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A Bite of History on Spain Vacation

07 Sep

(Guest Blog by Ryan King)

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Cartegena Spain’s Roman Theater

Long before Hispania became a Roman province, it was an overseas possession of Carthage. It was rich in silver and Iberian Celt mercenaries. This was where Hannibal prepared for his war on Rome and where the second climatic conflict, The Second Punic War began.

I’ve been interested in history for as long as I can remember. I still recall when I was twelve years old and I somehow ended up with a book called ‘War Through the Ages’ by the historian Lynn Montross. In those pages for the first time, I heard about the titanic wars between Rome and Carthage that lasted over a century. I learned of the brilliant genius, Hannibal, his crossing of the Alps with elephants, and his incredible battlefield victories. I also learned of a civilization that was the mightiest in the Mediterranean for several hundred years but was subsequently wiped from the face of the earth.

This time and this story have fascinated me since then. This was one reason, when I obtained my master’s degree in history, I focused on the Punic Wars period. It is also why I’ve taken every opportunity while living in Europe to visit those relevant historical locations and see them for myself. This was also, at least partially, why my family and I traveled to Spain on vacation.

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

The capital of Carthaginian Spain was Cartegena or ‘New Carthage.’ The location of this ancient city was how my wife narrowed down her hunt for a flat to accommodate the six of us. Even after Kristin broke her foot and had to be left behind, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take my fours sons to this place with so much history.

I’ve learned to moderate my expectations when visiting historical sites. It has been over two thousand years after all, yet Cartegena surprised me. First of all, the harbor itself was magnificent and is recognized as the finest natural harbor in the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians were, before everything else, seafaring Phoenicians originally from Tyre who understood trade.

The city boasts a Punic Museum with an original section of the Punic wall that encircled the city as well as a crypt with dozens of sealed remains inside. The large Roman theater is still spectacular, and you don’t want to miss the Roman baths or reconstructed Roman villa. IMG_9943

The highlight for me, however, was the magnificent palace/fortress on the giant hill overlooking the harbor and the city. This magnificent structure has stood through the centuries seeing the occupation of Romans, Celts, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, and Spaniards, yet it was originally constructed by Hasdrubal the Fair who was Hannibal’s brother-in-law. Hasdrubal was credited with making Cartegena a great city after he assumed command of Spain at the death of his father-in-law, Hannibal’s father, Hamiclar.

The fortress is well situated on a giant sheer rock, and we had to take an elevator ride to the top. As my sons and I walked along the walls it was a surreal moment knowing that Hannibal and Hasdrubal had lived in this place and walked along the same paths several millennium before. The visit was reminiscent to one over a decade ago when my wife and I visited Carthage, Tunisia. I was mesmerized.

IMG_0042How could I not contemplate my writing? How I wanted to revisit the scenes I’ve already written of my historic fictional trilogy about the Punic Wars, the rise and fall of Carthage, and the conflicts  that forced Rome to greatness.

Yet, my sons were tired and hungry and wanted to go back to the pool at our condo. So we said farewell to Cartegena, that ancient city of numerous hills with a superb harbor continuously filled with ships. We went back to the Spanish resort for Spaniards, La Manga, and said farewell to history…at least for now.

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Ryan King is the author of numerous post-apocalyptic books. He writes nonfiction under Charles R. King and enjoys teaching history to his four sons as the family treks about the world. Ryan’s first novel, Glimmer of Hope, is free for a limited time on Amazon.

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