Tarshish and Tartessos Revisited: Textual Problems and Historical Implications

Carolina López-Ruiz

in Colonial Encounters in Ancient Iberia

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226148472
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226148489 | DOI:
Tarshish and Tartessos Revisited: Textual Problems and Historical Implications

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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Within the framework of a new discussion of Phoenician and Greek colonization in the Iberian Peninsula, the question of the possible identification of the protohistoric culture of Tartessos in the mentions of a legendary Tarshish in the Hebrew Bible is quite relevant. The correlation between the Tartessos of the Iberian Peninsula, mentioned by Greek authors, and the Tarshish of the Hebrew Bible was first suggested in a late lexicon. The dual enigma of the identification of Tarshish and Tartessos has since sparked the enthusiasm of both biblical scholars and archaeologists of the Iberian Peninsula's protohistory. Should the identification be proven correct, the culture of Tartessos would leave the shadowy land of semi-mythical imagination where Herodotus and others had placed it and would gain a more prominent position in Mediterranean history. The appearance of Tartessos in the Hebrew Bible would both provide a written proof of the important connection of Tartessos with the Levant and reinforce the theory of an early date for the first arrival of the Phoenicians in the West.

Keywords: Phoenicians; colonization; Iberian Peninsula; Tartessos; protohistory; Tarshish; Hebrew Bible; Levant; Mediterranean

Chapter.  12352 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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