Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.04.28

Nathalie Barrandon, De la pacification à l'intégration des Hispaniques (133-27 a.C.): les mutations des sociétés indigènes d'Hispanie centrale et septentrionale sous domination romaine. Scripta antiqua, 35.   Bordeaux:  Ausonius Éditions, 2011.  Pp. 468.  ISBN 9782356130464.  €25.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by John Richardson, University of Edinburgh (

This book, the revision of a doctoral thesis of 2005 supervised by Jean-Michel Roddaz, examines the changes that came about in the different social groupings that made up the northeastern area of the province of Hispania Citerior in the period between the fall of Numantia and the establishment of the Augustan principate, and the modalities that began, by the end of that period, to result in mixed populations of a recognisably provincial type. That this had taken place has long been recognised. What Barrandon has succeeded in doing is to produce, from a complex and inevitably fragmentary collection of evidence, a coherent and highly plausible picture of how this happened and how it affected the indigenous communities of the region.

In an introductory chapter, she addresses the contested concept of ‘Romanisation’, posing a number of questions that shape her overall argument: how far, if at all, were the cultural changes which followed the sack of Numantia the result of Roman policy; and if they were not, can Romanisation be represented as ‘acculturation’ in the classic anthropological sense? Her answer to both these questions is negative, in the latter case because the incorporation of indigenous individuals and communities into the political structures of the dominating power simply does not fit the one-way transmission of cultural values that ‘acculturation’ implies. She prefers the terms ‘Italianisation’ or even ‘Latinisation’ as descriptions of a cultural change without the implications of a policy of cultural imperialism. Her study comprises the region bounded by the Mediterranean coastline from Valentia to Emporion and inland the mountain ranges that flank the valley of the Ebro, the Pyrenees to the north and the Iberian range to the south, including the headwaters of the river Duero, a geographically and linguistically distinct section of the province.

Chapter I reviews the nature of the indigenous societies and cultures of the region as they were before the fall of Numantia. With the exception of the Greek city of Emporion, the predominant linguistic groupings were the non- Indo-European Iberians, mostly along the Mediterranean coast and the northern side of the Ebro, and the Celtic or Celticised peoples further inland, especially those known in the ancient sources as Celtiberians in the mountains to the south of the Ebro. Both groups were based in and around cities with aristocratic societies, though neither at this date showed signs of the marked differentiation of dwellings that marked Hellenistic cities in other parts of the Mediterranean. There were borrowings from Hellenistic and Italian contacts, with coinage on Greek patterns being introduced in the late third century, but nothing that suggests social or cultural change. Thus in the religious sphere Iberians had some temples on Greek or Punic patterns, but there were none in Celtiberia; and Italian/Roman influences were still less, being confined to occasional grave goods. In the first half of the second century the city- state structures of both areas seem to be untouched.

The next four chapters (II-V) describe and analyse the situation during the half-century of comparative peace between the Roman capture of Numantia and the arrival of Sertorius in the peninsula, a period which Barrandon aptly calls one of unplanned pacification by the Romans. She notes that there was no systematic Roman organisation of the province after Numantia (the senatorial commissions mentioned in the sources advised and aided governors on specific matters only and certainly did not produce a general lex provinciae) and that it was the indigenous cities that continued to be responsible for the management and governance of the area.

A careful examination in chapter II of the issues of coinage by these cities, especially in the late second and early first centuries when there was a great increase in such emissions both in bronze and silver, shows that they were produced on the initiative of the cities themselves rather than according to a uniform pattern demanded by Roman authority. Following the suggestion by François Cadiou1 she believes that the silver ‘Iberian denarii’ struck by nineteen cities in this period were used for the payment by these cities of auxiliary soldiers required by Roman governors; but, whether this is the case or not, the inscriptions in Iberian characters and the variety of images on them certainly indicates that the initiative in their production lay with the cities that issued them and reveal a level of local autonomy.

