Romans versus Carthaginians
One of the reasons we were keen to get into Cartagena early was to be here for this festival. We had heard it is quite spectacular and we were not disappointed. Over ten days the city was full of people dressed up and events took place in various places around the town. All the events were free, there was no collections or donation requests from members of the public and it involved families with young children, even babies in pushchairs were dressed up and their prams made to look like little chariots. It really was an inclusive event with generations of the same family being in the same legion or regiment. There were events put on by the children and for the children including a symbolic act where during an official ceremony the child marks his or her fingerprint on a certificate inaugurating them into the festival family.
The link is here to the history and list of events of the festival which has been going on for 25 years. Far too many to list on my blog without filling pages and pages. The events we did go to were great. Lots of the events happened along the water front just a few minutes walk from the marina. We did go to the first Act of the Founding of Qart-Hadasht. We got seats in the stands and although we had no idea what was going on from the dialogue (in Spanish naturally) we were drawn in by the drama and the professionalism of the actors and the performance. A great start. We did however want to stand up and shout “welease Woger” (Monty Python reference) when what looked like a Roman general came on (turns out they were Carthaginian but hey). I don’t think the crowd would’ve appreciated it though.
Seeing the different legions/regiments and other groups marching through town was always a spectacle with some taking it more seriously than others but all keeping in the spirit of the event. We headed up to the encampment on the night the groups invite the public (although you could go in at anytime) where the 48+ separate groups had their headquarters. I expected white marques with just maybe a board outside stating their group name/alligiance etc. I was amazed at the effort that went in to making it look authentic. The Romans were one side, the Carthaginian groups the other and their camps were amazing. Towering columns, statues including David (from David & Goliath) which must of been 20ft high, the 3 muses, Hannibals elephants and loads more. Barely a marque in sight. Walking around was surreal with so many people dressed for the period. Not just soldiers from each side but slaves, senators, children, players, women in period costumes and all professionally made by the looks. The groups all had the same “uniform”. Not like the shepherds of the nativity plays from my youth which would be each child with a different coloured tea towel around the head tied on with the rope belt of an old dressing gown. My thoughts of buying a sheet to wear as a toga to join in was laughable considering the quality of the outfits.
The battle was another great event. Neil and I arrived an hour and half before the battle was due to start to get a good spot. It was fantastic. Health and Safety in the UK would have a dicky fit. People climbing up walls on ropes with no safety gear, fire balls being rolled down the field with men jumping over them… It was a real spectacle and went on for about an hour.
The following night was the grand parade where all the groups marched through the town, both the Romans and Carthaginians. We had a front row standing place. The whole parade took over 2 hours to pass and again it was fabulous. Apart from the groups of soldiers, legions, the harem, animals were also included. My favourite were the herded geese but there was also 3 humongous oxen, goats, horses, donkeys, snakes (Medusa’s had real snakes) and birds of prey. The drums for the marching was loud and infectious. Neil will be putting up a post with some video up on his site where you can get a feel for the atmosphere and sounds.
We are really pleased we made the effort to come in enjoy the festival. Something which we will always remember, even if we are here again.