History Files


European Kingdoms

Ancient Spain




Gadir (Gades / Cadiz)

One of the earliest Phoenician colonies in what is now Spain, the name Gadir ('walled compound') was later rendered in Greek as Gadeira, and then Latinised as Gades, through which the modern Cadiz descends. Traditionally , the colony was founded in 1110 BC, probably as a trading post. As with the colony of Utica in North Africa, no archaeological remains have so far been dated to this period, but this may be due to such posts being very seasonal in nature at first, and therefore temporary. Only some centuries later did they grow into full cities.

Gadir was joined by Tarshish (probably Tartessos, a Phoenician city state which has never been conclusively located) in Iberia. The unusual and ancient design of fishing boats at ports such as Aveiro, Ilhavo, and Nazare along the modern Portuguese coast may be a vestige of Phoenician influence in the region, as they plied their way north to tin mining concerns in Cornwall in Britain.

1104 BC

This is the traditional date of founding for Gadir, which puts it at the very beginning of the appearance of Phoenician culture in the Middle East. No archaeological evidence for occupation at this date can be found but, as with Utica, this is probably because these posts are temporary at first, and are not permanently occupied until the ninth century.

539 BC

All of Phoenicia is submerged within the Persian empire. As a result, many Phoenicians emigrate to the colonies, especially Carthage, which quickly rises to become a major power.

Ruins of Gadir (Cadiz)
The surviving ruins of the Phoenician city of Gadir are few in number

c.500 BC

Gadir becomes dominated by the increasingly powerful city of Carthage. In part, the acceptance of Carthaginian dominance may be a necessity for survival, following the Persian dominance of Phoenicia, and the early appearance of rival Greek colonies in the Mediterranean.

264 - 241 BC

The First Punic War erupts between Rome and Carthage.

237 BC

Hamilcar leads an expedition to expand Carthage's interests in Iberia and conquer the native peoples. Using Gadir as his base of operations, he pursues this policy until his death in battle in 228 BC. Hasdrubaal takes command, and pursues a policy of consolidation. He signs a treaty with Rome whereby both parties agree to maintain the River Ebro as their mutual border, with neither crossing to pursue gains in the other side's territory. However, this means that the Roman settlements in the north pose a potential threat.

221 - 219 BC

Hannibal assumes command and spends two years consolidating Carthage's conquest of Iberia south of the Ebro. Rome perceives this as a threat and makes an alliance with the Iberian city of Saguntum (near modern Valencia), south of the Ebro. This is a clear violation of Hasdrubaal's treaty, so Hannibal besieges the city until it surrenders, eight months later. Rome affects outrage and demands justice from Carthage. Instead, Hannibal is supported and the Second Punic War begins.

218 - 202 BC

The Second Punic War is fought by Rome and Carthage. In 206 BC, Roman forces under Scipio Africanus enter Gadir and are welcomed by the populace. The city flourishes as a Roman naval base in the years to come.

AD 409 - 429

The Vandali move into Iberia, disrupting the Gallic empire of Constantine III. According to Roman reports, the Vandali lead the devastation of areas of Gaul and Iberia, earning themselves a reputation which has survived to this day. They settle themselves to control the former Roman provinces of Lusitania and Baetica (the latter of which includes the city of Gades).

In 429, under pressure from the newly settled Visigoths, the Vandali are forced out of Iberia. Instead they invade and conquer Roman Carthage, and form their own powerful kingdom along the North African coast.

469 - 475

The Visigoths have to fight a combined imperial army consisting of Romans, troops from Soissons, Burgundian foederati, and joint federate Britanni in 469 (470). After successfully holding them off, the Visigoths expand their holdings to take in more of Gaul and much of Iberia, so that the kingdom stretches from Nantes to Gades (Cadiz). The expansion sees the destruction of the Phoenician city and few remnants of it exist today.

A new city is founded nearby, which later expands under Moorish and then Spanish rule to become the great naval base of Cadiz.