Málaga, like most of the other cities of southern Iberia, was a Phoenican settlement. It’s name, Malaka, is derived from the Phoenician word for salt, and the city, founded about 750 BC, was from its earliest existencedependent on trade in salted fish.
This seafood economy was of some interest to the Romans, who took control of the city in 218 BC, during the course of the Second Punic War. Málaga became, by the first century BC, a center for garum production.
Garum was a fermented fish sauce, in many ways akin to modern Thai and Vietnamese products, and was essentially the ketchup of the ancient world. Malaca, as the city was called by the Romans, was one of the major production sites for the stinky condiment (alongside southern Italy and the Peloponessus). Garum production involved placing a mixture of chopped fish and salt into baskets, which then sat in the above pictured fermenting pits for at least a month, before the liquid could be siphoned off and bottled.
The economic integration of the city also sped along the process of romanization. By the early first century AD, Malaca, while still officially an allied federate city, incorporated many of the institutions of Roman culture, such as wheat/grape/olive agriculture, baths, temples, and most prominently today, a theater.
The process of integrating the Iberian Peninsula, or at very least its southern half, was largely complete by the end of the first century AD. In 74, the emperor Vespasian issued the Lex Flavia Malicitana, which officially made Malaca a municipum granted full Roman citizenship to the people. The Lex itself was a series of regulations for the organization of municipal government. They were recorded on bronze tablets, a full set of which were unearthed in the city during the 1950s, and now reside in the Museo Arqueológico in Madrid.