Related to both the Celtiberians and Carpetani, the Olcades appear to have been a mix of indigenous Iberians under the rule of an aristocracy of Gallic origin. It is believed that the latter sprang from the Volcae Tectosages of southern Gaul, who arrived in Iberia in the wake of the Celtic migrations of the 4th Century BC.
From the 4th century BC, they occupied most of the modern province of Cuenca, along with the southern tip of Guadalajara and the western fringe of Valencia, where their capital Cartala (Los Villares, near Caudete de las Fuentes; Iberian-type mint: Kelin) – also designated Althea, Altaia or Altia by some Greek authors – was sited. Other Olcades’ towns were Caesada (Hita de Guadalajara; Iberian-type mint: Kaisesa?) and Laxta (Iniesta?).
Archeological evidence recovered from local cemeteries, such as Buenache and Olmedilla de Alarcán, indicates that the Olcades´ culture was strongly influenced by contacts with southern Iberian, Phoenician, Etruscan and Greek traders; indeed, they are considered to have been responsible for the cultural ‘Iberianization’ of neighbouring Celtiberia and Carpetania during the 2nd Iron Age.
Submitted to Carthaginian rule by Hannibal just prior to the 2nd Punic War, the Olcades were subsequently forced to contribute mercenary troops to his army; the Greek historian Polybius lists them among the Iberian troops sent by him as reinforcements to Africa in 218 BC. After Hannibal’s departure to Italy, however, they switched sides and fought as Roman allies for the remainder of the conflict. Despite being included in the province of Hispania Citerior in 156–154 BC by the Romans, the Olcades nonetheless seemed to have remained loyal allies of Rome, subsequently successfully fighting off the attacks of the Lusitani under Viriathus in the mid-2nd Century BC.
They kept themselves independent until the late 2nd or early 1st centuries BC when, for unclear reasons, they were dispossessed of their tribal lands by Rome. Not only did the Romans set up the military colony of Valeria (Las Valeras – Cuenca) in 92 BC on Olcadian territory, but they also divided it among its own Edetani and Celtiberian allies, forcing the Olcades to merge with the latter.
- Ángel Montenegro et alii, Historia de España 2 - colonizaciones y formación de los pueblos prerromanos (1200-218 a.C), Editorial Gredos, Madrid (1989) ISBN 84-249-1386-8
- Alvarado, Alberto Lorrio J., Los Celtíberos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Murcia (1997) ISBN 84-7908-335-2
- Francisco Burillo Mozota, Los Celtíberos, etnias y estados, Crítica, Grijalbo Mondadori, S.A., Barcelona (1998, revised edition 2007) ISBN 84-7423-891-9