History of the Indiketes

The Indiketes were the Iberian people who inhabited the north-eastern region of Catalonia, known as Empordà and its surrounding areas. The Iberian culture was forged at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age (8th-2nd centuries BC).

The Iberians occupied a strip of land stretching from the south of the Iberian Peninsula to the River Erau in the Languedoc region of France.

It is assumed that they all spoke a similar language and at the end of the 5th century BC in the area from Alicante to the south of France an Iberian script was structured, which was written from left to right and which to date has not been deciphered, but its phonetic sounds are known.

The oldest text that refers to this territory is the verses of Avieno's "Ora Maritima", which was based on older texts, probably from the 6th century B.C. It explains a voyage on a ship coming from the south, after the coast of Barcelona:

Map of India


... then come the rough Indiketes;
people this hard; people fierce in the hunt
and cave-dwelling. Cape Celebantic
then extends its back into the salty sea.

That the city of Cypsela has been with him.
is now only a rumour, as no trace of the
the ancient city retains its rough soil.

Open there a harbour in a large gulf and in a large
the sea penetrates the concave land,
after which the Indikecio coastline is laid down.
to the apex of Cape Pyrenees.

Behind that coastline, the
Malodes mountain, and two stumbling blocks arise
heading towards the clouds the double top.
Among these, a harbour lies extensively,
the sea not being exposed to any wind.

The summits of the rocks, with their breakwaters in front of them,
girdle all the flanks and between the rocky areas
the sea abyss shelters quietly,
the sea lies at rest, the sea remains motionless in its confinement.

In the 7th century BC the Indiketas established trade contacts with Phoenicians and Etruscans. And years later with Greeks, so that between 575-550 BC, Phoenician colonisers (from Phôkaia, a Greek city in Asia Minor) settled on the islet of Sant Martí d'Empuries, and shortly afterwards they moved to the coast, founding the city of Emporion (Empuries) together with the Indiketes.


Indika: Capital of the Indiketes

It is assumed that the capital of the Indiketes was Indika, located further south, on the puig de Sant Andreu and on the island of Reixac, near the present-day village of Ullastret. You can see a 3D reconstruction of the city in this video:

From this period onwards, the first Iberian habitat constructions with planned urban planning made of stone with a quadrangular floor plan are documented. The settlements (oppidum) of Mas Castellar (Pontos), Ullastret, Castell (Palamós), Peralada, etc. were consolidated.

The territory occupied by the Indiketes was larger than that delimited by the Indiketes Route, as their southern border was supposed to be the River Tordera, in the present-day town of Blanes. The Indiketes therefore occupied Upper and Lower Empordà and a large part of the counties of Gironès, Pla de l'Estany and La Selva. The most important settlements in this area (oppidum) are Puig d'en Rovira (Quart), Mas Castell (Porqueres), Sant Julià de Ramis and Montbarbat (between the municipalities of Lloret de Mar and Maçanet de la Selva).

Fish dish from Mas Castellar (Pontós)

From 525 BC iron metallurgy began, with clear evidence of this at Illa d'en Reixac (Ullastret) and shortly afterwards, in 515 BC, the first coins were minted in Emporion.

In 375 BC the Greek settlement of Rhode (Roses) was founded by Greeks from Massalia (present-day Marseilles), entering the period of the expansion of the Indiketes.

The ports of Emporion and Rhodes were the driving force behind the great commercial strength of the Indiketia, in addition to the development and expansion of cereal farming throughout the territory. Communication was by land via the millenary Via Heraclea and the so-called Camí d'Empuries and its many branches; and also by river, since following the course of the rivers Fluvià and Ter it was possible to reach the interior of the territory, both from the Greek city and from Ullastret.

The Indiketes copied the pottery-making techniques of the Greeks and created their own style by decorating them with white paint. They also made use of metallurgy, first with bronze and especially with iron from the 5th century BC onwards. They also made jewellery for their personal supplies (earrings, rings, fibulae, etc.) and made textiles for their clothing, especially wool and linen, and used esparto grass and skins for footwear. Coins were also made at the Empùries mint with the legend Untikesken, which means "of the Indiketes".

In 226 BC Rome and Carthage signed the so-called Treaty of the Ebro, which had disastrous consequences for the Indiketes, as a few years later the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca broke it by attacking the Iberian city of Sagunto, an ally of Rome, and then launched himself with a large army towards Italy, starting the Second Punic War.

After crossing the Pyrenees, the Romans asked the Indiketes to land troops at Emporion to cut off Hannibal's rearguard, which was granted. Thus, in 218 BC, a large Roman army landed, commanded by Cnaeus Publius Cornelius Scipio.

In 206 BC the Romans finally defeated the Carthaginians, but they did not abandon the spearhead they had established in the city of Emporion and began to demand taxes (stipendium), a fact that was not accepted by the Indiketes, so that in 197 BC a great revolt broke out.

The Romans sent the consul Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder to pacify the area. On his arrival with the warships, the first thing he did was to land at Rhode (Roses) and put down the resistance of the Indian garrison (supposedly located at Puig Rom).

Afterwards, the bulk of the Roman army landed at Emporion (Empuries), and Cato the Elder made his stronghold there. It is estimated that he had a total of 50,000 men (two legions, eight thousand infantry, fifteen thousand allies (the Iberian Ilergetes, commanded by their king Bilistages), 800 horsemen from the consular army, two thousand infantry and two hundred horsemen for each of the praetors.

For its part, the Indiketa army consisted of some 40,000 men, mostly peasants and inhabitants of the various oppidums in the region. The few professional soldiers were armed with a panoply of Celtic influence, of the La Tene type, with a leather or metal helmet of the Montefortino type, a straight sword, a wooden spear with metal ends and an oval shield.

When Cato felt that the troops were ready to engage the natives in the open, the troops moved to castra hiberna, a second camp 3000 paces from the city on the mainland, in enemy-held territory, from where he whipped the rebels at night by burning their fields and stealing their crops and livestock, demoralising the enemy, training his troops in combat and assisting the Ilergetes allies.

The battle is supposed to have taken place a few kilometres from Emporion, to the west of the Creu de Ventalló mountain range and the Sant Grau mountain. The Roman victory was total, completely annihilating the little-trained Indian army. In this context, the Romans forced them to abandon the Greek settlement of Rodhes, the Iberian city of Ullastret and many other settlements such as Mas Castellar (Pontós), Castell Barri (Calonge), Puig Castellet (Lloret de Mar), etc.

In the year 71 BC, the Roman consul Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, in the context of a civil war, defeated General Sertorius, supported by various Iberian tribes, and in commemoration of this he had the so-called Trophies of Pompey (which were discovered in 1995 in the Coll de Panissars, in the municipality of La Jonquera) erected over the pass of the ancient Via Heraclea (the future Via Augusta).

Ruins of the monument of Pompey the Great at the Coll de Panissars in La Jonquera
Map of the geology of l'Empordà