In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Roman Spain

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Series
  • Ancient Sources
  • Early Imperial Period, 27 bce–235 ce
  • Late Imperial Period, 235 ce–474 ce
  • Society and Administration
  • Art
  • Public Architecture
  • Domestic Architecture
  • Epigraphy

Classics Roman Spain
Scott De Brestian
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 October 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0229


Spain was one of Rome’s first overseas provinces beyond the Italian islands (Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica) and remained under Roman control for longer than most parts of the Western Empire, with northeastern Spain under at least nominal Roman control until 474 CE. From its earliest days Roman Spain (or Hispania) was divided into two or more provinces, eventually encompassing all of the modern countries of Spain and Portugal (although for convenience, the term “Roman Spain” generally includes both). This article therefore will focus on the mainland territory of those two countries, leaving aside Spain’s Mediterranean and African possessions (Balearic and Canary Islands, Ceuta, and Melilla), which will be treated elsewhere. Traditionally the study of Roman Spain is divided into three chronological periods: the Roman Republic, which extends from Rome’s first dealings in Spain at the start of the Second Punic War to the rise of Augustus as first emperor in 27 BCE, although this period is sometimes extended to the end of the Cantabrian Wars in 19 BCE, which mark the completion of the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The Early Empire spans the period from the late 1st century BCE to the 3rd century CE. No universally acknowledged date marks the end of this period, although the end of the Severan dynasty in 235 CE or the Frankish invasion of 258 CE is sometimes used; this article employs the former. The Late Empire stretches from the 3rd century to the invasions of 409 CE or the final conquest of Spain by the Visigoths in 474 CE, depending on the region being discussed. Roman Spain has often been somewhat neglected by scholars outside the peninsula, due to the political history of Spain and the lack of a large number of prominent international schools, as are found in Italy and Greece, although the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Madrid and the French-sponsored Casa de Velázquez are important exceptions. The result is that scholars working in other parts of the Roman world are not as acquainted with Roman Spain as its importance in Roman history would otherwise merit.

General Overviews

One difficulty in composing a bibliographic article on Roman Spain has to do with trends in Spanish scholarship. Prior to the end of Francoist Spain there was a trend toward ambitious synthesizing scholarship that sought to provide comprehensive narratives for many aspects of Roman Spain. Alarcão 1988 and Blázquez 1996 are useful overviews despite their age, Keay 1988 is a similarly useful introductory work in English, and Montenegro Duque, et al. 1991–1996 provides somewhat more detail; all four discuss material culture. Richardson 1996 is a more historical treatment that looks primarily at the written sources and is a good starting point for those new to Roman Spain.

  • Alarcão, Jorge de. 1988. Roman Portugal. 4 vols. Warminster, UK: Aris & Phillips.

    A thorough treatment of the Romans in Portugal; Vol. 1 contains an overview of the Roman presence, while Vols. 2–4 provide a detailed gazetteer and bibliography of Roman archaeological sites, with many useful maps and plans. Still useful despite its age.

  • Blázquez, José María. 1996. España romana. Madrid: Cátedra.

    Blázquez is one of the most prominent scholars of Roman Spain, and this volume represents the fruits of a lengthy career on the topic. Looks at the history of Roman Spain from Republic to Late Empire, with a particular emphasis on issues of acculturation.

  • Keay, Simon J. 1988. Roman Spain. Exploring the Roman World. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Although now rather dated, this is still the only good overview of the society and material culture of Roman Spain, with many maps and plans and end-of-chapter guides to further reading.

  • Montenegro Duque, Ángel, José María Blázquez Martínez, Julio Mangas Manjarrés, et al. 1991–1996. España romana (218 a. de J. C.–414 de J. C.). 2 vols. 2d ed. Historia de España 2. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.

    One of the later attempts to put together a multidisciplinary, synthetic treatment of Roman Spain; the original publication dates to 1982. Vol. 1 looks at the history of Roman Spain in two lengthy articles, with a third on the economy of Roman Spain. The second volume deals with thematic issues such as the army, society, religion, and art.

  • Richardson, J. S. 1996. The Romans in Spain. History of Spain. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Readable basic history in English of the Roman encounter with Spain, from the years before the Second Punic War to 409 CE. Notes point the reader to the most important ancient sources on the Iberian Peninsula.

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