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Iberia or Iberia?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Colchis and Iberia in the 4th-3rd century BCE - shown on a map from 1833 by Félix Delamarche
Colchis and Iberia in the 4th-3rd century BCE - shown on a map from 1833 by Félix Delamarche

Today’s area of ​​Spain and Portugal is known as the Iberian Peninsula, or simply – Iberia. This name was known in antiquity. However, in those days it also applied to a region almost four thousand kilometres away – modern Georgia…

In fact, in both cases there are many concepts regarding the etymology of the name Iberia, due to the lack of conclusive arguments, it is worth briefly listing only the most important ones. As for the Iberian Peninsula, they most often refer to the Ebro River – called Iberos in Greek and Hiberus in Latin (Polybius mentions that the local name is Iber). There are theories about the Basque words ibar (valley) and ibai (river), but there is no conclusive evidence that the name of the Ebro River is derived from these words. It is certain that the name of the river was referred to in the treaty between the Romans and Carthage in 226 BCE. In later times, as the Romans became more interested in the territories conquered by Carthage, the name Hispania came into use, which then came into official use in naming the Roman provinces, albeit for a long time both names (Iberia and Hispania) functioned in parallel.

In the case of Iberia, which was later in Georgia, the name probably derives from Armenian words related to words from the Kartvelian languages, or from Colchid terms describing the territories lying “on the other side” of the Lichske Mountains (in relation to Colchis). Already ancient writers mistakenly deduced the mutual kinship of peoples from both regions and only recently has any relationship between the Basques and the inhabitants of today’s Georgia been widely rejected. The name Iberia was still used after the Sassanid conquests until the Middle Ages and the formation of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In this topic, it should be added that despite the name that may be associated with Georgia, Virgil referred in his “Georgics” to Iberians from the peninsula, not the Caucasus (“Georgics” – an agricultural poem, called Georgia – Georgia). And Caucasian Iberia itself bordered in the east with Albania, completely different from modern Albania in the Balkans…

Author: Jakub Ernt (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Jeorgiki Wirgilowskie do Mecenasa. Wiersz dydaktyczny o ziemiaństwie, czyli o gospodarstwie wiejskim księgi cztery, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2011
  • Harry Sidebottom, Wojownik Rzymu IV: Wrota Kaspijskie, Rebis, 2012
  • Słownik Kultury Antycznej, praca zbiorowa, wydanie VI, Wiedza Powszechna Warszawa, 1989

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