, Hdt. 1.163
, Diodor. Siculus, Frag
. lib. xxv.), a district in the south of Spain, lying to the west of the Columns of Hercules.
It is now the prevailing opinion among biblical critics that the Tarshish of Scripture indicates certain localities in the south of Spain, and that its name is equivalent to the Tartessus of the Greek and Roman writers.
The connection in which the name of Tarshish occurs in the Old Testament with those of other places, points to the most western limits of the world, as known to the Hebrews (Genes.
10.4; 1 Chron.
66.19); [p. 2.1107]
and in like manner the word Tartessus, and its derlivative adjectives, are employed by Latin writers as synonymous with the West (Ovid, Ov. Met. 14.416
; Sil. Ital. 3.399
; Claud. Epist.
3.5.14). Tarshish appears in Scripture as a celebrated emporium, rich in iron, tin, lead, silver, and other commodities; and the Phoenicians are represented as sailing thither in large ships (Ezek.
27.12, xxviii 13; Jerem.
10.9). Isaiah speaks of it as one of the finest colonies of Tyre, and describes the Tyrians as bringing its products to their market (23.1, 6, 10). Among profane writers the antiquity of Tartessus is indicated by the myths connected with it (Strab. iii. p.149
; Justin, 44.4
But the name is used by them in a very loose and indefinite way. Sometimes it stands for the whole of Spain, and the Tagus is represented as belonging to it (Rutilius, Itin.
1.356; Claud. in Rufin.
1.101; Sil. Ital. 13.674
But in general it appears, either as the name of the river Baetis, or of a town situated near its mouth, or thirdly of the country south of the middle and lower course of the Baetis, which, in the time of Strabo, was inhabited by the Turduli. The Baetis is called Tartessus by Stesichorus, quoted by Strabo (iii. p.148
) and by Avienus (Ora Marit.
1.224), as well as the town situated between two of its mouths; and Miot (ad Herod.
4.152) is of opinion that the modern town of S. Lucar de Barameda
stands on its site.
The country near the lower course of the Baetis was called Tartessis or Tartesia, either from the river or from the town; and this district, as well as others in Spain, was occupied by Phoenician settlements, which in Strabo's time, and even later, preserved their national customs. (Strab. iii. p.149
, vii. p. 832; Arr. Exp. Alex.
2.16; App. Hisp. 2
; Const. Porphyrog. de Them.
i. p. 107, ed. Bonn.)
There was a temple of Hercules, the Phoenician Melcarth, at Tartessus, whose worship was also spread amongst the neighbouring Iberians. (Arr. l.c.
) About the middle of the seventh century B.C. some Samiot sailors were driven thither by stress of weather; and this is the first account we have of the intercourse of the Greeks with this distant Phoenician colony (Hdt. 4.152
). About a century later, some Greeks from Phocaea likewise visited it, and formed an alliance with Arganthonius, king of the Tartessians, renowned in antiquity for the great age which he attained. (Hdt. 1.163
; Strab. iii. p.151
These connections and the vast commerce of Tartessus, raised it to a great pitch of prosperity.
It traded not only with the mother country, but also with Africa and the distant Cassiterides, and bartered the manufactures of Phoenicia for the productions of these countries (Strab. i. p.33
; Hdt. 4.196
; cf. Heeren, Ideen,
1.2. § § 2, 3). Its riches and prosperity had become proverbial, and we find them alluded to in the verses of Anacreon (ap. Strab. iii. p.151
The neighbouring sea (Fretum Tartessium, Avien. Or. Mar.
64) yielded the lamprey, one of the delicacies of the Roman table (Gel. 7.16
); and on a coin of Tartessus are represented a fish and an ear of grain (Mionnet. Med. Ant.
i. p. 26). We are unacquainted with the circumstances which led to the fall of Tartessus; but it may probably have been by the hand of Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general.
It must at all events have disappeared at an early period, since Strabo (iii. pp. 148, 151), Pliny (iii. I, 4.22, 7.48), Mela (2.6), Sallust (Hist. Fr.
ii.), and others, confounded it with more recent Phoenician colonies, or took its name to be an ancient appellation of them.