This city was founded by the Carthaginians in 220 B. C. and has been an important port on the Mediterranean Sea ever since, no matter which civilization held it. Like so much of the lands around the Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea” to Romans), it was conquered by the Romans, the Goths and Visigoths, the Vandals, the Arabs and later on by Ferdinand and Isabela as they united the several provinces of Spain. There are traces of all these cultures, but some are so minor as to be known only by history and archeological experts. Even in the 20 th century, Cartagena held out against Franco and was the last major resistance area to surrender to him. Cartagena’s most productive period occurred during the Roman occupation, chiefly because of the lead and silver mines in the area as well as its excellent port. The ruins of the Roman Theater discovered by serendipity in recent years is the most easily visited of the many Roman ruins in the area. A partial Punic wall (raised by the Phoenicians) is also fairly easy to see.
The town was poor and neglected after the Romans left and though the Arabs valued it for the port, they never developed the area as the Romans had done.
It underwent a brief resurrection in the early 20 th when plastic factories were established. The air pollution, rank odors and sticky residue that these factories produced rendered the city virtually uninhabitable and the population fell. When Franco conquered the city, he purposely punished the population due to its prolonged resistance. After he died, Cartagena regained much of its former population and the port became even more significant because besides being the home harbor of the Spanish Navy, it also began to see visits by the cruise industry and tourism became the major biggest economic driver and remains so today. Tourists brought money which was spent on renovating the older buildings, clearing away the results of years of air pollution, inviting development of hotels, restaurants, shops and other tourist amenities. The discovery of the 1 st century BC Roman Theater has produced an even bigger draw for tourist visits. Furthermore, after a competition between Murcia and Cartagena over which city should be the seat of provincial government, a
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