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Cartagena, Spain

CARTAGENA, SPAIN, or Carthagena, a seaport of south-eastern Spain, in the province of Murcia; in 37° 36' N. and 0° 58' W., at the terminus of a branch railway from the city of Murcia, and on the Mediterranean Sea. Pop. (1900) 99,871. Cartagena is fortified, and possesses an arsenal and naval dockyards. Together with Ferrol and San Fernando near Cadiz, the other great naval stations of Spain, it is governed by an admiral with the title of captain-general. It has also an episcopal see.

The city stands on a hill separated by a little plain from the harbour; towards the north and east it communicates with a fertile valley; on the south and west it is hemmed in by high mountains. Its grey houses have a neglected, almost a dilapidated appearance, from the friable stone of which they are constructed; and there are no buildings of antiquarian interest or striking architectural beauty, except, perhaps, the ruined citadel and the remnants of the town walls. The wide streets are traversed by a system of tramways, which pass through modern suburbs to the mining district about two leagues inland, and on the west a canal enables small vessels to enter the town without using the port. The harbour, the largest in Spain after that of Vigo, and the finest on the east coast, is a spacious bay, deep, except near its centre, where there is a ledge of rock barely 5 ft. under water. It is dominated, on the seaward side, by four hills, and approached by a narrow entrance, with forts on either hand; a breakwater affords shelter on the east, and on the west is the Arsenal Basin, often regarded as the original harbour of the Carthaginians and Romans. The island called La Escombrera, the ancient Scombraria (i.e. "mackerel fishery"), 2 m. south, protects Cartagena from the violence of wind and waves. The mines near the city are very productive, and thousands of men and beasts are employed in transporting lead, iron, copper, zinc and sulphur to the coast. The industrial and commercial progress of Cartagena was much hindered, during the first half of the 19th century, by the prevalence of epidemic diseases, the abandonment of the arsenal, and rivalry with the neighbouring port of Alicante. Its sanitary condition, though still defective, was improved by the drainage of the adjacent Almajar Marsh; and after 1870, when the population had dwindled to about 26,000, Cartagena advanced rapidly in size and wealth. The opening of the railway enabled it to compete successfully with Alicante, and revived the mining and metallurgical industries, while considerable sums were expended on bringing the coast and land defences up to date, and adding new quays, docks and other harbour works. As a naval station, Cartagena suffered severely in 1898 from the maritime disasters of the Spanish-American War; and its commerce was much affected when, at the beginning of the same year, Porman, or Portman, a mining village on a well-sheltered bay about 11 m. east, was declared by royal order an independent port. Vessels go to Porman to land coke and coal, and to load iron ore and lead. From Cartagena the principal exports are metallic ores, esparto grass, wine, cereals and fruit. Esparto grass, which grows freely in the vicinity, is the spartum, or Spanish broom, which gave the town its Roman designation of Carthago Spartaria. It is still used locally for making shoes, ships' cables, mats and a kind of spun cloth. Timber is largely imported from the United States, Sweden and Russia; coal from Great Britain; dried codfish from Norway and Newfoundland. In 1904, exclusive of coasters and small craft trading with north-west Africa, 662 ships of 604,208 tons entered the port of Cartagena, 259 being British and 150 Spanish; while 90 vessels were accommodated at Porman.

Cartagena was founded about the year 243 b.c. by the Carthaginian Hasdrubal, and was called Carthago Nova or New Carthage, to distinguish it from the African city of Carthage. It was conveniently situated opposite to the Carthaginian territory in Africa, and was early noted for its harbour. Its silver and gold mines were the source of great wealth both to the Carthaginians and to the Romans. In 210 b.c. this important place, the headquarters and treasure city of the Punic army, was stormed and taken with great slaughter by P. Scipio. The city continued to flourish under the Romans, who made it a colony, with the name Colonia Victrix Julia Nova Carthago. In a.d. 425 it was pillaged and nearly destroyed by the Goths. Cartagena was a bishopric from about 400 to 1289, when the see was removed to Murcia. Under the Moors it became an independent principality, which was destroyed by Ferdinand II. of Castile in 1243, restored by the Moors, and finally conquered by James I. of Aragon in 1276. It was rebuilt by Philip II. of Spain (1527-1598) for the sake of its harbour. In 1585 it was sacked by an English fleet under Sir Francis Drake. In 1706, in the War of the Spanish Succession, it was occupied by Sir John Leake; and in the next year it was retaken by the duke of Berwick. On the 5th of November 1823 it capitulated to the French. In consequence of the insurrection in Spain, Cartagena was in 1844 again the scene of warfare. On the 23rd of August 1873 it was bombarded by the Spanish fleet under Admiral Lobos; on the 11th of October a battle took place off the town, between the ships of the government and the rebels, and on the 12th of January 1874 Cartagena was occupied by the government troops.

See Biblioteca histórica de Cartagena, by G. Vicent y Portillo (Madrid, 1889, etc.); Fechos y fechas de Cartagena, by I. Martinez Rito (Cartagena, 1894); and Serie de los obispos de Cartagena, by P. Diaz Casson (Madrid, 1895).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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