Turdetania, an area deemed by Strabo (Greek geographer-writer) as “blessed by nature,” was arguably one of the smartest acquisitions by the Romans during the Punic Wars (Book III, 2). Due to its location and strong availability of resources, this was very much so a desired area for many people. The Turdetanians made sure to use everything they had available to them, which gave way to the wealthy lifestyles they were known for living. Although the Romans were unable to use Turdetania as carefully as they should have, they were smart in their efforts to acquire such a place, since it was able to provide far beyond the minimal necessities one could need.
Mining was one of the biggest resources available to those living in Turdetania. “Up to the present moment,” Strabo writes, “neither gold, nor silver, nor yet copper, nor iron has been found anywhere in the world, in a natural state, either in such quantity or of such good quality” (Book III.2). Among the Cerro Murriano, Montoro-Andujar and Linares mine, the Linares mine, for example, was one of the biggest lead and silver mines for the peninsula in its entirety (Rostovtzeff, 200). Such abundances in lead, silver and copper allowed for the wealthy livestyles the Turdetanians were known for living, and later the desires of the Romans. There was also the Luque quarry, which provided limestone for the people of Turdetania. The limestone aided in homebuilding in addition to being an important trade resources as well.
Strabo also mentions that there is not only gold in the mines, but there is also gold being “washed down; that is, the gold-bearing sand is carried down by the rivers and the torrents” (Book III.2). This is extremely important when it comes to accessibility – the more gold they got from the river, the faster they were able to put it on a boat and sell it, compared to waiting for it to come from the mines. This fast and easy outlet brought in a large amount of income, allowing for the people of Turdetania to be known as extremely wealthy people.
In addition, multiple sources mentioned the use of “Egyptian screw” technology in order to retrieve the material found (Del Mar, 6; American Railroad Journal, 86). Through this we see that not only were the Turdetanians trading actual resources, but they were also trading and exchanging knowledge as they went about their trade, learning from the places they stopped at. This is a testament to the kind of network that they built, which further pushed their ability to succeed back at home and build up the wealth they were known for.
It is important to recognize that the landscape of Turdetania is a big reason why it was such a desired region. The Baetis river provided the people living in the area an ability to trade, and because they were further inland this gave them a great degree of protection from those on the outside. The people of Turdetania built their ships out of native timber (Strabo, III, 2). Because the Baetis river was a relatively wide river they were able to build huge ships, allowing for more product to leave the area of Turdetania. Not only were the ships big, but there were also many of them (Strabo, III, 2). When it came to who they traded with, Strabo claims that the Turdetanians traded mostly with Italy and Rome, due to the ease in which they could get there (III, 2). As previously mentioned, however, they were not exclusively trading with Italy and Rome, as they were able to gain technological advances from other places in order to further their ability to produce.
What is interesting about the Turdetanian landscape is that it is not just one kind of land. When looking at the elevation of the areas, one can see how the Andalusian plains are low-lying areas, but surrounding the plains are areas of higher elevation, and this is where the mines are located. There are important advances that need to be made when encountering different landscapes, such as the need for roads in order to continue to be able to get from one place to the other. Ultimately it is this duality of landscape that allowed the Turdetanians to aquire and produce all that they did, a good reason why Strabo deemed this area to be “blessed”.
The Andalusian plains provided the people of Turdetania with the ability to grow an abundance of corn, honey, grapes for wine and olives for olive oil (Strabo, III, 2). The wine and olive oil cultivation provided another resource to export. The plains also provided a good land space to raise cattle, for they were blessed with “a great abundance of cattle of all kinds, and of game” (Strabo, III, 2). Now, no land area is perfect, and Strabo points to a pest the area had to come to deal with. The burrowing hares, Strabo claims, had the ability to damage not just plants but their seeds as well by eating the roots (III, 2). If not controlled, like any pest, there was always the threat of having to move. The ability to overcome having such a pest lies heavily on the practices the farmers used, and the farmers of Turdetania were able to effectively deal with them.
The Turdetanians and the Romans recognized the power that came with the region of Turdetania. Unfortunately for the native people, they could not withstand the might and desire of the Romans for such an area. It has come to be known that the Romans were unable to treasure such an area, as they exploited the mines to the best of their ability once they arrived (Haley, 27). The Turdetanians were unable to fight the influence of the Romans on their culture, and eventually succumbed to their ways (Fear, 250). There is consolation in knowing that for some time, the people of Turdetania had this land for themselves and were at peace, for they lived in a land that brought them wealth and security.
American Railroad Journal. J.H. Schultz, 1842. Web.
Fear, A.T. Rome and Baetica : Urbanization in Southern Spain c.50 BC-AD 150. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Print.
Haley, Evan W. Baetica Felix: People and Prosperity in Southern Spain from Caesar to Septimius Severus. University of Texas Press, 2010. Web.
Mar, Alexander Del. A History of the Precious Metals: From the Earliest Times to the Present. Cambridge Encyclopedia Company, 1902. Web.
Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovitch. The Social & Economic History of the Roman Empire. Biblo & Tannen Publishers, 1926. Print.
Strabo. The Geography of Strabo. Vol. 2. Loeb Classical Library. Web.