The famous Romans and Carthaginians Festival takes place in Cartagena in the province of Murcia in southern Spain, in the last two weeks of September. This colourful pageant harks back to the days of the great Carthaginian general, Hannibal, and the Punic wars.
Cartagena was already in existence when in about 223 BC, Hamilcar colonised it as an outpost of the great city of Carthage, calling it Qart-Hadasht. His son Hasdrubal improved the city, building palaces and temples and surrounding it with high walls. Cartagena became an important economic centre for trade along the Mediterranean and North African coasts. Silver mines in the hills behind the city helped to fund the Carthaginian fleet and the wars to come.
Hannibal’s Epic Voyage
In 221 BC, Hasdrubal was murdered by a slave and Hannibal became leader. He married Himilce, an Iberian princess and vowed to go to war against the Romans. In 218 BC, Hannibal undertook his famous journey across the Alps with 32,000 infantrymen, 8,000 horsemen and 37 elephants. He caused havoc amongst several Roman Legions but for some reason, much debated by historians, decided not to press his advantage and move on to Rome. He spent nearly 19 years fighting his Italian campaigns.
Romans Attack Cartagena
Eventually, the Romans decided to fight back and sent Publius Cornelius Scipio to attack Cartagena. The Romans attacked by land and water at the same time, bombarding the walls of the city and attacking the Carthaginian fleet. At this time, the city had a large lake inland and it was from there that the Romans launched their water-borne attack. The city was caught unawares with the main part of the Carthaginian army on manoeuvres some days away. The battle was fierce and bloody but within forty eight hours, the city was in Roman hands.
Festival in Which the Whole City Takes Part
The annual festival recreates various parts of this story, including the wedding of Hannibal and Himilce and Hannibal’s long journey as well as the battle between the Romans and Carthaginians. Each day there are different parades of either the Roman side or the Carthaginian side and special camps are set up. More than 5,000 people from the city of Cartagena take part in the festival and consider it a great honour. The Festival first began in 1990 and each year it is more spectacular than the last, with people travelling from miles around to enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the mock battles and relive a piece of history more than 2,200 years old.
The grand finale is a huge fireworks display on the final day. It is truly a fiesta not to be missed and an excellent reason to visit the fascinating city of Cartagena in Spain.