The Iberian Peninsula during prehistoric times
Prehistory is the stage that chronologically corresponds to the origins of humanity, the one of which we are not aware about the existence of documents or written records, since writing had not yet been invented. It is only through archaeological excavations that we know this age. Prehistory has been divided into two great periods according to the materials found in the archaeological remains: whether they are made of stone or metal.
The oldest stage corresponds to the Stone Age : the remains found are made of stone. It is divided into the Paleolithic in its oldest stage and the Neolithic in the final:
- The Paleolithic (stones carved with blows) can be classified in:
- And the Neolithic, where there are remains of polished and scratched stones.
The most modern stage corresponds to the Metal Age, and according to the material used it is classified as:
The Paleolithic in the Iberian Peninsula
a) Lower Paleolithic: 1,000,000 BC — 100,000 BC
- Predation was practiced. Gathering of fruits and hunting;
- They cut the stones for the two bands, bifaces;
- Most important site in the Iberian Peninsula: Atapuerca (Homo antecessor).
b) Middle Paleolithic: 100,000 BC — 35,000 BC
- Practice of funeral rites. More evolved human groups;
- Specialized stone utensils (culture of the Mousterian);
- Most important site on the peninsula: Abric Romaní de Capellades (Neanderthal Man).
c) Upper Paleolithic: 35,000 BC — 10,000 BC
- The first cave paintings appear. Naturalistic murals.
- Utensils made of flint, bones and horns.
- Most important site on the peninsula: Altamira (Homo Sapiens).
It’s a time of transition between 10,000 B.C. and 5,000 B.C. It corresponds to the Holocene period in which humans continue to maintain the economic strategies of the Paleolithic societies of hunter-gatherers, before the changes towards Neolithic economic production (agriculture and livestock). Therefore, the Epipaleolithic began with the end of the glaciations, marking the end of the Paleolithic about 10,000 years ago and extends until the advent of agriculture. However, important variations in the use of the term exist, according to different interpretative currents.
- It covers the period between 5,000 BC and 3,000 BC;
- The most important change in humanity takes place: the self-production of food, agriculture appears;
- Sedentary population;
- Division of labour;
- Polished utensils emerge;
- Megalithic (funerary) art: menhirs, dolmens, tholos;
- New cave paintings: “Levantine school”, drawing symbols.
The Chalcolithic or Copper Age
- Comprises years 3,000 BC to 2,000 BC;
- Expensive copper utensils, only used by rich people;
- Social stratification;
- The bell-shaped vessel appears.
The Bronze Age
- Bronze utensils;
- Mining exploitation.
The Urnfield culture
- The Urnfield culture dates back to the end of the Bronze Age period;
- Established in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula, especially in Cantabria, around 1,200 BC and up to 800 BC;
- They use the technique of human incineration.
The Iron Age. The Protohistory
Indo-European cultures colonized the European continent. These cultures came from the region of Hindustan (India). The Iberian Peninsula suffered the migratory waves coming from the north and centre of Europe.
- They settled on the Iberian Peninsula between the 8th and 4th centuries BC;
- They came from the city of Tir (today Lebanon).
- Their main activity was trade. This made much progress to the peoples of the peninsula where they settled;
- They established farms (colonies) in Gades (Cadiz), Ebusus (Ibiza) and other cities in the south-west of the Peninsula.
- With them came the currency and the alphabet.
- They settled on the peninsula between the 7th and 2nd centuries BC;
- They were a people of agricultural, livestock and merchant nature;
- The Greeks who arrived in Massalia (Marseille) later founded Rhode (Roses) and Emporion (Empúries) in 600 BC.
- They are found on the Peninsula between the 7th and 3rd century BC;
- They are situated along the Guadalquivir, although the exact location is unknown;
- They established important trade networks of tin between the Phoenicians of Tyre and the Bretons (route through Cantabrian Sea);
- They used to be a monarchy;
- When the city of Tir was destroyed, the Tartessos lost the business they had with them, and they got impoverished.
- They are found on the Iberian Peninsula between the 5th and 3rd century BC.
- They will replace the Phoenicians in the southern Mediterranean basin;
- They seized control of the ancient Phoenician colonies;
- They used the technique of salting fish;
- The Romans knew them as the Punics.
