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  5. The Shekel: Phoenicians and Carthaginians in Iberia


The Shekel: Phoenicians and Carthaginians in Iberia

Room 16, showcase 1 Hispano-Carthaginian triple shekel. About 237–227 BC. Silver. Pulse para ampliar Hispano-Carthaginian triple shekel. About 237–227 BC. Silver.

While the drachm was the monetary unit of the Greek world, the shekel was that of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Phoenician settlements on the Iberian Peninsula date back to the early first millennium BC. Some later became major cities, like Gadir (Cádiz), although the leading role in the western Mediterranean was played by its sister city of Carthage, in modern-day Tunisia.

In 237 BC, after its defeat in the First Punic War, Carthage embarked on the conquest of Iberia and its rich resources, especially the silver in the south. This strategy led to a second confrontation with Rome and marked a critical turning point for Iberia, which found itself drawn into the conflict and became the battlefield where the two great rivals vied for supremacy. The massive amounts of silver and bronze coins minted for the war were decisive in encouraging Iberian towns to produce their own issues.

The Carthaginians struck the most spectacular coins of Spanish antiquity. Their double and triple shekels, largely designed as vehicles of prestige and propaganda, conveyed the power of Carthage by depicting its gods, iconic horses, warships and the elephants that struck terror into the hearts of their foes.

Carthaginian coin issues ended in 206 BC when they withdrew from the peninsula, but Gadir and other cities of Phoenician origin continued to mint currency until the first century AD.


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