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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures

 

Early Iberia (Iron Age)

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see feature link, right).

Iberia is the largely sun-drenched south-western peninsula of Europe. It comprises the modern countries of Portugal and Spain, plus the principality of Andorra and the British crown colony of Gibraltar. The peninsula has experienced a colourful history which is filled with conquest and re-conquest, and centuries of struggle.

Prior to the advent of the Iron Age in Iberia, the peninsula experienced a sequence of Early Cultures. Starting from about 24,000 BC, these serve to link the first appearance of anatomically modern humans to the beginnings of recorded history in the first millennium BC.

That early arrival took place immediately preceding the start of the Solutrean culture. Conditions on the southern side of the Pyrenees were harsh at the time, away from the coastal regions, but older theories which held this as a reason to count against a human presence have now been discounted.

Largely external sources recorded conflict between various prehistoric tribes in the peninsula (Iberians, Celtiberians, and others), Classical empires (Carthage and Rome), Germanic invaders (Suevi, Vandals, and Visigoths), and then the drawn-out struggle for superiority between Christianity and Islam. At the start of that drawn-out story, the Castro culture dominated in the north while the Tartessian culture encompassed large swathes of the south. The nearby Early Balearic Islands experienced their own Early Iron Age in the form of the Talaiotic culture.

That struggle ended in the formation of the late medieval states of Portugal and Spain, but that history has seen terrible loss in so many ways. Typically perhaps, Iberia has ensured that such loss can be evoked through music. In Spain this is by way of the flamenco which is not confined to dance (baile) but also song (cante) and toque (guitar), and in Portugal it is by way of fado from the Portuguese word for 'fate'.

The ruins of Numantia in Iberia

(Information by Peter Kessler and Trish Wilson, with additional information from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), and from External Links: Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), and The Mesolithic of Iberia (Encyclopaedia.com), and First modern human settlement recorded in the Iberian hinterland (Scientific Reports), and Celtiberia.net (in Spanish), and Gran Enciclopedia Aragonesa (in Spanish), and A misty history of Roman Portugal (The Portugal News), and Euskomedia (in Spanish).)

Iberia (Celtic and Pre-Indo-European Iron Age)

Iberia is the largely sun-drenched south-western peninsula of Europe. It comprises the modern countries of Portugal and Spain, plus the principality of Andorra and Britain's crown colony of Gibraltar. The peninsula has experienced a history of great art and culture, but also of conquest and re-conquest, and centuries of struggle.

The history of the Iberian Celts - not to be confused with the term 'Celtiberian', which is the name given to one very powerful tribal confederation - is closely interwoven with that of the Romans. The Iberian Celts gave them far more trouble than the rest of the Celts in Europe, around two centuries of incessant warfare. Some of those Celts also formed a key component of the Castro culture which dominated northern Iberia during the first millennium BC. The contemporary Tartessian culture dominated the south, and the Talaiotic covered the Balearics.

The history and the cultural contribution of the Celts in Iberia have only been properly discovered and evaluated during the last century (and largely towards the end of that period). Part of the problem was that, until recently, both modern Portugal and Spain suffered from having autocratic and dictatorial regimes.

In the twenty-first century AD, discoveries and theories are almost a daily occurrence, including substantiation of the legendary claim that a degree of the Celtic population of parts of early Britain and Ireland did not originate from Central Europe but from Iberia (and this is especially true of southern Gaelic tribes).

The West Indo-European ancestors of the Celts and Italics are more likely to have been Q-Italic-speaking groups, possibly of the Bell Beaker culture which was largely spread through West Indo-European migration. By the third century BC most of the still-recognisable groups of this nature were dominant in the west of Iberia, largely in the mountains of western Spain and down to the Portuguese coast.

As with later populations of Britons in Wales and Cornwall, these groups must have been forced there by later, technologically superior arrivals (later migratory waves of Celts). Other early arrivals had integrated themselves into Iberian tribes along the east coast of the peninsula.

Although perhaps the Celts were the best-known pre-Roman migrants into Iberia, they were not the only people there. Besides them there were Phoenicians and their offshoot, the Carthaginians, plus Greeks, and various formations of pre-Celtic groups which included non-Indo-Europeans such as the Aquitani, early (and probably) proto-Italic Indo-Europeans, plus proto-Celts of the Urnfield culture, and at least two waves of Celts themselves (of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures).

