Chronicle 9. IBERIA IMPARTIALLY VIEWED
THOUGH ACCEPTING there were Contacts Between the Ancient Civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean and Iberia, Dan Stanislawski rejected the idea of any Aegean presence in the peninsula, and remained faithful to the mainstream scholarly favouritism towards Phoenicians.(a) Commenting on the “claims that there was contact” between Iberia and Crete, he conceded that it is “a seductive idea” and “a reasonable hypothesis”, but “as yet there is no convincing evidence that the Mediterranean island route to the west was used” by the Minoans.
Such ‘tangible’, “convincing evidence” in the archaeologists’ hands, i.e. a number of Egyptian trade items found in Spain, is of “a somewhat later period”, after the fall of the Minoans, ca 1400-1200 BCE. Although the possibility of “Phoenician intermediaries” cannot be ruled out, one needs to have in mind that exactly in this “somewhat later period” (late Bronze Age), especially in the western Mediterranean, sea trade was in the hands of those who brought about the fall of the Minoans, that is, the Mycenaeans – who, strangely enough, are not even mentioned by the American professor! Therefore, his assertion that the Egyptian trade items found in Spain “almost surely may be associated with Phoenician intermediaries” is anything but scientific.
Besides, the Aegean presence in Egypt, the country of origin of these trade items, dates back to at least Mycenaean times and more likely even further back into the Minoan age, when a trade settlement was founded in the Nile Delta under the aegis of the Pharaohs, namely Naucratis (Ναύκρατις). It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Hellenic colony in Egypt, acting as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Egyptian and Greek trade items, art and culture.(b) When a historian “forgets” the Mycenaeans and Naucratis, it means he wears “Phoenician myopic glasses”! Under the circumstances, Stanislawski, an expert on Portugal, cannot be suspected of pro-Hellenic bias in his narrative about the same fateful events in Iberia related in the previous Chronicles 6, 7, and 8. At the same time, we can test the accuracy of our own testimony:
A WESTWARD MOVEMENT
The earliest passage of Phoenician ships through the Straits of Gibraltar was probably made during the general period of time when the Central European farmers and pastoralists were first entering the Cantabrian region. These events preceded the 1st millennium BC. Later, Greek exploration and trade grew, following the example given by neighboring Phoenicia, perhaps as early as the 9th century and certainly by the end of the 7th century BC. Such contacts can be equated in time with the acceleration of the East-West movement of peoples and cultures which took place in the North with the advent of the Celts, who may have appeared in Iberia as early as 900 BC, and the main force of which was felt by the 6th century. Between the 6th and the 3rd centuries BC, while the lands of the western Mediterranean were developing under the influence of active and aggressive Greeks and Carthaginians, northern Iberia was changing under the influence of Celts of later arrival from beyond the Pyrenees. There was a difference, however, between the early contacts along the Mediterranean coasts and those of the Central Europeans with northern Iberia. It was not opportunity for settlement that drew men along the southern coasts, but trade… It was the attraction of metals that drew the early Greeks beyond the straits of Gibraltar and along the western coasts of Spain.
