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The Iberians


In 3500 B.C., the Iberians were the predominant culture of the Iberian Peninsula starting in east and south of Spain and slowly migrating to the interior and west. The Iberians were descendants from North Africans, Mediterranean cultures, and local native groups. Iberians lived in isolated groups and formed tribal settlements. They worked with bronze and were skilled in agricultural techniques.

Iberians were brave and independent people. The Roman historian Estrabon told that Iberian warriors used to carry a poison that they did not hesitate to take, rather than becoming captured. A sentence ascribed to emperor Augustus describes them as: “First to be invaded… last to be dominated”. An expression in the modern Spanish “numantina resistance” refers to the siege of Numantia where people preferred to commit suicide, instead of being captured. At the same time, Iberians were peaceful people, dedicated to grazing and farming and were not inclined to war. They preferred skirmishes to battling on open fields. Women played an important role in the Iberian society. The Roman historian Estrabon says “Daughters are the ones who inherit and choose wives for their brothers”.

With the arrival of the Phoenicians in about 1,000 B.C., the Iberians formed more advanced communities, and social stratification became more complex. Iberians engaged in trading with Phoenicians and Carthaginians first and the Greeks later. Iberians adopted the elements of the Greek alphabet into their writing system.

The Celts invaded the Iberian Peninsula at about 800 B.C., and they settled in Spain’s North and Western areas. The Iberians dominated the South. Eventually, the two cultures fused into the Celtiberians.

During the Punic Wars (Carthage vs. Rome), the Carthaginians ruled the Iberians. Celt-Iberians, therefore, had extensive contact with cultures established in France, Italy and North Africa, as well as, the Greek. Both Iberians and Celt-Iberians were part of the make up of Hannibal’s army.

During that time, various tribes occupied the central and western area of the Iberian peninsula. One of the strongest and most influential tribes was the Lusitanians (Lusitanos in Portuguese).