These ingredients all mixed together in various ways, to form Hispano-Celts, Iberian domination with Celtic cultural traces, Celtiberians, and pre-Celtic Indo-European groups.

The last wave of Celts, of the La Tène culture, are most likely to have arrived in part by boat, following the coast of Gaul southwards through the Bay of Biscay to reach Iberia's northern coast. Some Celtic or Celt-dominated groups survived the post-Roman Germanic occupation of Iberia by the Suevi, Vandali, and Visigoths. That domination lasted for about three hundred years, until the arrival of Islam in AD 711 broke apart the established political structure.

The ruins of Numantia in Iberia

(Information by Peter Kessler, Edward Dawson, and Trish Wilson, with additional information from The Ancient Celts, Barry Cunliffe, from Celtic from the West - Chapter 9, John Koch, from Los Celtiberos, Alberto J Lorrio, from Lo que sabemos de la lucha de lenguas en la Peninisula Ibérica, Llorente Antonio Tovar, from Consideraciones sobre geografia e historia de la España Antigua, Llorente Antonio Tovar, and from External Links: E-Keltoi (digital magazine provided by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center for Celtic Studies), using the following articles: The Celts in Portugal, Teresa Judice Gamito, and The Celts in Iberia - An Overview, Alberto J Lorrio & Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero, and Ethnology of the Iberian Peninsula c.200 BC, Fraga da Silva Luis, and The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars.)

c.1200 BC

A very early Phoenician presence in Iberia is confirmed through archaeology. They set up a trading post on the Tagus, the southern edge of what will later be the city of Lisbon in Portugal. In time trade is conducted with the coastal tribes around them including, after about 1000 BC, the Oestrimni.

Map of Late Bronze Age Cultures c.1200-750 BC
This map showing Late Bronze Age cultures in Europe displays the widespread expansion of the Urnfield culture and many of its splinter groups, although not the smaller groups who reached Britain, Iberia, and perhaps Scandinavia too (click or tap on map to view full sized)

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 Near East. No archaeological evidence for occupation at this date can be found but, as with the North African colony of Utica, this is probably because these posts are temporary at first, and are not permanently occupied until the ninth century BC. Archaeological finds of a similar age also highlight the presence of a colony at Almuñecar and Tarshish.

c.1000 BC

While Latins and other Italic tribes continue to migrate into Italy, West Indo-European Urnfield tribes also arrive in Iberia, probably in two waves, the first traditionally being placed around 900 BC.

More recently, however, there has been a tendency to identify the early arrivals as Indo-European or proto-Celtic tribes rather than actual Celts, and argue for a process of infiltration over an extended period, from around 1000 to 300 BC, rather than invasions.

The first arrivals appear to establish themselves in Catalonia, having probably entered via the eastern passages of the Pyrenees. Later groups (more readily identifiable as Celtic) venture west through the Pyrenees to occupy the northern coast of the peninsula, and south beyond the Ebro and Duero basins as far as the Tagus valley. It could be the strong Iberian presence in the east which prevents the Celts from continuing down the Mediterranean coast.

Central Asia Indo-European map 3000 BC
By around 3000 BC the Indo-Europeans had begun their mass migration away from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, with the bulk of them heading westwards towards the heartland of Europe (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.955 BC

The First Temple of Jerusalem is completed, apparently by craftsmen from the Phoenician city of Sidon under King Hiram of Tyre. The Old Testament records that King Solomon of Israel enters into a matrimonial alliance with Sidon, while also imposing taxes on Iberian exiles. Presumably these are Israelites who have joined the Phoenician colonies in Iberia (such as Gadir).

Although no archaeological evidence has been found to support such a presence of Israelites in this period, a community here could provide the very earliest basis for the later existence of the Sephardi Jews.

c.700 BC

At the end of the Atlantic Bronze Age the second 'wave' of Celtic migration into Iberia begins This is confusingly named, as it consists of 'first wave' Celts but also takes into account the proto-Celtic Urnfield migrations of around the beginning of the millennium which had supplied Iberia with its earliest Celtiberian influx.

