Iberia? Hispania?

Why do we speak of the “Iberian Peninsula”?

hispaniaSimple: Iberia was the land under the river Ebro, or Iber/Hiber in Greek.

An approx. 2200 years ago, this river was both far bigger as far more important than it is now:

It was the front in the Punic Wars: the over a 100 year long battle between the 2 powerhouses of the day: the Romans in the north, and the Phoenician-Carthaginians in the south.

This 930 Km long river in the north of Spain, neatly cuts off the peninsula from the rest of the continent. But more importantly: in a time when seas and rivers were the motorways, merchants and armies would search for river mouths. Those who controlled the rivers, controlled the world.

But now… where does the name of Spain come from? OK, from Latin, that much we know; it’s from the Roman “Hispania“. But where does that come from? Ai, now things get mighty complicated. Whatever the Romans left, and that’s very much, nobody has discovered any clarifying phrase stating: “We call it Hispania because of reason X”.

So, we can but guess the meaning. There’s a plethora of contenders:
Hispania is based on Hebrew and means “land of the rabbits“. No, it comes from Phoenician for “distant, hidden land“. No, it is named after Hispalis, the Roman capital of the peninsula, which today is named Sevilla. But why was it named Hispalis? Well, that could come from the Greek “Heliopolis” or City of the Sun. No, it is likely that… perhaps that… maybe…

Just too many civilisations left their marks for hundreds of years; but were also followed up by other civilisations, who either respected the previous one, or hated and erased it (in Andalusia, the Moors hardly left anything Roman), with as a result: we just don’t know.

The reason for the name of Spain is hidden in the mist of time.

Civilisations come and go, after their fall there’s a remarkable regress in just about every domain of science, inventions, literature, and then it’s waiting for the next powerhouse with sufficient knowledge or interest to start digging it up again.

But why have simple explanations, when the quest can trigger and unearth a far more beautiful land: Imagination.

Ben

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