- Indigenous people who lived on the Mediterranean coast along with the Greeks and Phoenicians. Their culture was based on bronze;
- Each village was independent. However, all the villages have common features:
- All villages were built on hills. The villages had walls;
- They were farmers and ranchers;
- They had a common religion;
- They used swords called falcata;
- The Iberians never broke the oaths;
- They had writing, although it has not been possible to decipher;
- They had a common art. Sculptures that served as offerings to the gods predominated. The most important is the “Lady of Elche;”
- They practised cults, hunting and livestock. In part, they were nomads. They were warriors at some stage;
- The most important settlements were:
- They arrived in the year 220 BC in the Iberian Peninsula, when this territory was inhabited by the following peoples:
- In the north-east the Celts;
- In the Mediterranean the Iberians, who coexisted with Phoenicians and Greeks;
- And in the Meseta the Celtiberians.
The Ancient Age in the Iberian Peninsula. Roman Hispania
The Ancient Age in the Iberian Peninsula. Roman Hispania
In 400 BC there were two dominant powers in the Mediterranean: Carthage and Rome. Rivalry between the two led to war: the First Punic War (264-241 BC). The Carthaginians wanted domination of the islands of Corsica and Sicily. Rome prevailed.
Later the problem arose for the control of the Iberian Peninsula. A treaty was signed for the partitioning of the Iberian Peninsula: the Ebro Treaty which dictated that the Ebro upward would be a territory under Roman rule, and the Ebro downward under Carthaginians.
In 218 BC followed the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). Hannibal began the definitive war against Rome. Hannibal wanted to cross the entire Iberian Peninsula passing through Roman territory, with the intention to attack Rome by land. In Rome, it was decided to send an army by sea to quickly reach the Iberian Peninsula and stop Hannibal’s army. In 218 B.C. the Romans landed at Empúries. They defeated Hannibal and forced him to return to the city of Carthage.
After the Second Punic War, the Romans decided to stay on the Peninsula, which was very attractive for its raw materials such as minerals, wheat, oil and wine crops and slave labour.
The conquest of the Peninsula
- First phase: domination of the Iberian people. Before 200 BC, the Iberian people were defeated.
- Second phase: conquest of the Meseta. It took a century and a half. Until 50 AD, the whole peninsula was not under Roman rule, due to local resistance.
- Third phase: between 20 and 50 AD Celtic domination. Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, took all the bulk of the army to Cantabria. The Basques were never subdued.
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 Roman domination, first: around 200 BC the peninsula was divided into two provinces, the east was Hispania Citerior and the south was Hispania Ulterior. In each province was installed a Pretor.
When the whole of the peninsula was conquered, Augustus declared the “pax romana” and made a new territorial division. In 19 BC he formed 3 provinces: the largest was the Tarraconensis, with capital in Tarraco. The second was the Baetica with capital in Córdoba, which later moved to Hispalis, present-day Seville. Finally, there was Lusitania, in present-day Portugal. The capital was Emerita Augusta (Mérida).
At the end of the 3rd century, Diocletian reformed the territories. He kept Lusitania. In Baetica, he added Mauritania; the Tarraconensis divided it into three: Carthaginensis, Gallaecia and Tarraconensis.
In the social aspect, 80% of the population was slave 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-ranking members of the army).
Economically, the Romans were an urban culture. They wanted the conquered territories to produce food and send it to Rome. The great pillar of industry on the peninsula was the mines. The mines were owned by the state.
In the cultural aspect the immense majority of peoples of the peninsula acquired the Latin language. 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, this changed. The Emperor was a god and offerings, monuments had to be made to him… In the 4th century the last change took place. Constantine declared Christianity as the only religion. This happened in 313.
Roman cities were divided into two groups:
- The pre-existing ones: it was normal that the cities that already existed before would continue in the same way. This is called a “stipendium.” These cities paid taxes.
- Cities built by the Romans: they were cities made by veterans of the army. They called themselves “coloniae.” They were built following the scheme of a military camp.
Every Roman city must have:
- The forum (the central place of Roman life, where public services were located);
- The circus (the place where chariot races were held);
- The amphitheatre (gladiator fights);
- The theatre (the most cultured show, poetry, dramas…);
- The thermal baths (place of social meeting. There were gymnasiums, thermal pools…).
As for the most relevant figures of Hispanic origin in the politics of the Empire, they stand out: