In the first half of the millennium, Celtic tribes across the Pyrenees mix with the Iberians to form the Celtiberians, a large ethnographic group in the north central part of the peninsula. In the south, Iberian culture is influenced by civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean through trade and colonies established first by the Phoenicians, and later the Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans. In the last two decades of the third century B.C., Rome and Carthage wage a bitter struggle for control of the peninsula’s strategic cities and rich silver mines. Rome eventually becomes the dominant power, although it takes nearly 200 years to pacify tribes who resist imperialist control.
The Phocaeans, Greeks from northern Ionia, found a trading station at Emporia in Tartessus, a region of south Spain. Tartessus’ trade with the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Brittany makes it proverbially wealthy.
The Battle of Aleria takes place on Corsica. The Carthaginians combine forces with the Etruscans to gain control of the Mediterranean. Soon afterward the kingdom of Tartessus collapses.
Celts live in the north and central area of the Iberian Peninsula alongside the Iberians, with whom they are closely integrated. The Celtiberians develop an artistic and material culture distinct from that of Celtic-speaking people of central Europe. They excel in pottery and metalwork, and produce sumptuous gold jewelry. Celtiberians are employed as mercenary soldiers by the Carthaginians and later by the Romans.
Following the defeat of Carthage by Rome in the First Punic War (264–241 B.C.), the Carthaginian commander Hamilcar Barca (d. 229 B.C.) establishes himself at Gadir (Cádiz). He takes possession of Spain and builds fortifications at Akra Leuke (Alicante). Carthage gains control of the richest silver mines in the ancient world.
The Carthaginian attack on Saguntum results in the Second Punic War (218–201 B.C.). Troops led by Hannibal (247–183 B.C.), son of Hamilcar Barca, cross the Pyrenees toward the Rhône valley, then north over the Alps, to assemble finally on the banks of the Po. The Roman general Publius Scipio lands at Emporium and the Roman conquest of Spain begins.
The Carthaginians are defeated at Zama. Carthage surrenders and is forced to pay an enormous war indemnity and abandon all its possessions in the Iberian Peninsula.
The Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (active 60–30 B.C.) describes the working conditions of slave laborers in the Spanish silver mines.
Caesar Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–14 A.D.) launches the Cantabrian Wars, which eventually assure Roman control over Spain. In 25 B.C. Augustus founds Emerita Augusta (Mérida) as the capital of Lusitania, which incorporates central Portugal.
Imperial Rome grants much patronage to Spanish towns. Many are endowed with new public buildings and municipal status.
“Iberian Peninsula, 1000 B.C.–1 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=04®ion=eusi (October 2000)