Catalan Historical Review, No 2 (2009)

From the archaic states to romanization: a historical and evolutionary perspective on the Iberians

Joan Sanmartí


In the middle of the first millennium BC small-scale societies (local or even family level communities) on the Eastern coast
of the Iberian Peninsula were rapidly transformed, socially and culturally, into complex ones of at least tens of thousands of
people and endowed with centralised forms of political organization that controlled vast territories, often of several thousand
square kilometres. From the beginning of the 4th century BC, the rapid expansion of writing suggests the establishment
of an administrative system and the development of the institutional complexity particular to the archaic states.
These states were governed by kings who emerged from the aristocratic ranks that dominated the diverse communities
forming the bulk of the population. We know from Greco-Latin sources that the inhabitants of these territories were
known by the name of Iberians, and that this ethnic group was divided into different peoples that in some cases corresponded
to the afore mentioned political entities, whereas in other cases several of them must have been included. Epigraphy
shows that the same language was used in the whole of this region, although perhaps not exclusively; in modern
times it is known as ‘Iberian’, and cannot be deciphered. Incorporation into the Roman world around 200 BC meant a
gradual integration into Latin culture, that was completed a little before the change of era.

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ISSN: 2013-4088 (electronic edition); 2013-407X (print edition)