Elliot Fernandez

From Prehistoric Iberia to Roman Hispania

The origins of the human presence in the Iberian Peninsula began with the arrival of the first hominids 1,200,000 years ago.
Elliot Fernandez
Elliot Fernandez
He has a degree in History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2009) and a Master's in World History from Pompeu Fabra University (2011).
Post on 2022-09-26

The Prehistoric Iberia

The origins of humanity are the historical stage classically known as Prehistory, because it is a period of which there are no written documents, since writing had not been invented. Only thanks to archaeological excavations do we know this period. The prehistoric Iberia age begins with the arrival of the first hominins 1.2 million years ago and ends with the Punic Wars, when the territory enters the domains of written history.

Prehistory has been divided into two periods according to the remains found: whether they are stone or metal.

Stone remains (Paleolithic era):

Metal scraps, according to the material used, are classified into:

The Paleolithic

a) Lower Paleolithic:

b) Middle Paleolithic:

c) Upper Paleolithic:

Altamira cave. Prehistoric Iberia
Painting on the ceiling of the Altamira cave.
Source: Wikipedia.org

The Epipalaeolithic

It is a transitional period occurring between the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic during the Stone Age (years 20,000 BC and 10,000 BC). It corresponds to the period of the Holocene in which humans continue to maintain the economic strategies of Paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies, before the changes towards the production economy (agriculture and livestock) characteristic of the Neolithic.

Therefore, the Epipalaeolithic begins with the end of the glaciations, which mark the end of the paleolithic about 10,000 years ago and extends until the advent of agriculture, but there are variations in the use of the term important according to the different interpretive currents.

The Neolithic

The Chalcolithic or Copper Age

The Bronze Age

Map of the Iberian Peninsula during the Bronze Age. Prehistoric Iberia
Map of the Iberian Peninsula during the Bronze Age.
Source: Wikipedia.org

Urnfield culture (c. 1,300 BC – 750 BC)

The Iron Age Protohistory

Indo-European cultures colonized the European continent. These cultures came from the Hindustan region (India). The Iberian Peninsula will suffer waves of migration from north-central Europe.

The Phoenicians

The Greeks

The Tartessos

The Carthaginians

The Iberians

The Romans in the Iberian Peninsula. The Ancient Age in the Hispania

Romans arrived in the year 220 BC in the Iberian Peninsula, when this territory was populated by the following peoples:

The arrival of the Romans in the peninsula

In 400 BC, there were two dominant powers in the Mediterranean: Carthage and Rome. The rivalry between the two states led them to war: the First Punic War (264 – 241 BC). The Carthaginians wanted control over the islands of Corsica and Sicily. Rome prevailed.

Subsequently, the problem of control of the Iberian Peninsula arose. A treaty was signed for the Iberian Peninsula: the Ebro Treaty, which dictated that from the Ebro up would be a territory of dominion for the Romans and from the Ebro down for the Carthaginians.

In 198 BC, the Second Punic War took place (218 – 201 BC). Hannibal started the definitive war against Rome. Hannibal wanted to go up the entire Iberian Peninsula passing through Roman territory, with the intention of attacking the city of Rome by land. In Rome, it was decided to send an army by sea to reach the Iberian Peninsula and stop Hannibal's army. In 218 BC, the Romans landed in Empúries. They defeated Hannibal and forced him to cross the strait to return to Carthage.

After the Second Punic War, the Romans decided to stay in the Peninsula, very attractive for its raw materials such as minerals, wheat, oil and wine crops and slave labour.

The conquest

Roman conquest. Prehistoric Iberia
The Iberian Peninsula in the process of conquest by the Republic of Rome. Year 196 BC.


Romanization was the process of assimilation of Roman culture by the native citizens of the Iberian Peninsula. In the political aspect, in the 700 years of domination, firstly, around 200 BC, the peninsula was divided into two provinces: the east was Hispania Citerior and the south Hispania Ulterior. In each province there was the Praetor.

 Roman conquest of Hispania (220 BC–19 BC)
Timeline of the Roman conquest of Hispania (220 BC–19 BC), with Roman provincial boundaries shown
Source: Wikipedia.org

When the entire peninsula was conquered, Augustus declared the "Pax Romana" and carried out a new territorial division. In 19 BC, it formed 3 provinces: the largest was "Tarraconenses", with capital in Tarraco. The second was "Betica" with its capital in Córdoba and then "Hispalis ", today's Seville. Finally, there was "Lusitania ", in present-day Portugal. The capital was Emerita Augusta.

At the end of the third century, Diocletian reformed the territories. He kept Lusitania. To Baetica I added Mauritania and Tarraconenses, divided it into three: Cartaginensis, Galecia and Tarraconenses.

Hispania population

In the social aspect, 80% of the population were slaves and 20% plebeian and patrician. Within this upper class, there were two groups: the senatores (with the right to be members of the Senate) and the equites (high positions in the army).

In the economic aspect, the Romans were an urban culture. They wanted the conquered territories to produce food and be able to send it to Rome. The great pillar of industry in the peninsula was the mines. The mines were owned by the state.


In the cultural aspect, the vast majority of towns on the peninsula acquired the Latin language. The religion went through three phases. In the first phase they adopted the Greek, polytheistic religion. The Romans took religion as a matter of state, until 19 BC. With the Empire, that changed. The Emperor was a god and offerings and monuments had to be made to him… In the fourth century, the last change took place. Constantine declared Christianity as the only religion. This happened in the year 313.

Roman cities were divided into two groups:

In the city there had to be the forum (central place of Roman life, where public services were located). The circus (place where chariot races were held). The amphitheatre (gladiator fights were held there). The theatre (the most cultured show, poetry, dramas…). The thermal baths (social meeting place. There were gymnasiums, thermal pools…).

As for the most relevant characters of Hispanic origin, highlight: