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Details on Hispania > Basics on Hispania

The name Hispania refers to the Iberian peninsula where modern Spain and Portugal are located. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pyrenees. Six mountain ranges separate five large valleys with major rivers, Durius (Donro), Tagus (Tajo), Anas (Guadiana), Baetis (Guadalquivir), and the Iberus (Ebro).

Names for Hispania

There were other names for Hispania, including the Greek 'Iberia', said to be named for the Iberus river, Celtica, a general name for those areas of Europe in which the Celts lived, and the poetic Hesperia Ultima for its location at the western end of the Mediterranean world.

Importance of Hispania for Rome

During the Punic Wars, the Carthaginians used Hispania as a base of military operations. It was from Spain that Hannibal headed out over the Alps with his famous elephants. Spain also provided Rome with food and precious goods. One motive for the development of a province in Gaul (modern France) was to have access to a land route to Hispania. Hispania was distant enough for the local Roman governor, Sertorius, to raise support troops to challenge (ultimately, unsuccessfully) Sulla's rule in Rome.

Also Known As: Iberia, Spain, Portugal, Celtica, Hesperia, Hesperia Ultima
Hispania tarraconensis was one of the imperial provinces on the Iberian peninsula, along with Lusitania and Baetica. It covered 350,000 square kilometers and included the Pyrenees, parts of the Mediterranean and Atlantic shorelines, and part of modern Portugal, according to Early Roman Towns in Hispania Tarraconensis. The province's capital was at Tarraco. Carthago Nova and Saguntum were other important cities in Hispania tarraconensis.

Latin teacher and writer Rose Williams has a PDF on Hispania that may be of use of you. See: Latin and Roman Ideals in the Hispanic New World (14 page PDF, download file size 1.01mb).


  • An Ancient Geography, Classical and Sacred, by Samuel Augustus Mitchell
  • A Companion to Ancient History, by Andrew Erskine
  • Library of Congress Country Studies: Spain

Go to Other Ancient / Classical History Glossary pages beginning with the letter

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