The Iberian Peninsula represents the westernmost point of the Phoenician-Punic expansion in the Mediterranean.
Despite its position at the extreme borders, both classical historians and archaeological remains show that this territory has been chosen as one of the first destinations of Phoenician Diaspora towards the West and a center of great strategic interest for the political aspirations of Carthage in the 4th-5th century BC.
The Phoenician colonization in Spain responds to the fundamental purpose of ensuring the control of the metal trade (gold, tin and above all silver) that the Phoenicians bought in this region and then resold in the East.
Among the major Phoenicians cities in Spain are:
– Gadir, the modern Cadiz, founded by settlers from Tiro around 1100 BC in a privileged place from the economic, strategic and naval point of view, near the fertile valley of Guadalquivir, considered the main communication artery in southern Spain. Its sphere of economic and cultural influence extended to Morocco Atlantic (Lixus and Mogador) to the Oranese (Rochgoun) and Ibiza.
– The coastline of the Costa del Sol, between the provinces of Malaga, Granada and Almeria, preserves a huge concentration of Phoenician settlements, organized in small port cities, dating from 750 to 550 BC, which have in common the location on a little high promontory, at the mouth of the main rivers in the area (Toscanos, Morro de Mezquitilla, Charreras), on a peninsula overlooking a floodplain (Almuñécar), or on an islet in the middle of an estuary like Cerro del Villar del Guadalhorce. This position gave the colonies a twofold strategic advantage: on the one hand, it provided excellent port conditions, because the ships could be moored in places sheltered and protected by winds and currents; on the other hand, it guaranteed the settlers easy exploitation of alluvial soils near the river, which are still very fertile soils today.
– The island of Ibiza was of great strategic importance, compulsory stopover on the navigation routes through the western Mediterranean. In the second half of the 7th century BC, groups of Phoenicians, coming from the Gadir area, settled on the southern coast of the island. The settlement coincides with the moment of greater economic prosperity of the Phoenician colonies of Andalusia, around 630 B.C ., they tried to expand their business sphere, moving towards the Gulf of Lyon, looking for tin and other raw materials. Toward the middle of the 6th century B.C, . this trading circuit was interrupted by the crisis of the Spanish Phoenician colonies and shortly after, the island comes into the orbit of Carthage’s political influence. The most famous evidences of the Punic period are the vast necropolis of Puig d ‘es Molins and the two great sanctuaries of Isla Plana and the Es Cuyram Cave.
Subsequently, under the Carthaginian influence, in Spain other cities were put into evidence, among them Cartagena and Sagunto. Finally we mention Malaka, today’s Malaga, a trading centre of great importance.