19 April 2023

What are the Tartessos? – Know the characteristics and history of the Tartessos

By Donald

of cultures oldest and most mysterious from the Iberian Peninsula. This fascinating civilization dates back 2,500 years, being the subject of debate for historians and archaeologists, who are still trying to determine aspects of its origin and way of life. Stay in this article and you will know more about them.

What were the Tartessos?

They are an ancient culture that is said lived in the Iberian Peninsulabetween the 9th and 6th centuries BC, although very little is known about their origin and lifestyle, this civilization has been the object of fascination for history and archaeology.

The beginning of this town is still not very clear, there are two streams to try to explain. One of these is the indigenista: its definition says that it results from an appropriation of the Phoenician indigenous culture. It is believed that this was so due to the archaeological remains of ceramics decorated with representations of oriental gods and red glaze.

Another current called the colonial, explains that: the culture of the Tartessos was formed due to the evolution of the adjacent townsreaching its peak when they were related to the Phoenicians of the coast.

According to the investigations of those in charge of decipher the mysteries of this cultureIt was a very advanced town for its time. It is considered that they had a great development in the manufacture of handicrafts, more specifically goldsmithing and metallurgy.

Its economy was based on maritime trade, because They took advantage of their strategic geographical position. Thanks to this, they exchanged goods with the peoples of the Near East and the Mediterranean, in exchange for wealth and resources.

In the Bible it is mentioned in the Old Testament that in the 10th century BC the ships of Solomon, King of Israel, returned every 3 years full of gold. Historians believe that They were about economic relations. that the people of Israel had with Tartessos, which was governed by King Argantonio.

What was the culture of the Tartessos?

Through expeditions carried out through the branch of archaeology, metallic objects with clear oriental influences have been collected and rescued. Spouted jugs cast in bronze very similar to those made in Greece, also spits of more than one meter, belts with hook, among others.

Some have also been found anthropomorphic representations, which were believed to be deities. In addition, they made luxury artifacts in materials such as ivory and bone, carved toiletries in clam shells. In general, they carried out goldsmithing and metallurgy work of very good quality and beauty.

they owned a great skill for trade at sea, its geographical position was favorable in this. Thanks to this they were able to maintain economic relations with various towns.

Legends of Tartessos

Among the legacy that lasts from the Tartessos is its myths and legends, of which 3 of them are very popular:

The legend of King Argantonio: According to tradition, this he was a very wise and fair king who governed for a long period. It is said that he was the one who established the capital of Tartessos in the city of Huelva. He was considered an iconic figure of this civilization, and his government was marked by peace and prosperity.

The treasure of ‘El Carambolo’: it is said that it existed a treasury full of gold and silver buried near the city of Seville. According to legend they hid it to protect it from foreign invasions and since then they have not found it.

Although in 1958 a group of workers who worked in a club in Seville, they discovered a container of mud and inside they found 16 plaques, 2 bracelets, a necklace and 2 pectorals, all made of solid gold, weighing more than 3 kilos. Said treasure was attributed to King Argantonio.

The legend of the goddess Astarte: was a deity whom they worshiped and they offered sacrifices in their temples. It is said that she was so powerful that she could grant fertility and prosperity to those who worshiped her.

Historians suggest that this goddess could be an inspirationsince, by maintaining economic relations with the Eastern Mediterranean, many aspects of these cultures intersected.

The submerged city of Tartessos: According to tradition, the capital of this civilization was once a city built on the shores of the sea, which would later have been submerged by the waters as a result of a naturally occurring cataclysm. This legend has started speculation that it is the real Atlantis.

Tartessian language

Many characteristics of this town are enigmas that have not been resolved, no written records of the Tartessian language have been found and very little is known about it. However, some experts have managed to establish certain features of their language, through the study of proper names, geographical terms and some pieces of inscriptions.

They found a set of tombstones in the Algarve, under the Guadalquivir, and Alentejo, which contain labels in an unknown language, represented by a mixed text of syllables and alphabet, which seem to be read from right to left.