The Roman involvement in the area was confined to improvements in the road system, and there was no impetus towards urbanisation or even the Roman resettlement of indigenous populations in peacetime, as had happened previously following military action. The monetisation of the local economy (notably the production of bronze coinages) was allowed by the Roman authorities, but there is no sign that they were involved in promoting it. Similarly there are indications of the import of oil and wine and of Italian style cooking pots, used first by Italian settlers, notable on the coast at Tarraco and Saguntum and then by the indigenous population, but this is reasonably termed ‘creolisation’ rather than ‘acculturation’. There was urban expansion and relocation, both in modern Catalunya and in the middle Ebro valley, not least reconstruction and movement of city-sites after the destructions caused by the Celtiberian wars, but this again seems to be on local initiatives; except in distinctively ‘Roman’ towns, such as Valentia and Iesso, there is no sign of a cardo maximus and, although Italic influences can be seen in public buildings and the decorations in houses of the aristocracy, the purpose and the construction techniques involved are traditional. Public buildings, indeed, were unknown in either Iberian or Celtiberian areas before the second century, the only exception being the city of Ullastret, whose proximity to Emporion probably accounts for the appearance of temples there in the late third century.

This same pattern can be seen in the linguistic sphere. Public epigraphy was present before the Romans arrived but increased considerably thereafter, notably (by the late second century) in the coastal cities of Emporion, Tarraco and Saguntum. The materials used are those of the Romans, stone and (particularly in Celtiberia) bronze; and the display of written texts, as with other signs of Italic influence (such as the appearance of reception rooms in larger houses) can be seen as modes of self-aggrandisement by members of the upper classes. The languages used, however, remain largely indigenous; and, in the development of the tessera hospitalis as a marker of relationships between individuals or an individual and a community, the use of inscribed bronze, borrowed from the Romans, introduced a new and more convenient way of expressing a traditional Celtic social mechanism.

The great change towards the incorporation of the cities and peoples of this region came with the period of the Civil Wars, in which the Spanish provinces were heavily involved, from the arrival of Sertorius in 82 BC to the defeat of the Pompeians by Caesar at Munda in 45 BC. The last three chapters of Barrandon’s book examines the policies of Sertorius, Pompeius (both in the Sertorian war and its aftermath and, though his legates, in the war that broke out in 49) and Caesar. These brought the area of this study into the midst of Roman politics, and the choices that the leaders of the indigenous cities had to make were now between different Roman interests rather than pro- or anti- Roman. Moreover the presence of a greatly enlarged number of legions of Roman soldiers had its own effects, not least the bringing of local soldiers into the more disciplined and organised context of Roman warfare.

Within this overall picture, the differences between the intentions of the three leaders and the effects of their policies are drawn out: for Sertorius the central Ebro valley was an essential area of recruitment and supply, with the result that several cities, both those that supported him and those that opposed, suffered considerable destruction; Pompeius, after the death of Sertorius and the defeat of his supporters, reduced their autonomy, at least by closing the mints which had supplied local coinage, and, following the pattern of earlier generals, founded indigenous cities; for Caesar recruitment was not an issue in this region (unlike Hispania Ulterior) and destruction took place only in the area around Ilerda where his confrontation with Pompeian commanders occurred, and after the fighting was over he favoured not only cities that had supported him with enhanced Roman status but also those that were in strategically significant locations. This policy, continued after his assassination in the Triumviral period by the foundation of the colonia at Celsa by Lepidus, combined with the settlement of veterans at Saguntum and Tarraco, resulted in a mixed Ibero-Roman provincial population, especially on the coast as well as the spread of more Mediterranean patterns of development up the Ebro valley.

The consequences of the Civil War period were also to be seen in the social and economic life of the region. Although Roman-style villas came only later and some distinctively indigenous patterns of agriculture continued, the increase of viticulture in north-eastern Catalunya led to the production of Italian style amphorae by local artisans; and, judging by coin legends, a brief period of bilingualism was followed by a shift to Latin as the normal written language by the reign of Augustus.

It is difficult to do justice to the dense argumentation of a work based, as this is, on a French thèse, which includes extensive end-notes and over fifty pages of bibliography. Yet Barrandon succeeds in the difficult task of adding flesh to the skeletal remains of the history of the area she covers and thereby reveals its change from the varied but largely autonomous societies of mid-second century to the recognisably Roman provincial structures of the mid-first. Her conclusions are clear and judicious, and only occasionally does she provoke disagreement.2 This is an excellent and illuminating piece of work.


1.   François Cadiou, Hibera in terra miles: les armées romaines et la conquête de l'Hispanie sous la république (218-45 av. J.C.). Bibliothèque de la Casa de Velázquez 38. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2007. See BMCR 2010.03.45.
2.   I am less certain than she is (at pp.270-1) that the senatus Contrebiensis understood the Latin of the formulae on which they were expected by C. Valerius Flaccus to give judgment in 87 BC; but this in fact only strengthens her argument.

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