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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Crossing the peninsula in different directions


[Sidenote: Economic development and public works.]

The Romans continued the economic development of Spain on a greater scale than their predecessors. Regions which the other peoples had not reached were for the first time benefited by contact with a superior civilization, and the materials which Spain was already able to supply were diversified and improved. Although her wealth in agricultural and pastoral products was very great, it was the mines which yielded the richest profits. It is said that there were forty thousand miners at Cartagena alone in the second century B.C. Commerce grew in proportion to the development of wealth, and was facilitated in various ways, one of which deserves special mention, for its effects were far wider than those of mere commercial exchange. This was the building of public works, and especially of roads, which permitted the peoples of Spain to communicate freely with one another as never before. The roads were so extraordinarily well made that some of them are still in use. The majority date from the period of the empire, being built for military reasons as one of the means of preserving peace. They formed a network, crossing the peninsula in different directions, not two or three roads, but many. The Romans also built magnificent bridges, which, like the roads, still remain in whole or in part. Trade was fostered by the checking of fraud and abuses through the application of the Roman laws of property and of contract.

[Sidenote: Intellectual life and the fine arts.]

In general culture Spain also profited greatly from the Romans, for, if the latter were not innovators outside the fields of law and government, they had taken over much of the philosophy, science, literature, and the arts of Greece, borrowing, too, from other peoples. The Romans had also organized a system of public instruction as a means of disseminating their culture, and this too they gave to Spain. The Spaniards were apt pupils, and produced some of the leading men in Rome in various branches of learning, among whom may be noted the philosopher Seneca, the rhetorician Quintilian, the satirical poet Martial, and the epic poet Lucan. The Spaniards of Cordova were especially prominent in poetry and oratory, going so far as to impose their taste and style of speech on conservative Rome. This shows how thoroughly Romanized certain parts of the peninsula had become. In architecture the Romans had borrowed more from the Etruscans than from the Greeks, getting from them the principle of the vault and the round arch, by means of which they were able to erect great buildings of considerable height. From the Greeks they took over many decorative forms. Massiveness and strength were among the leading characteristics of Roman architecture, and, due to them, many Roman edifices have withstood the ravages of time. Especially notable in Spain are the aqueducts, bridges, theatres, and amphitheatres which have survived, but there are examples, also, of walls, temples, triumphal arches, and tombs, while it is known that there were baths, though none remain. In a wealthy civilization like the Roman it was natural, too, that there should have been a great development of sculpture, painting, and the industrial arts. The Roman type of city, with its forum and with houses presenting a bare exterior and wealth within, was adopted in Spain.

In some of the little practices of daily life the Spanish peoples continued to follow the customs of their ancestors, but in broad externals Spain had become as completely Roman as Rome herself.


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