martes, 30 de octubre de 2007

Tharsis or Tartessos


Scholars have only recently begun to separate Tartessian history from myth. When the Greeks reached the Iberian peninsula a few centuries after the Phoenicians, they called the land Tartessos. (The word “Tartessos” is a Greek version of the root trt/trd, which appears in a number of indigenous names—for example, Turduli, Turdetani—of the southwest Iberian peninsula.) For the Greeks, Tartessos was the mysterious land on the other side of Hercules’s columns (the Rock of Gibraltar); it was the gateway to the terra incognita.
According to the fifth-century B.C. historian Herodotus, Tartessian civilization was discovered accidentally by a Greek named Kolaios, who became extremely rich as a result of his trade with the Tartessians (History 4.152 ff.). From Herodotus, we also learn of a legendary Tartessian king named Arganthonius (meaning “man [or flower] of silver” in Greek), who welcomed the Greek merchants with rich gifts.
A number of other ancient works also make reference to Tartessos. One of them, Ora Maritima, a tantalizing Latin account of Phoenician travelers who explored the Atlantic coast up to Ireland and Britain, was written in the late fourth century A.D. by the Roman fabulist Avienus, who apparently based his text on a sixth-century B.C. Punic periplus (travel narrative).
Recent archaeological work suggests that Tartessos included a number of small proto-urban settlements largely dependent on agricultural and mineral (particularly silver) exploitation. This is probably what attracted the Phoenicians and formed the basis of Tartessian wealth.
Exactly when the Phoenicians arrived remains in question. According to ancient sources, such as Strabo (c. 60 B.C.–21 A.D.) and Pliny (23–79 A.D.), they arrived in the late 12th century B.C. and laid the foundations of sites such as Cadiz (Gadir) and Utica. But archaeological excavations at these sites have not uncovered remains earlier than the eighth century B.C.b The first-century B.C. historian Diodorus Siculus (Diodorus of Sicily) writes that the Phoenicians arrived on the peninsula while searching for silver but only settled there much later (Library of History 5.35.1–5, 5.20.1–2).
Some scholars identify biblical Tarshish with Iberian Tartessos. The prophet Isaiah, who lived in the latter part of the eighth century B.C., may refer to the Phoenicians’ sailing to the Iberian peninsula and reaching Tartessos/Tarshish:
The Lord poised his arm over the seaAnd made kingdoms quake;It was he decreed destruction for Phoenicia’s strongholds …Howl, O ships of Tarshish,For your stronghold is destroyed.(Isaiah 23:11–15)
Although the location of biblical Tarshish is much debated, an inscription of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (680–669 B.C.) suggests that it was located on the Mediterranean coast: “All the kings from (the islands) amidst the sea—from the country Iadanana [Cyprus], as far as Tarsisi [Tarshish], bowed to my feet and I received heavy tribute (from them).”1 Many scholars have connected Tarshish to Iberian Tartessos;2 it is possible that both names, the Semitic “Tarshish/Tarsisi” and the Greek “Tartessos,” derive from the same Iberian root, trt/trd. Nonetheless, the connection between Iberian Tartessos and biblical Tarshish can only remain a matter of speculation until new evidence is found.
The core area of Tartessian civilization comprised the modern Spanish provinces of Cadiz, Seville, Huelva and the Algarve in modern Portugal. After the seventh century B.C., Tartessian influence expanded, reaching the Guadiana Valley (where Cancho Roano is located) and a considerable portion of the southeastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. However, the Tartessians never formed a united country, nor did they create independent city-states. What bound the Tartessians together as a people over this large territory were their ethnic and cultural traits—and, especially, their religious beliefs. One of the key institutions for understanding the Tartessians is the sacred sanctuary, or shared religious precinct.
Most of these sanctuaries are in the core of the Tartessian world, but there are also many in the periphery (as distant as modern Portugal). One of these peripheral sanctuaries is the extraordinary site of Cancho Roano (“Reddish Rock” in Spanish), which functioned from the end of the seventh century B.C. to the end of the fifth century B.C.

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