This is remarkably close in time to the Celtic migrations into Italy, around a century later. Overpopulation in what is now southern Germany must be pretty bad at this time. Some elements of the Celtic populations in Iberia later migrate to Ireland, where in part at least they form a population known to the natives as the Erainn.

Not so much a sudden influx of Celts, the migration into Iberia is more a general progression of Hallstatt culture tribes arriving at the Pyrenees and forcing their way across. They venture west to occupy the northern coast of the peninsula, and south beyond the Ebro and Duero basins as far as the Tagus valley. These Hallstatt Celts generally remain undisturbed by the later La Tène culture Celts until Iberia is conquered by Rome.

The Pyrenees as seen from the national park on the French side of the border
The Pyrenees (as seen here from the national park on the French side of the border) has presented a considerable obstacle to many migrating groups and campaigning armies, but there are paths across it, as the proto-Celtic Urnfield people and their Hallstatt culture successors found

6th century BC

The Bebryces belong to the Hallstatt culture, along with the Boii, Cotini, Harii, Helisii, Helveconae, Manimi, Naharvali, Osi, and at least some elements of the later Lugii. The Bebryces are to be found around what is now central Germany or in Bohemia.

They and other Celts - the ancestors of the Autrigones - begin an expansion around this time which sees them migrate south-westwards, towards what is now southern France, the Pyrenees, and into Iberia. As they are primarily cattle herders, they take their herds with them, greatly supplementing their diet with milk, fatty cheese, and beef.

Once in Iberia, they settle around the headwaters of the Duero, Tagus, Guadiana, and Turia rivers, all along what is now the western Spanish border with Portugal. Fragments of the tribe are probably left along their route as groups drop out of the migration, largely being absorbed by other Celts.

One group is large enough to survive in its own right, with its name intact, and it is this group which, in the first century BC, can be found living in the southern Narbonensis as the Berybraces. At around the same time, Greeks are beginning to interact with the Tartessians and Balearic Islands at the expense of Phoenician trading contacts.

c.540 BC

The threat from the Greeks recedes when Carthage, in alliance with Etruscan cities, backs the Phoenicians of Corsica and succeeds in excluding the Greeks from contact with colonies such as Gadir in southern Iberia.

Ruins of Gadir (Cadiz)
The surviving ruins of the Phoenician city of Gadir are few in number although some signs of them can be found, but did these pillars provide a name for the nearby 'Pillars of Heracles' (the modern Straits of Gibraltar) thanks to Hercules himself supposedly completing one of his labours here?

Almost at the same time (in 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.

FeatureCarthage exerts some controls in Iberia, but not in the way the later Roman invaders will do so. In the third century BC, Rome faces off against Carthage in the Punic Wars to decide who will dominate the Mediterranean, with Rome the victor despite copious numbers of Iberian Mercenaries being employed as some of Carthage's hardiest warriors (see feature link).

4th century BC

In this century, the latter stages of the La Tène migration into Iberia sees several tribes or splinters of Celtic tribes arriving to swell the eventual Celtiberian mix in eastern-central Spain.

Some, like the Olcades, Turmodigi, and Uraci, dominate local Iberian tribes in the form of a new ruling elite, while others settle alongside such tribes and eventually pick up secondhand Iberian influences. However, Celtic Iberia is now gradually being forced to give way to Roman Iberia.

Iberia (Roman Conquest)

Iberia is the largely sun-drenched south-western peninsula of Europe. It comprises the modern countries of Portugal and Spain, plus the principality of Andorra and Gibraltar. The peninsula has experienced conquest and re-conquest, and centuries of struggle. This process entered the historical record in the first millennium BC, during the Castro culture period. Celtic Iberia - which was anything but entirely Celtic - began to be dominated by Carthage from the sixth and fifth centuries BC.

The Carthaginians, though, never conquered the entire peninsula, or even much of it. And then their dominance was ended when power in the Mediterranean switched to Rome following the two Punic Wars. The Latin-speaking Romans had already come to dominate much of the Italian peninsula and its general population of Italic-speaking peoples.

