Roman Hispania–Portugal and Spain During the Age of Rome: A Five-Part Course with Ian Sumpter - Context Travel

Roman Hispania–Portugal and Spain During the Age of Rome: A Five-Part Course with Ian Sumpter


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This five-part course will examine the history of Roman Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal) tracing its history from the early Celtic migrations to the chaotic days of the second Punic war, before exploring the many fascinating facets of over 600 years of Roman influence.

Separated from Africa by a mere 8 miles, the Iberian Peninsula has proved an irresistible temptation for wave after wave of colonizing forces. Long before the Birth of Rome, Portugal and Spain had been settled by tribes from the East, starting with the Celts, followed by Phoenicians, Greeks, Africans, and Carthaginians who would all look to this rich and fertile land for trade and prosperity.

It was the domination of Iberia by Rome’s greatest enemy, the Carthaginians, that first piqued Rome’s interest in the area. In 218 BC, during the second Punic war Roman troops would first land Spain. It would take another 200 arduous years until Caesar Augustus eventually subdued all of the peninsulae including modern Portugal.


Over 600 years of Roman domination would follow and Iberia would prove to be one of the most important Roman provinces both culturally and economically. The proving grounds of Scipio Africanus, and Julius Caesar, the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, as well as the great stoic philosopher Seneca. Add on to this the vast abundance of wine, olive oil, Silver, tin, and copper and it is easy to understand the significance of Roman Hispania to the Roman Empire.

Led by an expert in Roman Archaeology and Iberian history, Ian Sumpter, this course will focus on the history of the Roman province of Hispania. We will visit the major archaeological sites of the area, and delve deep into the history of its land and people. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with increased comprehension of the Roman history of Spain and Portugal as well as key sites like Merida, Conimbriga, Cadiz, Cartegna, Evora and many more. Covering everything from cuisine, to language, traditions, and all that sits in between.

 

Lecture 1: Celtic, Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian Colonists

In the first lecture, we will explore the earliest history of Spain and Portugal which will lay the foundations for our understanding of how and why the Iberian Peninsula would become one of the most important and influential provinces of the Roman Empire.

In 2019 one hundred and two million tourists visited Spain and Portugal, making the Iberian Peninsula by far the most popular tourist destination in all of Europe. In 1000 BC the situation was no different, Iberia was the place to be - the Celts had crossed the Pyrenees and over the course of the following centuries they spread throughout the peninsula bringing with them their most important development, iron.

By sea, the Phoenicians and Greeks followed. They brought coinage, and trade with the rest of the Mediterranean Basin. The Greeks introduced the olive tree to Iberia, forever changing the landscape of this vast and fertile land. Then, just as Phoenician and Greek influence began to wane the influence of Carthage would rise.

 

Lecture 2: The Second Punic War

In the second lecture, we will track the course of the second Punic War, a war that for many historians marks the end of the golden age of the Roman Republic and the end of the glorious age of Roman virtue.

In 218 BC, a general stood at the foothills of the Alps. Behind him came 30,000 soldiers, 37 elephants, and 15,000 horses. What followed was one of the most ambitious military attacks in history, Hannibal's infamous crossing of the Alps. Hannibal inflicted one humiliating defeat after another upon the Romans, at Trebia, at Lake Trasimeno, and most notoriously at Cannae, where 65,000 Romans perished in a single day.

When the Roman Senate sought to raise another army against the Carthaginians in 211 BC few volunteered - to lead an army against Hannibal at that time was seen as a suicide mission. One brave Roman, Gaius Publius Cornelius - known to us later as “Africanus”, stepped forward and his conquest of Carthago Nova, modern-day Cartagena, in Spain, was a crucial turning point in the Punic War.

Lecture 3: The Long Road to Conquest

Our third lecture will unravel the complex years that followed the Second Punic War and Iberia’s full assimilation into the Roman Empire.


It took the Romans a further two hundred years to fully subdue the Iberian Peninsula. During that time they faced challenges from the great Lusitanian general Viriathus; an uprising and rebellion from Quintis Sertorius, who would battle against Pompey the Great; as well as the ambitions of a young Praetor by the name of Julius Caesar. The conquest was only complete after a brutal ten-year war against the Cantabrians and Asturians, during which time Emperor Augustus moved his campaign headquarters to Segisama (modern Sasamon) in 26 BC and took up residence in order to oversee this vital war himself.

Lecture 4: Roman Spain


In the fourth lecture, we will explore the cultural impact of Rome and Hispania on each other and the lasting influence of Rome on Spain today.

In the years that followed the conquest of Iberia, the provinces flourished. The introduction of Roman infrastructure and technology ushered in a new and prosperous era in the region. Towering aqueducts, mesmerizing theatres, luxurious bathhouses were all among the wonders brought to Spain by the Romans and which still litter the landscape today.

Hispania became a Romanized province, however the cultural influence and exchange was not a one-way affair, and the province played a role in the culture and history of Rome too. Not only were the emperors Trajan and Hadrian born in the province but the great stoic philosopher and tutor to Emperor Nero, Seneca, also emerged from the province in the halcyon days of the 1st Century AD.


 


Lecture 5: Roman Portugal



In the final lecture, we will explore the major sites, events, and history of Roman Portugal.

The province of Lusitania (roughly equating to modern Portugal south of the river Douro) was resistant to Roman rule. The Lusitani were to prove a constantly rebellious tribe, by supporting the rebel Roman general Sertorius in his uprising, and then requiring further subjugation by Gais Marius and a young Julius Caesar in 61BC. It was not until the reign of Augustus that the Lusitani were finally subdued. What followed was the Romanization of many great towns, such as Portus Cale (modern Porto), Olisipo (modern Lisbon), Conimbriga, and the gloriously preserved capital Augusta Emerita (modern-day Merida).

Born in Liverpool in the North of England, Ian was raised around the historic docks of the city where a love of history was born. He went on to study ‘Classical, Ancient Mediterranean, and Near Eastern Archaeology’. A period of study that saw him concentrate on urbanization in the Ancient world. He has worked as an archaeologist across Italy (including four years at Pompeii) and across numerous Roman sites in the UK and Europe.  Ian has spent 14 years working as a tour guide in Rome before the lure of the sea and sunshine brought him to Lisbon where he continues to research the urban landscape and the countries Roman past

 

How does it work?

This is a five-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $175 for five lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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