Stone fortresses of the ancient Iberians: a chronology of a historical drama


Puich de Castellet: view of the excavations

“… a solid fortress in ruins …”
Isaiah 25: 2

Castles and fortresses. Many readers of “VO” liked the material “Castles and Ancient Settlements of Lloret”, but at the same time they drew attention to the fact that there was not much about the fortifications of the ancient Iberians in it, and this is a very interesting topic. Many wanted to know what modern science says about the Iberians and in more detail about the fortified settlements found by archaeologists in the area of ​​the town of Lloret de Mar. Well, today we fulfill their wish.


Terragona: wherever the Romans came, they erected such buildings …

The flourishing of the Iberian civilization

To begin with, there are various hypotheses as to who the Iberians are. One by one, they arrived in Spain from the Eastern Mediterranean. Another claims that, yes, they are aliens, but … from North Africa. Others consider them descendants of the local, even more ancient cultures of El Argar and Motillas. The simplest explanation is that they are also Celts and … that’s all. The Iberians settled along the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Their settlements are found in Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia and Catalonia. They also influenced the formation of the culture of people who lived in the north-central region of the Iberian Peninsula, the so-called Celtiberians. The Iberians possessed the skills of processing bronze, were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding. It is also known that later they had cities and a developed social structure. Well, they mined metal so much that they traded it with Phenicia, Greece and Carthage.


Iberian relief, Mausoleum of Pozo Moro, 6th century BC BC showing Hittite influence

Iberian culture flourished in the south and east of the Iberian Peninsula in the 6th and 3rd centuries. BC. It is known that during this time the Iberians led a sedentary lifestyle, lived in groups in settlements on the tops of the hills, which were surrounded by fortress walls, and their houses were made of stone and clay and roofs made of reed. It is interesting that the Iberians quickly mastered the processing of iron, and in pottery they knew no equal, making beautiful painted vessels, albeit completely unlike the Greek ones. And although all the Iberians belonged to the same culture, from a political point of view, their society was far from homogeneous, which is why private feuds occurred in their midst. This way of life led to the fact that the Iberians became a very warlike people, and fortifications became an integral part of all Iberian settlements!


This is how what was once the settlements of the ancient Iberians looks today. And then, the walls … of course, partially restored

The invasion of Carthage

In the III century. BC. the city of Carthage came to dominate the entire western Mediterranean and also Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula. His interests clashed with the interests of another state – Rome, and the result of their confrontation was first the First, and then the Second Punic War. The first led to the loss of Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia by Carthage, but he recouped by expanding his possessions in Spain. Obviously, this led to a clash with the locals and led to the fact that the Greek colonies of Ampurias and Roses began to seek the protection of Rome.

Stone fortresses of the ancient Iberians: a chronology of a historical drama
“Warrior from Mohente”. The figurine is kept in the Museum of Prehistoric Times of Valencia

Roman conquest of Iberia

In 218 BC. in Ampurias, the Roman troops landed, commanded by Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. The Carthaginians were defeated, driven from the peninsula and lost all meaning here. But the Romans, too, did not leave Spain. They divided the territories they occupied into two provinces, giving them the names of Near Spain and Far Spain. The Iberians were demanded to disarm, since now the Roman troops had to protect them. The Iberians responded with uprisings in 197-195. BC, but they were suppressed, and their fortified settlements, including in the area of ​​Lloret del Mar, were destroyed.

Iberia under Roman rule

It is interesting that the conquerors, although they pursued a tough tax policy, did not at all encroach on the language and culture of the Iberians, nor did they force them to change the nature of their economic activities. The Romanization process certainly took place, especially among the local nobility, but it was not violent. As a result, during the II century. before. AD the Iberians became more and more imbued with Roman culture. They ceased to be at enmity with each other, built new settlements, in particular Turo-Rodo, preserved their way of life and traditions, and began to produce even much more ceramic products, since very often they paid taxes to Rome with them.


Map of the settlement of the Iberians in Spain

Over time, the consequences of romanization began to appear. So, the Iberians began to use tiles for roofs, and not reeds, to store crops not in pits, but in large ceramic amphoras, respectively, the exchange nature of exchange was replaced by money. There was a distribution of coins with symbols and inscriptions of the Iberians, as well as writing using the Latin alphabet, while the letter itself was Iberian.

An important role in the spread of the “Roman Peace” here was the support of the Romans of local cities in Catalonia, in particular Blanes, which the Romans granted the status of a municipality.

In the first half of the 1st century. BC. the process of romanization has accelerated. The economy of the region completely merged with the economy of the Roman Empire and at the same time there was a specialization and division in the field of agriculture. In particular, hot Spain has become a place for the production of “Spanish wine”, appreciated in wine-making Italy for its taste different from local ones. The export of wine accelerated the development of the local economy, and with it the Roman influence in Spain. As a result, by the beginning of the first millennium of our era, the Iberian civilization as such practically ceased to exist, and the lands on which it once arose finally became part of the great Roman Empire.


Falcata (National Archaeological Museum, Madrid)

However, Rome also inherited something from the Iberians. So, the famous Roman sword – gladius was borrowed by them from the Iberians and at first it was called “gladius hispanicus” (that is, “Spanish sword”). The earliest and most typical type of such a sword had a length of about 75-85 cm, a blade length of about 60-65 cm, a mass of about 900-1000 g. Moreover, the blade had a characteristic sheet-like shape with a pronounced waist near the handle, and resembled precisely the pointed sheet of gladiolus …


Roman gladius 1st century AD Length 53.5 cm, maximum blade width – 7 cm. Archaeological Museum of Strasbourg


Modern replica of a gladius from Strasbourg

Known to the Spanish Iberians was such a sword as the falcata, which was generally very widespread in the Mediterranean. However, it is significant that the Romans gave it a specific name “Spanish saber” – “Machaerus Hispan”, as well as the “Spanish” name for their straight sword with a leaf-shaped blade. That is, this clearly speaks of the massive use of these two types of swords in Spain, while different types of these weapons were used in other lands.