Romans were related to other Italics through their shared Indo-European heritage, but it was Latin speech which eventually became the common language throughout Italy. In Iberia the 'kw' sound (such as 'qu') was the same as in Latin, making the transition here very easy after Rome's conquest. Thanks to this, even today the Portuguese and Spanish languages are very similar to Italian and their mutual mother, Latin, with all of them being based on, or related closely to, the Q-Celtic of the Hallstatt culture.

In France (ancient Gaul) the old tongue altered more thanks to Germanic influence - even prior to Germanic conquest of Gaul in the fourth to sixth centuries AD. The result was that the Gaulish version of Latin was rather strange-sounding thanks to this and to the P-Celtic of the La Tène culture). Naturally not all linguists accept this version of the situation, but it remains popular while also making very good sense.

The ruins of Numantia in Iberia

(Information by Peter Kessler and Trish Wilson, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), and from External Links: Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), and The Mesolithic of Iberia (Encyclopaedia.com), and The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and First modern human settlement recorded in the Iberian hinterland (Scientific Reports), and Celtiberia.net (in Spanish), and Gran Enciclopedia Aragonesa (in Spanish), and A misty history of Roman Portugal (The Portugal News), and Euskomedia (in Spanish).)

231 - 225 BC

Rome has been informed of a forthcoming war with the Boii and Insubres tribes of northern Italy, so it hurries to assemble the legions. Even its ongoing conflict with the Carthaginians takes second place, and a treaty is hurriedly agreed with Hasdrubaal, commander in Iberia, which virtually confirms Carthaginian dominance there.

Gauls on expedition
An idealised illustration of Gauls on an expedition, from A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume I by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

221 - 219 BC

Hannibal assumes command and spends two years consolidating Carthage's conquest of Iberia south of the Ebro. The Carpetani are amongst the first to be attacked by them. Rome perceives this as a threat and makes an alliance with the Edetani city of Saguntum (near modern Valencia), south of the Ebro.

This is a clear violation of Hasdrubaal's treaty so, assisted by the Turboletae, 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. Hannibal benefits from assistance which is provided by Iberian Mercenaries.

181 - 179 BC

The Celtiberian wars between these dates comprise two serious phases of fighting. The First Celtiberian War sees the Celtiberian tribes (principally the Arevaci, Belli, Lusones, Pelondones, and Titti) push back against the new and somewhat aggressive Roman presence in formerly-Carthaginian territories at the conclusion of the Second Punic War. Rome wins the conflict and draws up treaties with several tribes in the region.

154 - 151 BC

The Second Celtiberian War occurs when Rome declares war on the Belli for building a circuit of walls around their town of Segeda. The Arevaci and Titti join the Belli to win a few initial victories, but Consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus delivers Rome's final victory.

Map of Iberian Tribes 300 BC
The Iberian peninsula prior to the Carthaginian invasion and partial conquest was a melange of different tribal influences (click or tap on map to view full sized)

154 - 133 BC

The Numantine War is the final major conflict in the Celtiberian Wars. It is triggered in 154 BC when the Celtiberians of Numantia revolt against Roman domination. The Lusitanian War takes place alongside it (155-139 BC).

A lull occurs between 151-143 BC before the Numantine War flares up again. The Arevaci are the principle participants but in the end it is largely a case of unified Celtiberians against Romans, both being helped along by large numbers of Iberian Mercenaries.

In 137 BC when a combined Cantabri-Vaccaei contingent is on its way to counter a siege of Numantia (primarily the home of the Pelondones), such is the panic in the Roman lines that the commander, Consul Gaius Hostilius Mancinus, is forced to surrender on humiliating terms.

However, the final, now-hopeless siege of Numantia sees many of the Celtiberian defenders commit suicide rather than surrender. Soon afterwards, in 123 BC, the Balearic Islands are similarly subdued.

105 - 101 BC

The Cimbri and Teutones have ventured so far south into Gaul by this time that they break into Italy, coming up against the Roman republic. The resultant Cimbric War sees initial Teuton and Cimbri success against tribes which are allied to Rome, and a huge Roman army is destroyed at the Battle of Arausio in 105 BC.

Consul Gaius Marius rebuilds the Roman forces, also employing numbers of Iberian Mercenaries, while the Cimbri raid into Iberia. In 102 BC the weakened Teutones are defeated and enslaved. The Cimbri are similarly destroyed, at the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC (potentially the home of the Libici Gauls).

