Article

Astronomy and landscape in Carthago Nova

2016. English

By
Juan Antonio Belmonte (author)
José Miguel Noguera Celdrán (author)
Summary
This paper presents a novel archaeoastronomical approach to the city of Carthago Nova, present day Cartagena, in the southeast of Spain (ancient conventus Carthaginiensis, Hispania citerior). The city was founded over a previous minor Iberian settlement by Hasdrubal, the brother-in-law of Hannibal Barca, c. 229 BC as a twin to its motherland Carthage and capital of the Carthaginian domains in the Iberian Peninsula. The site was a very peculiar one with a local topography similar to that of the African metropolis. The town was founded on a small, well-protected peninsula only open to land on its east side and included a series of five hills. According to Polibious, these were devoted to the principal Punic divinities and to the legendary earlier founder of the city, Aletes. Preliminary landscape archaeology approaches on site had shown the relevance of the local orography for the location of the most sacred and relevant buildings in the different areas of the city), where visibility played a most relevant role. When Hasdrubal chose and organized the site, he knew very well what he was doing. The highest spot dominating the site and the port was devoted to Eshmun (Aesculapius according to Polibius), as in Carthage itself. Another hill located on axis to the north of this one was devoted to Cronos, the Punic Baal Hammon. This last perhaps served as the node for a series of possible astronomical alignments. The most significant was the solsticial relationship to the sacred area of the Arx Hasdrubalis (Cerro del Molinete) to the west-south-west, where a sanctuary presumably dedicated to a female divinity (a later inscription mentions Atargatis) was erected. In 209 BC, Scipio conquered the city and, exactly on the same spot, the Romans erected, in the Republican era, a sanctuary devoted to an unknown deity and with a monumental access, a splendid view and an orientation which fully justify the new Roman dominion over the city and its port, one of the best of the Mediterranean. Later on the city was re-founded under the title of Colonia Urbs Iulia Nova Carthago and especially under Caesar and Augustus a new orthogonal grid, with strong astronomical connections, was applied to the city. The urban plan even included Mons Aletes, the hill devoted to the legendary city founder to whom Augustus was perhaps assimilated. Hence, Carthago Nova can be considered an astronomical and topographic materialization of sacred space.