CONTACTS WITH THE WEST COAST OF IBERIA
It is possible that the early merchant wayfarers sailed up the west coast to trade directly with Galicia. But if they did, the coast of present Portugal represented a gap in their interest, for there is almost no record of them there.(c) It would seem that Portugal was then, as through so many periods of time before and after, apart from the main stream of events. It possessed no great source of silver such as the mines of Andalusia, nor of copper or tin (with slight exceptions in both cases).(d) With her metals, Spain was a magnet for the early traders, whereas Portugal attracted casual traders at most…
HOMOGENEITY OF THE IBERIAN MEDITERRANEAN REGION
At the time of their first contacts with the west, the earliest Phoenicians and Greeks encountered a culture area with fundamentally similar characteristics throughout. It extended along the Mediterranean coasts, slopes, and adjacent interior valleys, from the Pyrenees to the Guadiana River… With their usual perspicacity, the Greeks recognized this area as being essentially homogeneous and sharply different in culture from the Celtic territories of the interior and of the north and west peripheries…
EARLY POLITICAL GROUPS AND CONFUSION OF NAMES
Indisputably, one of the important Iberian groups was that of the Tartessians, wealthy farmers and traders in metals. It was their knowledge of the sources of metals that first brought them in touch with the Phoenicians and Greeks. They knew the coasts to the west and northwest of their home, for the tin and gold that they traded came from Galicia. They were also able to furnish silver, copper, and lead, which came to them from the Guadalquivir River basin. It appears that tin was the product of greatest importance at the time. The early centuries of the pre-Christian millennium were times of great opulence along the coast of Galicia. That this wealth was due to tin may be inferred from the fact that the Greeks used the term Cassiterides to identify the area. However, the question as to the ultimate source of tin is moot. In spite of the lack of archaeological evidence it seems likely that, in the earliest years of trading, it came from alluvial deposits along the river banks of Galicia. There is a possibility, however, that Bronze Age connections with French Brittany and with the British Isles had continued and that the Galicians were merely purveyors of tin from those places. This basic necessity of bronze-users was scarce in the other parts of the Phoenician and Greek world. There was no tin in all of North Africa, Asia Minor, Caucasia, Cyprus, mainland Greece, and the Greek islands. The mines of Tuscany were small. It is no wonder that both Galicia and the Tartessians were prosperous and that the Phoenicians and Greeks were attracted to the area.
“Tin was the product of greatest importance at the time. This basic necessity of bronze-users was scarce in the other parts of the Phoenician and Greek world.” (Dan Stanislawski)
GREEK EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
The earliest Greek ventures may perhaps be dated as of the 9th or the 8th century BC. Possibly Rhodian and Chalcidian sailors were in the western Mediterranean at this time… The line of Ionian names stretching along the islands and coasts of the western Mediterranean and to the Atlantic coast of Portugal – the names with the -oussa termination – can probably be ascribed to this early period. These names are important in dating the arrival of the Greeks in western waters. They mark the island route of the early Greek navigators. Starting from Syrakoussai [Syracuse] in eastern Sicily, they may be followed through Ichnoussa (Sardinia), Meloussa (Menorca), Rornyoussa (Mallorca) and Pityoussa (Ibiza). The latter three, even now, are identified on maps as the Balearics or Pityusas.(e) The -oussa names extend westward to the straits of Gibraltar and up the Atlantic coast of Portugal to Ophioussa, in the region of Lisbon, and the general area of Portugal plus Galicia may have been vaguely termed Ophioussa.
THE PHOCAEAN GREEKS
Herodotus said that it was Greeks from the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor who were first to navigate in the western Mediterranean waters. It may seem temerous to question the facts of the father of history, but Antonio García does so convincingly.(f) The Phocaeans, says he, arrived late upon the scene, profiting by earlier maritime contacts. Nor does he accept the statement that the important voyage of Colaeus, the Samian, was a voyage of discovery of Tartessos for the Greeks. This widely heralded 7th century journey was, to him, merely one – although perhaps the most profitable and spectacular up to that time – of many such voyages that had been made by Rhodians, Chalcidians, Samians, and others.(g)
