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Many empires in the past had been interested in Iberia; and many more would be in the future. The Second Punic War (218 – 201 B.C.) would place Rome in control of Iberia.

The Roman Engineers constructed bridges, aqueducts and theaters in Merida and Badajoz. These two locations in Extremadura would allow them to control central Iberia.

3765840-Roman_Theatre_Merida_Extremadura_Spain_Merida    Roman bridge over river in Badajoz              Aquaduct ruins Merida

Rome quickly realized the importance of the Extremadura, and the importance of Merida as a focal point. This resulted in the Roman military and construction legions placing unexpected pressure on the native Extremadurans. Food, materials and labor not gained by negotiation were often obtained through force or treachery.

An indigenous shepherd, uneducated but brilliant, was successful in assembling a substantive military force whose goal was to drive the Romans from the Extremadura. He was named Variathus.

Variathus’ initial plan failed and resulted in the death of 9,000 Extremadurans and 20,000 sold as slaves. Variathus, although one of those who the Romans sold into slavery, escaped and rebuilt his military.


He gained Cadiz by siege and defeated several Roman military units. This eventually led to Variathus’ control of the majority of central Iberia.

Rome, stinging from these defeats, dispatched a large military unit from Carthage. Variathus sent three envoys to meet the Roman leader of this unit. Promises by the Romans, of gold and power, swayed Variathus’ three envoys. Treacherously the envoys returned to Variathus’ camp, invaded his tent, and assassinated him.

Rome was, once again, in command of Iberia.

Tomorrow: Vandals, Visigoths and Berbers

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