The Teutones wandering in Gaul
An illustration depicting the Teutones wandering in Gaul, part of a large-scale migration from modern Denmark into northern Italy in the second century BC

1st century BC

The Lobetani may have escaped integration into the collection of Celtiberians who lie to their immediate north. Instead, at the beginning of the first century BC, they are absorbed by their Edetani neighbours, and are subsequently Romanised by the wider sweep of Latin civilisation.

80 - 72 BC

The Sertorian War (80-72 BC) in Hispania causes the Mediterranean Gauls to be subjected to troop levies and forced requisitions in order to support the military efforts of Metellus Pius, Pompeius, and other Roman commanders against the rebels.

In Iberia the Berones and Autrigones oppose Quintus Sertorius until he is driven out of Iberia. Celtiberian tribes also take part, such as the Arevaci, Lusones, and Pelondones.

However, some Celtic La Tène polities which include, remarkably, the Helvii, support Sertorius and they pay the price for their support after his assassination. The Helvii and Volcae Arecomisci are forced to cede a portion of their territory to the Greek city state of Messalina. Caesar mentions this land forfeiture but does not provide any details of the Helvii actions against Rome.

Carpetani warriors
This artist's impression depicts a selection of Carpetani warriors in various designs of armour and costume, some bearing influences which are Carthaginian or Roman

56 BC

When war flares up again in La Tène territory (modern France), triggered by Publius Licinius Crassus and the Seventh Legion in the territory of the Andes, Caesar has to turn back from his journey to Illyrium to handle the problem.

Crassus is sent to Aquitania to subdue the tribes there and prevent an all-out war against stretched Roman troops. Subduing the Petrocorii along the way, he recruits auxiliaries from the Gaulish regions of Tolosa, Carcaso, and Narbo (which includes the tribes of the Bebryces, Sordones, and Volcae) before entering the territory of the Sotiates.

That tribe has gathered together a large force which attacks the Romans in a drawn-out and vigorously-contested engagement. The Romans are only just victorious, having outlasted their hot-headed Celtic opponents in terms of stamina.

The tribe's oppidum is besieged and they eventually surrender, despite an attempt by their king, Adcantuannus, to lead his personal retinue into a death or glory attack and other Celts undermining the siege towers (thanks to the presence of copper in the region these Celts and their Aquitani neighbours are expert miners).

River Garonne in France
The Garonne in south-western France provided a defining line between the lands of the Gauls to the north and those of the Aquitani to the south, although by the first century BC this definition had blurred somewhat

Crassus marches into the territories of the Vocates and Tarusates. They prove to be a rather more tricky opponent. The campaign against the Sotiates has given them time to raise troops from northern Iberia, many of which had fought with Quintus Sertorius, the rebellious governor of Hispania who defied Rome for a decade, and they have learned a great deal from that experience.

They outnumber Crassus perhaps by ten-to-one and hold a very strong position which prevents him from gathering supplies for his men. The only option (aside from an unthinkable retreat) is to engage them in battle, despite the odds.

Pinning them down at the front, he sends cavalry around to their rear to scout out any weakness. Their entirely unguarded rear is attacked and, with Romans pressing from two sides, the Aquitani are forced to surrender with heavy casualties.

When news of this defeat spreads, the majority of the tribes of Aquitania surrender to Crassus, including the Ausci, Bigerriones, Cocosates, Elusates, Garites, Garumni, Preciani, Suburates, Tarbelli, Tarusates, and 'Vocasates'. With this action, southern Gaul and Aquitania have been brought under Roman domination, and the history of its population of Celts is tied to that of the Roman empire.

Midi du Bigorre in the French region of Aquitania
The territory into which the Garites had settled was typical of the Aquitani region, which was made up mostly of rugged foothills of the kind that border peoples normally use to survive invasions by later arrivals - the Welsh and early Scots held onto similar territory in Britain to enable them to survive the Anglo-Saxon invasion

29 - 19 BC

In the matter of the Cantabrian Wars, the last onslaught between the Iberian Celts of the north-west (principally the Astures and Cantabri) and the Roman forces which are headed by Augustus, the Vascones remain neutral. In 27 BC, Augustus creates the new province of Hispania Citerior Tarraconense, with a capital at Tarraco (Tarragona), into which the territory of the Vascones is incorporated. Rome now fully controls Iberia.

