How Did Rome Acquire Iberia as a Province?

Rome maintained a sphere of influence in Iberia even before the beginning of the Second Punic War. They had an alliance with the city of Saguntum, and they made an agreement with the Carthaginian leader Hasdrubal the Fair (brother in law of Hannibal) that the Carthaginian sphere of influence would extend up to the Iberus River and that the Romans could operate north of it. I don’t think it could be said, however, that the Romans had a province in Iberia at the time-it was more of an alliance with the towns and tribes of northern Spain.

When Hasdrubal the Fair was assassinated in 220 B.C. Hannibal Barca took control of the Carthaginian military forces in Spain. He suppressed some of the tribal rebellions and then laid siege to Saguntum, which, as mentioned, was an ally of Rome. The siege lasted eight months and ended with the total destruction of the city-the men slaughtered and women and children sold into slavery. The Romans gave the Carthaginians an ultimatum that they must disown the actions of Hannibal and turn him over to Rome for punishment. When the Carthaginians refused to do this, Rome declared war.

The Romans sent their Consul Publius Cornelius Scipio (the father of Scipio Africanus) and his brother Gneius Cornelius Scipio to Massillia, (modern Marseilles) to block Hannibal’s passage over the Pyrenees to Gallia, but he found that Hannibal and his army had already crossed and was headed toward the Alps. He sent Gneius and his legions to Spain and returned to Italy by ship to organize legions to confront Hannibal in Northern Italy.

Gneius Scipio set up a base camp in Emporion and later in Taracco. He made alliances among the tribes of Northern Spain and carried on the war with the Carthaginians. Publius rejoined him sometime later after he recovered from the wounds he suffered at the Battle of Ticinus. The brothers were fairly successful against the Carthaginians for several years, winning battles at Cissa and Dertosa. In 211 B.C., however, both brothers were killed in the Battles of the Upper Baetis. Out of some 32,000 Roman legionaries, all but 8000 were killed in these battles.

In 209 B.C. the Romans appointed Publius’ son, then 25 years old to take over command of Rome’s military forces in Spain. He replaced Claudius Nero, who had made a mess of things, and he had about 35,000 legionaries including the 8000 survivors of the Battles of the Upper Baetis. The first thing he did was conquer New Carthage (Cartagena), thereby depriving the Carthaginians of their port, their treasury and the hostages they used to keep the Spanish tribes in line. He defeated the Carthaginians at the battles of Baecula and Ilipa, and, within four years drove all of the Carthaginian forces from Spain.

Spain was entirely under Roman governance from this point on, and they divided it into two provinces, Nearer and Farther Spain. Scipio founded a Roman Colony, Italica, in Spain to settle some of his retiring or disabled legionaries. The Spanish tribespeople, however, did not all take kindly to Roman rule and there were sporadic rebellions for the next hundred and fifty years.

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