This language is believed to belong to the pre-Indo-European languageswhich would relate Tartessian to others such as Latin, Greek or Germanic.

Governments of the Tartessos

As there are no records detailing the political structure of society, it is difficult to define what was the system that governed the government of this culture. But through archeology and literature of the time, some clues about this have been determined.

It is thought to have been a hierarchical society with defined social strata, where the elite ruled and controlled most of the resources and were in charge of decision making. It is speculated that their form of government was the monarchy and that they also had a system of laws carved on bronze tablets.

The geographer Strabo establishes that these tables they were more than 6000 years old old, although it could also refer to lunar months, its specific date being about 500 years old.

The monarchy of the Tartessos was divided into two groups:

mythological kings:

Geryon: first king of this group, according to some myths He was a giant with 3 heads or 3 torsos. Which was in charge of grazing herds of oxen on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. It is combined with the ancient Greek mythological story of Heracles, in which one of his tasks was that this character should steal Geryon’s oxen.

The legend also mentions that the giant was defeated by Heracles, and that the Tower of Hercules was built on top of it in La Coruña.

Norax: Gerión was a grandson and was the son of Eritrea, who conquered southern Sardinia, here he founded the city of Nora.

Gargoyle: This character belonged to the mythological second dynastywho is credited with the invention of beekeeping.

You have: it is said that he is an unrecognized son of Gargoris, born to his daughter, the product of their incest. His father ordered him to be killed numerous times through some beasts in his power.

Legend has it that a doe was the one who nursed him until he became a man, then his father recognized him. According to the Tartessos he was the person responsible for inventing agriculture, I create the first laws and also divided society into social classes. In addition, he was in charge of formulating the regulations in which he prohibited nobles from working.

The historical kings:

There is only one king of which references were found, this is Argantonio, who He pretended to live 120 years and governed 80. It is estimated that his government could have taken place between 630 BC and 550 BC A group of historians believe that, instead of dealing with a single king, they were referring to a dynasty, since in some accounts treasures are attributed to him with a difference of more than 300 years.

In his reign there was much prosperity and wealth linked to the mining activity of bronze and silver. In this way he gave the Phocians help to combat the Persian threat, to which he donated approximately 1500 kg of silver.

Location of Tartessos

It is said that they belonged to the provinces of Seville, Huelva and Cádiz, the 3 are part of Spain today. Two of its most important territorial extensions were the mining settlements on the Odiel and Tinto rivers, as well as the Guadalquivir plain.

Then his influence spread in the bronze age and the first iron age by Andalusia and Extremadura, also Spanish communities today. Likewise, they expanded to some areas of Portugal such as the Algarve and Alentejo.

It is believed that its end began from the battle of Alalia in 535 BC, after the death of King Argantonio. In this combat, the Etruscans and the Carthaginians allied with the Greeks, after this there are no more records.

One of the possibilities of its disappearance is that the civilization of Carthage will destroy themIt is also speculated that it could be Gadir or the peoples of the plateau. Although the most accepted is the theory that includes Carthage, because they became the owners of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Religion of the Tartessos

There are few data on this area in the life of civilization, but, in the same way as many peoples in the Mediterranean, they had a polytheistic religionthat is, they worshiped multiple gods.

Many of their gods are considered to be Phoenician cultural appropriations, such as Astarte. Since sanctuaries very similar to the Phoenicians have been found in Linares and Jaén.

What kind of society were the Tartessos?

Although little is known of their culture, due to lack of records and the destruction of its monuments and artifacts over time, it is believed that this society was governed by an ingrained hierarchy.

In said civilization the elite controlled most of the resources and made the important decisions, in addition, religious leaders also had a noticeable influence on politics.

Regarding the religious sphere, it is believed that they worshiped a series of gods, and that this occupied a central axis in his life, because offerings and sacrifices made by the elite have been found. In culture, his agility with metallurgy and the creation of jewelry and decorations of great beauty was highlighted.

It was a complex society with a strong commercial environment, of which much remains to be discovered.