Roman Iberia
Incorporating Baetica, Hispania Citerior, Hispania Ulterior, Lusitania, & Tarraconensis

Europe's south-western corner is formed by the peninsula of Iberia. This comprises the modern countries of Portugal and Spain, plus the principality of Andorra and Gibraltar. The peninsula has a history which is filled with conquest and re-conquest, and centuries of struggle. During the first millennium BC the Castro culture dominated here, while Celtic Iberia - which was anything but entirely Celtic - was formed through the process of several migratory waves entering the peninsula, mainly via the Pyrenees.

Iberia began to be dominated by Carthage from the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The Carthaginians, though, never conquered the entire peninsula, or even much of it. And then their dominance was ended when power in the Mediterranean switched to Rome following the two Punic Wars. Roman Conquest of Iberia soon followed.

The Latin-speaking Romans had already come to dominate much of the Italian peninsula and its general population of Italic-speaking peoples. It was Latin speech which eventually became the common language there. In Iberia the 'kw' sound (such as 'qu') was the same as in Latin, making the transition here very easy after Rome's conquest. Thanks to this, even today the Portuguese and Spanish languages are very similar to Italian and their mutual mother, Latin, with all of them being based on, or being closely related to, the Q-Celtic of the Hallstatt culture.

When the Romans took the Iberian peninsula from the Carthaginians and - eventually - managed to subdue its many and varied tribes, they divided it into two provinces. These were Hispania Ulterior (present day Andalusia, Extremadura, southern León, and most of modern Portugal), and Hispania Citerior, or Tarraconensis (all of today's northern, eastern, and south-central Spain, plus the Balearic Islands). Under Augustus (27 BC to AD 14), Hispania Ulterior was further divided into Lusitania (Portugal and part of western Spain) and Baetica (Andalusia and southern Extremadura).

Hispania was significantly Romanised throughout the imperial period, coming to be one of the most important territories in the empire. Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Theodosius were all born there, as were the philosopher Séneca, the poet Marcial, and the public speaker, Quintiliano. All of the free people of Hispania were granted Roman citizen status in the third century AD.

Rome's colosseum

(Information by Peter Kessler and Trish Wilson, with additional information from the BBC series, Mary Beard's Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit, presented by Mary Beard and first screened between 27 April-18 May 2016, from the Notitia Dignitatum, from Encyclopaedia of the Roman Empire, Matthew Bunson (1994), and from External Links: Celtiberia.net (in Spanish), and Gran Enciclopedia Aragonesa (in Spanish), and A misty history of Roman Portugal (The Portugal News), and Euskomedia (in Spanish), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Roman Military Research Society, and Rome (articles from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th Edition (1875) and 10th Edition (1902)).)

c.350 - 383

FeatureLater to be General Magnus Clemens Maximus, this important Roman figure is born on the Iberian peninsula in the mid-fourth century. His family run a household with some standing, although the details of his origins are a little confused (see feature link).

In AD 383 he takes advantage of the growing contempt for the failing Emperor Gratian by revolting in Britannia. After reorganising the island's defences he invades Gaul with a large army, and is even attributed with setting up a British kingdom in Armorica.

Glomel in Brittany
The landscape of Armorica - extremely hilly inland with a wonderful, long coastline - would have seemed very familiar to the Britons who began to settle here from the late fourth century onwards (Glomel in the modern Côtes-d'Armor département is shown here)

406 - 409

By now the Franks are settled on the west bank of the Rhine in minor 'kingdoms' which cover areas of north-eastern Gaul, along with some groups of Suevi. Now, in 406, the bulk of the Suevi peoples cross the Rhine at Moguntiacum (Mainz) in association with the Vandali and Alani.

After spending two years ravaging Gaul and migrating southwards into Aquitania, all three tribes are pushed out by the Visigoths and cross the Pyrenees to settle in Roman Iberia by 409.

417 - 418

During its last days the Western Roman empire allows the Visigoths to settle in southern Gaul thanks to a treaty which is signed in 418. The Visigoth leader, Theodoric, founds a kingdom of his peoples which covers much of southern Gaul and extends into the Iberian peninsula.

