Ancient Spain was inhabited by several different groups of people. During the early 1000s B.C., the Celts, who had invaded from the north, mixed with the Africans who had spread throughout the south and east of the Iberian Peninsula, the landmass on which Spain is located. The Phoenicians, a people from the eastern Mediterranean, established a settlement in southern Spain around 1100 B.C.
The Greeks first settled Spain in the 600s B.C., when the city-state* of Phocaea in Asia Minor founded colonies on the eastern coast of the peninsula. During the early 200s B.C., the North African city of Carthage conquered southern Spain in its attempt to control the western Mediterranean Sea. During the Punic Wars against Rome, the Carthaginians exploited Spanish natural resources and manpower. After the First Punic War ended in 241 B.C., Carthage extended its control in Spain by founding the city of Carthago Nova on Spain’s eastern coast.
Rome drove the Carthaginians from Spain during the Second Punic War in the late 200s B.C. The Romans controlled the eastern and southeastern coastal regions of Spain, which they divided into two provinces* in 197 B.C. War between the Romans and native groups of people continued, however, ending in 133 B.C. Because the mountainous northern and northwestern regions were difficult to conquer, Rome controlled only about half of the Iberian Peninsula. Although the Roman generals Pompey and Julius Caesar led troops into Spain during the late Roman Republic*, Rome did not conquer the rest of the peninsula until the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor.
Rome established many colonies throughout the Spanish provinces. The Romans built a network of roads, bridges, and aqueducts and developed numerous gold and silver mines. Spain provided the Roman empire with important agricultural products, such as wine and olive oil. As early as the first century B.C., some senators were from Spain, and the emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius were of Spanish ancestry. Spain also produced some of the most important Latin writers of the first century A.D., such as the statesman Seneca, the educator Quintilian, and the poet Martial. Roman control of Spain ended with the invasion of the Visigoths in the A.D. 400s. (See also Colonies, Greek; Colonies, Roman; Migrations, Late Roman.)
* city-state independent state consisting of a city and its surrounding territory
* province overseas area controlled by Rome
* Roman Republic Rome during the period from 509 B.C. to 31 B.C., when popular assemblies annually elected their governmental officials