Saturday, 11 February 2012

Portus Hannibalis

Location of the Arade River

A commercial port Portus Hannibalis was identified in Algarve only by Pomponius Mela: "In Cuneo sunt, Myrtili, Balsa, Ossonoba; in Sacro Lacobriga, et Portus Hannibalis; in Magno, Ebora". (De Chorographia, 3,1,7,)

The location of the original site is unclear.

Although the port may have played a part in the conquest of southern Hispania by the Barca clan, it is likely that the port was founded well before the time of Hannibal Barca; Hannibal was - after all- a common Carthaginian name.

There are three main possibilities:
- André de Resende initiated of the controversy over the location of Portus Hannibalis in "Alvor", due to the identification of the ruins of "Alvor-Velho", which he attributed to the Carthaginians (See Alvor above).
- Other authors preferred a location in the estuary of river "Arade", nearby "Portimão" (Porcimunt)
- Others locate it in the area of Sagres

The first two possibilities are both near Portimao in the Faro District of the Algarve region in southern Portugal:
  • Alvor (historically Ipses/Ipsa, al-Bur), and the Alvor River 
  • Silves on the Arade River
Both have archeology and local traditions linking them them to the Phoenicians and Carthaginians and both were probably founded well before Hannibal Barca's time - Hannibal was, after all, a common name.

Both sites have ancient castles, but the Arade River is now silted up.

At Alvor the castle dates from much later - in the 7th century - although it was based on a Phoenician, later Greek and Carthaginian forts, constructed themselves on a Lusitanian 'castro' or fort.

The castle is in a dominant position on a hill, opposite the Atlantic Ocean. The fort would later would be the basis of the Roman settlement Barcínia. It was later conquered by the Arabs who named it Albus, beginning a process of development that lasted until the Christian fort was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake: the walls of this fortification are the only remnants of this castle.

A panoramic landscape of the Alvor River - Source: Wikipedia
The first visitors to the Algarve were probably the Phoenicians, who arrived in the region around 1,000 BC and had soon established trading posts along the coast. Attracted by the natural harbour on the wide estuary of the River Arade (Alvor), the Carthaginians founded a major port near what is now Portimão around 550 BC. Romans settled here, naming it Portus Hannibalis.

Statistical analysis of Lusitanian, Italic, Punic, Baetican, Gaulish and African amphorae, recovered in 1973 and 1983, during the dredgings of the river Arade in the Algarve, lead to the conclusion that at the mouth of the Arade there was a relatively important port (i.e. Portus Hannibalis") and that some of the amphorae came from the remains of Roman shipwrecks.

However, theories that variously identify Portimão with Portus Hannibalis, Portus Magnus and Porcimunt remain controversial.

The final possibility is at Sagres, with a location in a bay and settlement near Cape Saint Vincent on the ancient Sacred Promontory.

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