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The Murcia Coast is markedly different from the surrounding coastal areas of southeastern Spain. Here you see the curious Mar Menor, an inland sea hemmed in by La Manga, the narrow strip of land that has beaches on either side. About 10 miles south of the Mar Menor is Cartagena, the region’s principal city, which was founded by General Asdrúbal in 227 BC. Even then its natural harbor
surrounded by five hills made it a busy port. It was from here that Hannibal set out in 218 BC with a mighty army and his elephants, crossing the Pyrenees and the Alps before narrowly failing to destroy the Roman Republic. The Romans had their revenge in 209 BC, when they conquered Cartagena during the Second Punic War. This began a period of splendor under Roman rule that lasted until the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Inland is Murcia, the provincial capital and university town of more than 440,000, which was first settled by Romans.