One thing is clear: if more than two thousand years later we continue talking about Sagunto’s siege, it must have been something terrible.
It was the year 219 BC when Hannibal arrived at the gates of the city with his huge Carthaginian army. Sagunto had been here for long, from its humble beginnings as Iberian Castro, but by then it was something different: then it had a large wall that was going to make one of the greatest generals of the times sweat.
But why was Hannibal so committed to conquering such a difficult place? Well, first it was its strategic location, and second, its friendship with Rome, a natural enemy of Carthage. Two powerful reasons.
The city endured eight months of siege, during which they waited for help from a Rome that looked the other way. When there was no longer any hope, nor strength, or anything, the Saguntines made a huge bonfire and threw themselves into it. Or at least, that’s what the legend says.
The heroism of those defenders it has been registered on the history pages, but the fact is that Hannibal took control of the town, and then yes, the Romans were in a hurry to recover it. They did, of course, and from that Romanised Saguntum are almost all the truly ancient remains that the city still has today.
Among them, there is the Roman Theatre, which you will find as you go up towards the castle that dominates the town. But what you are going to see, we warn you, it is not the ancient ruins that you could expect. According to the opinion of many, a controversial reconstruction in the nineties left the old monument in an awful state. The issue even ended up in court, but the best thing is that you judge the result yourself…
If you’d like to see genuine remains, make a visit to the Archeologic Museum and go to what is left over of the Temple of Diane. It was already here centuries before the arrival of Hannibal, and it stands next to the Santa Maria Church, the most important one in the town. Because Sagunto didn’t freeze at the time of the Punic Wars, of course. Neither in the times of the Visigoths nor in that of the Arabs, who all passed through these lands.
Going for a walk around the old medieval Jewish Quarter, you will see the vestiges of the Hebrew community that was settled here since remote times. But, if you are looking for traces of more recent history, take a look at the remains of the steel industry that grew around the port in the early twentieth century. The city depended on it for many decades.