Which Iberia?

If a text on ancient history references Iberia, don’t automatically assume you know the location. It could be indicating one of two places, separated by 4,000 miles on the map of antiquity and a universe apart in the ancient world.


Most likely the reference is to the Iberian peninsula, the geographic region containing modern-day Spain and Portugal. The name was first used by the Greeks, and adopted by the Romans as “Hispania.” It is believed that the origin of the word is in the word “Iber,” which the ancient Iberians used to say river (which may have survived in the modern name or the Ebro river, which was named by the Romans Iberus Flumen, or River Iber).

However, there was also the Kingdom of Iberia, the predecessor to modern-day Georgia in the southern Caucasus. Also called “Caucasian Iberia” or “Eastern Iberia” to distinguish it from the peninsula, this kingdom lasted for close to a thousand years from the 4th century BC to the 5th century AD, and later became the Principate of Iberia under Persian control and then the Theme of Iberia under the rule of the Byzantine Empire.

Today there are no states or kingdoms called Iberia, but in the United States there are two local bodies, the town of Iberia in Ohio, and Iberia Parish in Louisiana.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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9 Responses to Which Iberia?

  1. Patrick says:

    also fun to note are the “albanians” of the caucaus (who inhabited the region near and around iberia and the “albanians” who the roman’s called “illyrians” who constitute the population of the modern state of albania. another “double” in history.

  2. kende says:

    Similar to the two Galicias. One Galicia is the northwestern-most region in Spain, the other a region in Central Europe that has alternated between Austro-Hungarian and Polish claims/spheres-of-influence. I do wonder whether the eastern Galicia is spelled and pronounced at all the same in the Slavic, Hungarian, or Austrian variants as it is in the English. The Iberian Galicia is the same in English and Spanish both (unless you count differences over the Castellian ‘c’.

  3. Rommel says:

    Two Albanias too, although I suspect its not quite as analogous.

  4. Curzon says:

    Hi guys — all of these are subjects of future posts, thanks!

  5. Aceface says:

    Don’t forget Benin,the republic(used to be called as Dahomey before 1975.)and Benin,the kingdom of which was pre-colonial African kingdom existed in today’s Nigeria.

  6. Curzon says:

    Ghana’s in the same boat: the historical kingdom of Ghana was separated by about 1,000 miles from the modern state of Ghana.

  7. lirelou says:

    Kende. perhaps the standard of comparison should not be Castilian, but “Gallego”, which has more vowels that Castilian, and a double “ll” whose pronounciation is not the “ye” of Castillian. Modern Spanish “Gallego” is closely related to Portuguese, where the “l” and soft “c” (c+) sounds are far more pronounced. Perhaps ancient Ibero-Celtic would explain this?

  8. Pingback: España e Iberia. Puestas en duda « Cultura de Defensa

  9. Rob Roy says:

    may I add: Greek (Byzantine) Abydos and Egyptian Abydos, Greek Thebes and Egyptian Thebes and finally Alexandria in Egypt vs. one of several others in Iran, Afghanistan, etc.