• J. Glenn Bauer

The Bastetani of ancient Iberia

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Sons of Iberia includes many of the tribes that existed at the time of the war between Carthage and Rome and the main character is of the Bastetani tribe. Their ancestral territory was in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula in the region of today’s Almería and mountainous Granada regions.

Spain has some of the oldest known cave painting in Europe

The little we know of them is by way of ancient historians who wrote of the 2nd Punic War. These accounts describe the Bastetani as a strong and influential tribe.

Their capital was probably the city known as Basti by the Romans, which corresponds to present-day Baza. The Lady of Baza, a famous Bastetani sculpture, was recovered from the necropolis of Basti in 1971.

For many centuries, the Bastetani enjoyed trade with visiting Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian merchants arriving in galleys from across the Mediterranean. In time, Greek settlements were established and the newcomers intermingled with the Bastetani and other tribes, especially along the east coast.

When Hamilcar Barca of Carthage began stamping Carthaginian authority on the Bastetani and neighbouring Turdetani and Oretani tribes, they resisted until Hamilcar was killed and Hasdrubal the Fair took command and negotiated a peace. The Bastetani were thereafter nominally ruled by the Barca regime. Hasdrubal the Fair renamed the Bastetani coastal town of Mastia, Qart Hadasht meaning New Carthage in 228 BC and over the next two decades it flourished until it was captured by the Romans in 209 BC.

This is a little of the background to the Bastetani and their relationship with the Barcas of Carthage. It was a source of wealth for those Bastetani that could adapt; the merchants, the nobles and the city dwellers who grew rich on trade from North Africa. Few people though, are comfortable being ruled by people alien to them though and in Iberia, this resentment led to periodic rebellions, more notably inland where the influence of Carthaginian wealth was diluted and the Bastetani clans remained true to their own kind.

When Hannibal Barca took his army to Italia to neutralize Rome and free the Italians, the war effort would undoubtedly have been felt keenly by the Bastetani. Food and provisions would have been bought up by the Barca administrators, men and women levied to bolster the ranks of the army and trade affected by the Roman sea superiority.

This is the world as seen by Caros of the Bastetani in Sons of Iberia and the conditions that would test his resolve and loyalties.

Author J. Glenn Bauer

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