Essential Histories

Essential Histories

Essential Classical Societies

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The Iberians were a set of peoples that lived near the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian peninsula. The Iberians were not a clearly defined culture, ethnic group or political entity. The name is instead a blanket term for a number of peoples belonging to that area. Iberian was a language isolate and generally considered to be a non-Indo-European language. In a wider sense not all Iberians spoke Iberian languages. The Turdetani for example spoke a Tartessian language, also a language isolate. The Iberian language, like the rest of the paleohispanic languages, gradually became extinct by the 1st century AD, and was eventually replaced by Latin.


The Iberians initially lived in isolated communities based on a tribal organization. Their culture was influenced by trade contacts with the Phoenicians and the Greeks and tribes further to the north were gradually assimilated by the Celts.

In the centuries preceding Carthaginian and Roman conquest, Iberian settlements grew in social complexity, and had a greater social stratification and urbanization. Gradually some of the hill-forts turned into semi-urban fortified towns, known as oppida. This process was aided by trading contacts with the Greeks and Carthaginians.


The Iberians had knowledge of metalworking, including bronze, and agricultural techniques. Among the most important goods traded by the Iberians were precious metals, like tin and copper.


The Iberians on the Balearic islands were famous for their skill with the slingshot. Balearic slingers frequently served as mercenaries under the Carthiginians and afterwards under the Romans.


Animal worship was an important part of early Iberian religion. The Cult of the bull was found in Iberia in Balearic and Andalusian sanctuaries. There is also evidence of the worship of doves, which represented fertility as well as the worship of other animals.

Much of Iberian religion involved offerings to various gods. These offerings could include the pouring of libations, or offerings of bread, oil, votive representations, pottery, bowls and amulets.