Whatever the dating may be – and the archaeological inquiry has far to go – the Phocaeans certainly became the most active and effective Greeks in the area. Their colonization had energy and breadth and was the only one in the western Mediterranean with lasting results… There is no specific evidence that this activity was connected with the decay of Tyre, but there is such a coincidence in time. Tyrian decline had begun by the end of the 8th century BC and was notable during the following century. This was the time of the voyage of Colaeus the Samian (650 BC), the founding of the Phocaean colony of Massalia, present Marseille (600 BC, or approximately then), and the founding of Alalia in Corsica (640 BC, or approximately 40 years prior to Massalia). Some time before the end of the century, Mainake, the most westerly of Phocaean colonies, was founded near Málaga.(h)
This century was one of intimacy between Phocaeans and Tartessians. The reign of Arganthonios of Tartessos began in the 7th century BC. The ancient sources spoke of his 80-year reign but probably, in typical Greek fashion, they dramatized a dynasty or a period by creating a mythical longevity for a single ruler. Whether this represented one ruler or several does not alter the fact that there was frequent and close contact between Tartessos and Phocaea. This was the period of the Phocaean maritime dominance during which the Tartessian king lent money to the Phocaeans to build their fortifications against the threat of the Persians.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GREEKS AND PUNIC PEOPLES IN THEIR RELATIONS WITH IBERIA
The period of the decline of Tyre was not only important for the Ionian Greeks, but also for the Tyrian colony of Carthage. During the time of Phocaean colonization, Carthage too was expanding. As early as 653 BC it had established the colony on Ibiza of the Balearics, which lay athwart the Greek island route to the west. After 573 BC, when Tyre fell to the Babylonians, Carthage showed increasing independence. Competition for western metals was growing between the two great rivals, Carthage and Greece. It is reasonable to assume that the friendship of Arganthonios (or that of his dynasty), through almost a century of time, was more than mere affection and amiability. It probably represented a form of alliance in which the Tartessians aided the Phocaeans in their struggle against the threat to their mother city. In return, Greeks supported the Westerners against the growing aggressiveness of Carthage and the Punic colony of Gadir, which threatened the area of Tartessos. Almost from the time of their founding of Gadir the Phoenicians showed their expansionist tendencies. It was not long before they were using the island as a base of attack against the mainland and the Tartessians.
“The [Greco-Tartessian] friendship represented a form of alliance… against the growing aggressiveness of Carthage and Gadir, which threatened the area of Tartessos. Almost from the time of their founding of Gadir the Phoenicians showed their expansionist tendencies. It was not long before they were using the island as a base of attack against the Tartessians.”
The Greeks were usually neither pacific nor friendly neighbors when the prospect of gain was apparent. In this they differed little from the Phoenicians. However, in their relations with the Tartessians they had no desire, it would seem, for control of land or people, but merely wanted to trade their products, especially olive oil and wine, for Tartessian metals.(i) In fact, the history of Greek contacts with Iberians is one of amity, and the hospitality of the Iberians toward Greeks was proverbial. The purposes of both peoples were served by friendly intercourse and mutual support against the common enemy, especially after the increased importance and the expanded ambition of Carthage. A major clash for complete dominance of the area was inevitable. This was speeded by events in the eastern Mediterranean area…
“The history of Greek contacts with Iberians is one of amity, and the hospitality of the Iberians toward Greeks was proverbial. The purposes of both peoples were served by friendly intercourse and mutual support against the common enemy, especially after the increased importance and the expanded ambition of Carthage. A major clash for complete dominance of the area was inevitable.” (Dan Stanislawski)
THE ALALIA COLONY AND ITS EFFECTS
In this part of his narrative, Dan Stanislawski turns his attention to the historic developments in Asia Minor: in 546 BCE Cyrus captured Lydia, causing “a mass migration of perhaps half of the population of Phocaea to their Corsican colony of Alalia”. When the Persians took Phocaea, “all the men in this city of probably 5,000 to 7,000 people had gone. This population figure suggests the large number of available vessels, and points to the commercial importance of the city at that time”. There follows the Battle of Alalia “sometime between 540 and 535 BC” with its disastrous results for the Hellenes and also the Tartessians.