426

The Suevi settle in north-western Iberia. With the Visigoths becoming more powerful in southern Gaul and northern Iberia, the weakened Alani merge with the Asding Vandali, and migrate farther south, leaving at least some of their people behind in Gaul.

Santa Tegra
The Suevi found themselves in a rocky landscape in Gallaecia, with settlements made up of Celtic stone houses like this example from Santa Tegra near the Portuguese border

429

Under pressure from the newly settled Visigoths, the Vandali and Alani move south from Iberia to invade the Roman diocese of Africa, taking the cities of Carthage and Utica. An independent autocracy is formed in modern Tunisia and north-eastern Algeria.

439 - 446

Suevi raids are ravaging the eastern and southern provinces of Iberia to such an extent that Rome is deprived of vital income in the form of tax revenue. Between 439-441 it dries up completely, so the magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, sends first Asturius in 442 and then Merobaudes in 443 to handle the problem.

They concentrate on defeating the Bagaudae (peasant insurgents or brigands who are roaming the land), in order to secure Roman control of Tarraconensis. In 446 Vitus, the magister utriusque militiae, is sent to Iberia to put a halt to the raiding, leading a combined Romano-Visigothic force into the province of Carthaginiensis and Baetica.

When his unruly force meets the Suevi in battle, it is routed. The defeat confirms Suevian control of Lusitania and Baetica and the permanent loss of the bulk of Hispanic revenues to Rome.

Aëtius
The figure on the right is thought to be Aëtius, although there is some doubt, and the possibility exists that the sarcophagus on which this relief sits could even have been built half a century before this period

456

In the past seven years, Rechiar of the Suevi has been responsible for a large number of raids into the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, with tacit approval by the Visigoths. Now the Visigoth king, Theodoric II, changes his policy and turns on the Suevi.

He leads a large army which is bolstered by Burgundians under Gundioc and Chilperic, crossing the Pyrenees and defeating Rechiar at a site which is close to the modern town of Astorga in north-western Iberia.

585

Andeca's usurpation of the Suebian throne gives Leuvigild, the Visigoth king, just the pretext he needs for an invasion of north-western Iberia. Andeca is defeated in battle and is quickly replaced by Amalaric, as the Suevi face disaster.

Leuvigild's Visigoth invasion of the kingdom remains unstoppable and Amalaric makes his own attempt to bring it to a halt. He is defeated before he can be formally installed as king of the Suevi.

With his defeat, the Suevi kingdom falls to the Visigoth kingdom and is incorporated as its sixth province. Despite being a conquered population, the Suevi are generally left in peace in Gallaecia, and they eventually blend into the general population of Iberia.

Map of the Visigoth & Suevi kingdoms in AD 470
In AD 469/470 the Visigoths expanded their kingdom to its largest extent, reaching Nantes in the north and Cadiz in the south, but it was not to last - with the accession of Clovis of the Salian Franks, the Visigoths had found an opponent who would wrest Gaul away from their control in stages (click or tap on map to view full sized)

591

Under Gennadius the prefecture of Africa becomes an exarchate (often, but not permanently it seems. In fact the title may be more of a personal one than a specific office). The exarch in Africa is the direct military and civil representative of the Eastern Roman emperor, and as such he wields considerable power over the entire western half of the North African coast, the islands, and Iberia.

711 - 714

Ceuta, and the Pillars of Hercules, which until very recently had fallen under the control of the Eastern Roman empire via Carthage, are apparently turned over to the Islamic empire by 'Count Julian', as the empire prepares its invasion of Visigothic Iberia.

The kingdom is overrun by the Umayyad invasion of the same year, at the battles of Jerez de la Frontera and Ecija. Cordova is captured (711), as is Seville and Toledo (712). The Battle of Segoyuela sees Saragossa captured (in 713, capital of the Vascones), and Valencia falls (714). Much of the peninsula's population now comes under the sway of Umayyad Iberia.

Arabic soldiers
The Arab empire conquered Eastern Roman Carthage through a series of campaigns over the space of half a century, with Roman control over the region gradually weakening during a series of military defeats

 
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