic commander Hasdrubal, who named it QartHadast. The city was surrounded by five hills and protected by a huge defensive wall. It became the most important Carthaginian city in Iberia.
Hasdrubal was killed in 221 BC and his nephew Hannibal was appointed the new commander. The city was then provided with a defensive tower system and started exploiting mines at La Unión, which turned Qart-Hadast the capital of the Carthaginian empire abroad.
However the fragile truce between the Carthaginians and Romans was broken when Hannibal attacked Rome’s Sagunto in the Valencia region. In the ensuing conflict, the cunning Roman commander Scipio attacked Qart-Hadast in 209 BC which had been left unprotected as the Carthaginian troops were on their way to Rome. Scipio arrived from the sea and after a maritime battle his troops quickly conquered the city. The Carthaginian presence had only lasted for 18 years, but some remains such as the Punic wall have survived.
The Romans renamed the city Carthago Nova (new Carthage) and turned it into one of the most important and modern cities on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. The Romans stayed until the 5th century AD and their brilliant architects and engineers turned Qart-Hadast into a proper Roman city. They took advantage of the slopes of one of the hills to build the impressive theatre and also built an amphitheatre, thermal baths and temples, improved the harbour and changed the layout of the city. Cartagena was an important city for the Romans, as it provided the Empire with metals from the nearby mines at La Unión, olive oil, wine and its much-loved garum fish sauce.
The city contains incredibly well-preserved Roman monuments and facilities which are open to visitors and have become the principal tourist attraction. The remains of the impressive Roman theatre, the Roman forum district – which includes the thermal baths, a banquet hall and the temple of the goddess Isis - the Fortuna villa, the Decumano street and the Punic wall are all located in the historic city centre and are all worth a visit. Moreover special guided tours and activities at the monuments are organised during the Carthaginian and Roman fiestas.
The discovery of the Carthaginian and Roman remains has completely changed Cartagena and helped the city to overcome a difficult financial crisis and become an important tourist and cultural destination.
For the full programme of the Carthaginian and Roman fiestas go to page 37.
The Roman engineers took advantage of the slopes of one of the hills to build the impressive theatre