Carthage may then have sealed the straits of Gibraltar, as Carpenter suggests. More likely, the straits had been largely sealed for a long time, but after the battle the land route between Mainake and Tartessos was also blocked. Mainake itself was destroyed by the Carthaginians toward the end of the century, to end its traffic and its competition with the Carthaginian settlement in the location of present Málaga…
ECONOMIC CHANGES IN THE WEST
As Carthage had inherited the western empire of Tyre, so did Massalia fall heir to that of her mother city, Phocaea. Greek trade became centered here, with the end of Phocaean maritime enterprise in the West of the Mediterranean. Trade through France to Brittany and beyond had been undoubtedly important to the Massaliotes previous to this time, but the record had been obscured by the greater drama of the struggle on the Mediterranean. During the last half of the 6th century BC, during which time Carthaginians grasped complete power in the West, the prosperity of Galicia – presumably based upon tin – declined. This decline may have been due to the change from the sea route, by way of the Straits, to that from Massalia, via the French rivers, to the northwest and ultimately to Britain…
“Galicia’s decline may have been due to the change from the sea route, by way of the Straits, to that from Massalia, via the French rivers, to Britain. The direct land route from Massalia skirted the Carthaginian barrier and eliminated Galician middlemen.” (Dan Stanislawski)
Stanislawski offers four possible explanations for the Galician decline; the second one is probably the most important:
More likely, the Galicians had for some time been not producers, but purveyors, of tin from French Armorica or the British Isles. If this were true, the direct land route from Massalia would have skirted the Carthaginian barrier and eliminated Galician middlemen… At approximately the same period of time there was an increased interest in silver… by the avidity with which the Greeks of Asia Minor sought it for coinage… Perhaps the richest of ancient silver mines was that of Mastia (or Massia), a region second only to Tartessos in commercial importance. The ancient prosperity of the region and of its most important city, also named Mastia (or Massia), the later Cartago Nova, and probably the site of the present Cartagena, was based upon silver mining through several centuries. Great amounts were mined under the direction of Hannibal in the 3rd century BC, and it was still a large operation at the time of Polybius in the succeeding century.
CARTHAGINIAN DOMINATION OF THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN
[After the battle of Alalia] Greek commercial activity in Iberia was ended and Carthage was less inhibited in the spread of its control. Tartessos, which had feared the Carthaginians and had allied itself with the Greeks, was left without support and was destroyed.(j) In the following century, probably 20,000 Iberian mercenaries were fighting in Sicily for the Carthaginians… Celts were also serving as mercenaries in the Carthaginian forces.
There was an increasing reliance upon mercenaries from the peninsula, not only from the fringes but from deep within the interior as well. In the late 3rd century BC, Hannibal’s army included Celtiberians from the northern interior, Galicians from the extreme northwest, Lusitanians from Middle Portugal, Vettones from the middle Tagus drainage – and these do not complete the list. Such troops, however, were something other than pure mercenaries; many had been forcibly impressed into service… During earlier centuries no general antagonism in Iberia seems to have been engendered by the Carthaginians. Locally there may have been antagonism, such as probably existed between the Carthaginians and the Tartessians, but for the tribes of the interior the Carthaginians may have had a friendly appeal. They offered an opportunity to fight with pay. It was later, when the Carthaginians had expanded their power and increased their need for troops that their tactics changed with regard to these tribes of the interior, which had long served as a source of manpower. When Hannibal, in desperate need for troops and under economic pressure, forcibly impressed some of them into his armies, the others reacted in bitter opposition. The tribes of the interior were a bellicose lot. An opportunity to fight for pay was not distasteful to them but a demand that they submit to enslavement was another matter. According to Strabo they resisted Hannibal as they later did the Romans for somewhat the same reasons.
Nevertheless, tens of thousands of mercenaries were introduced to new lands and cultures of the middle and eastern Mediterranean. Since this process had been going on from as early as the 6th century BC and many men had returned to the peninsula, the effect upon attitudes of the peoples of the Meseta [‘Plateau’, in the heart of Iberia] and even some of the remote western coasts may have been considerable.
Dan Stanislawski’s impartial view of Iberia is almost identical with the historical panorama of the last three Chronicles: Ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι, as Euclid would say, or quod erat demonstrandum (Q.E.D), or ‘what had to be demonstrated’! There is still one Periplus left, dropping anchor at several emporia in the Mediterranean, to come full circle back to our starting point – a voyage full of surprises with several itinerant artisans, artists, and masters we meet on the way, “members of the Architects’ and Painters’ Guilds”, whose Linear A writing, however, puzzles the famous archaeologist Leonard Woolley…