The site is located in the borough of San Roque, in the middle of the Bay of Gibraltar. It is situated at a perfect place (near the Rock of Gibraltar) from both a strategic point of view, as well as its proximity to commercial routes from the civilised Mare Nostrum (Mediterranean Sea) to the unknown Mare Tenebrosum (Atlantic Ocean). The inlet allowed fleets to shelter from storms. Nowadays we can discover the remains of a significant city which acquired a great deal of prominence during several periods of ancient history, especially during the time of Roman supremacy.
Shortly after, a confrontation arose between the Carthaginians and the Romans. The Punic Wars ended with Roman domination over a vast territory during the Imperial Period. The Roman Empire would become one of the greatest milestones of civilisation in the history of mankind.
Undoubtedly, Carteia is a city where the mixture of Phoenician, Punic and Roman elements can be found. It was precisely the half-Roman population who demanded a solution from the Senate with regards to legalizing their lack of citizenship status. This was due to the fact that Rome did not recognize marriages between Roman citizens and locals, or their common offspring. According to Titus Livy, in 171 B.C. the city of Carteia received real recognition when it is chosen by Rome to be granted the title of Colonia Libertinorum Carteia. Carteia became the first Latin colony outside present-day Italy.
|Despite the fact Carteia played a relevant role during the early period of Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the city was also used as a commercial and military enclave by other people and cultures during other periods. The site was inhabited during the Late Ancient Period and at the beginning of the Middle Ages. Proof of this can be found at the necropolis from the Visigoth period, situated by the Roman temple and remains which prove a Byzantine presence. It would have been a bold attempt in this region to recover the Western Roman Empire, initiated by Justinian I. Later on, Islamic sources refer to “Qartayanna”, connecting it to different episodes during the time of the Muslim conquest and the shaping of al-Andalus. |
A castle maintained the name, and was located at the highest point within the site, a few metres away from the Roman walls, which were used to supply building material. This fortification, which is known today as Cartagena Tower, was the location of clashes between Christian and Muslim troops from the 13th century onwards. Marinid forces intervened, after they had settled at neighbouring Algeciras and supported the Nasrid kingdom of Granada.
However, the city became an abandoned site where the notable buildings were in ruins. This feeling of defencelessness had been stated by the majority of investigators, scholars and travellers over the centuries. It was not until the late sixties when the site was threatened by the modern-day industry installed nearby that the urban perimeter of Carteia was secured. Unfortunately, the same thing did not happen with its necropoli, the gates, the fishing industry, etc. which had shaped its territory.
During the visit we can admire the Carthaginian period access gate, the entrance to the old city area, which was possibly the forum reached by means of a monumental sandstone flight of steps. There are remains of a large temple and its original ornamental masonry, several domus (Roman villas) and extensive and intact Roman baths. The remains of the city walls and Rocadillo Tower, a 16th century watchtower can also be observed. We can also wander round the remains of streets, the city’s topography and the extent of its surface area. The city had an Augustan period theatre, although it is currently off the visitor’s circuit. A guide will take you around the site giving you a detailed historical and artistic explanation of Carteia. Guided tours are available in English, German, French and Spanish. The tour lasts approximately 50 minutes.
Due to the fact that Carteia was inhabited by different civilisations which left their mark on the area and make up the cultural heritage of this place we call Andalusia, we recommend you pay a visit to the Carteia Archaeological Museum in San Felipe Street in San Roque, only 5 kilometres from the site. In this way, you will get a full picture of its historical background and every day life at different periods in its ancient history.