Falcata IV century. before. n. e. (Archaeological Museum de Vilhena, Alicante)

Legends tell about the high quality of the Iberian swords of the 3rd century. BC e., which easily bent and straightened without any consequences. This indicates that hardened steel was used for their manufacture, which could spring, and not bronze or iron. Most likely, this sword originally came to the Iberians through the Greeks, but the warlike Iberians really liked it, and among them the fashion spread to wear it in a scabbard behind their backs. The Romans found this unusual, they gave this weapon their own, “local name”, and then they adopted this sword from the Iberians.

Montbarbat. Fortress at the crossroads of trade roads

In the previous article, we talked about the Iberian village of Montbarbat, located in the northwestern part of the town of Lloret de Mar. The settlement is inaccessible, as it is located on a mountain with a height of 328 m. In fact, it was a kind of watchtower of the ancient Iberians: the view from here is beautiful and can be seen far away. From here it was possible to control the ancient Hercules Road from north to south, and the path along the Tordera River from the coast inland.

They knew about the settlement for a long time, but excavations here began only in 1978. To date, an area of ​​5,673 square meters has been excavated and a 90 m section of the wall has been cleared, as well as one of the two towers found.


Reconstruction of the Iberian warrior V-IV BC e. F. Chiner. (Museum of Prehistory of Valencia)

It turned out that the settlement was surrounded by a wall on all sides, and its length was 370 m. The thickness of the wall was 1.2–1.5 m. It was made of hewn stones, tightly fitted to each other and laid in two rows. The space between them is filled with pebbles mixed with earth. There is no foundation. The walls were laid directly on the stone foundation. The thickness of the walls of the tower is the same. Its area inside is 14.85 square meters. It is interesting that the exit from it did not lead to the street, but to a living room with a hearth. They also managed to unearth seven houses and a water reservoir. We also found workshops of artisans, which also had water tanks, drain and sewerage. Obviously, something perishable was being processed here.


Exterior of the Iberian Warrior (Municipal Archaeological Museum in Alcoy, Valencia)

Judging by the finds, they lived here from the second quarter of the 4th to the beginning of the 3rd century. BC. These are, first of all, shards of Attic black-glazed ceramics, which were later replaced by ceramics from the Greek colony of Roses. Interestingly, the population left Montbarat gradually. There are no traces of destruction and fires. But its inhabitants settled somewhere nearby, although this place has not been found. But there are traces of ceramics from the Middle Ages and even the New Age. This means that somewhere nearby they settled and lived here for a very long time.


The Iberians already had riders. A vessel with a horseman with a spear (Municipal Archaeological Museum in Alcoy, Valencia)

Puich de Castellet. Fortress for thirty souls

This settlement is located two kilometers north of the city limits of Lloret de Mar, on a rocky outcropping 197 m high. The settlement was also surrounded by a wall with towers, and there were only 11 dwellings inside. They all adjoined the walls, and there was a square in the center. It arose in the second half of the 3rd century. BC.


Puich de Castellet: you won’t have to hit your feet on stones there …

They found it back in the 40s of the last century and dug it up intermittently until 1986. It was possible to find out that the length of the wall of the settlement was 83 m. There were two towers, and both were travel passes. It is interesting that out of 11 residential buildings there were only six, that is, in total, no more than 30 people lived in this fortress, since all the other premises were used … for warehouses! The living quarters had two or three rooms, and hearths were found in them. It’s amazing that so few people lived in such a well-fortified place and, legitimate question, what were they doing here? The millstones were found – it means they ground grain, loads of weaving mills. And yet – was not the stronghold too “solid” for such a small community?

Turo-Rodo. Fortress overlooking the sea

Well, for those who like fishing and sea space, there was also the settlement of Turo Rhodo, right on the territory of the town of Lloret de Mar, practically near the sea itself. The hill where it is located is 40 meters high. In the north, it is connected to the mainland by an isthmus about 50 meters wide. On all other sides, the hill fell almost vertically towards the sea. The entire coast was visible from the hill, which was very convenient in terms of observing intruders.


The outermost houses of Turo Rodo are at the very edge of the cliff!

It was completely excavated only in 2000-2003. and found out that people lived here from the end of the 3rd century. BC. and until the first decades of the 1st century. AD The entire northern part of the settlement was protected by a wall 1.1 – 1.3 meters thick, built of stones, fastened together with an ordinary length. The wall was surprisingly well preserved for almost 40 meters, and again it was double, and the gap was filled with pebbles. 11 dwellings were also found on the territory of the settlement: seven on one side and four on the opposite, right on the edge of the cliff. All the houses are rectangular and covered with reeds. The windows are small. There are two rooms inside. The hearth is usually located in the second, the entrance to which, apparently, was curtained. The first door was not, and it was through it that it was illuminated. Therefore, most likely, there were looms.


This is how they go up there now. From the sea side. However, there is another way, not so steep!

The finds indicate that the population of the village fished, was engaged in agriculture (we grow grain) and weaving. From 60 BC the inhabitants of the settlement began to leave it, moving to more populous and civilized places.

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