This story starts out very slowly and then snowballs into something much, much bigger.
The best place to start is the Guadalquivir river.
The Guadalquivir river is named after the “great valley” it flows through.
This seems back-to front.
I’m used to valleys taking their names from the rivers e.g. Hudson Valley, Thames Valley.
Another curiosity is that this “great valley” name comes from the Arabic.
The Guadalquivir river is the only great navigable river in Spain.
The modern name of Guadalquivir comes from the Arabic al-wādi al-kabīr, ‘great valley’.
I had assumed that after The Reconquista the Spanish would have changed the name of the Guadalquivir river back to it’s original Spanish name.
The Reconquista is the period of history of the Iberian Peninsula spanning approximately 780 years between the Islamic conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the last Islamic state in Iberia at Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania, largely extending from 711 to 788.
Precisely what happened in Iberia in the early 8th century is uncertain.
But there’s a problem with that assumption.
The ancient Greeks and the Romans had names for the Guadalquivir river.
But there is no Spanish name for the Guadalquivir river.
Greek geographers sometimes called it the river of Tartessus (because of the city that had the same name).
The Romans called it by the name Baetis (that was the basis for name of the province of Hispania Baetica).
The next best thing would have been the ancient Tartessian name for the river.
According to Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 28, the native people of Tartessians or Turdetanians called two names to the river: Kertis/Certis and Rérkēs.
But this proved impossible because Tartessian is an extinct language.
The Tartessians were rich in metal.
In the 4th century BC the historian Ephorus describes “a very prosperous market called Tartessos, with much tin carried by river, as well as gold and copper from Celtic lands”.
The Tartessian language is an extinct pre-Roman language once spoken in southern Iberia.
In fact, the Tartessian people and their “semi-mythical harbor city” [at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river mysteriously vanished [sometime] during Roman times.
Tartessos or Tartessus was a semi-mythical harbor city and the surrounding culture on the south coast of the Iberian Peninsula (in modern Andalusia, Spain), at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River.
It appears in sources from Greece and the Near East starting during the first millennium BC. Herodotus, for example, describes it as beyond the Pillars of Heracles (Strait of Gibraltar).
Roman authors tend to echo the earlier Greek sources but from around the end of the millennium there are indications that the name Tartessos had fallen out of use and the city may have been lost to flooding, though several authors attempt to identify it with cities of other names in the area.
But the mysteries associated with the Guadalquivir river don’t stop there.
Just how did the Romans manage to sail the [roughly] 200 kilometres up the Guadalquivir to Cordoba which is [currently] at about 90 metres above sea level?
The Guadalquivir river is the only great navigable river in Spain.
Currently it is navigable from the Gulf of Cádiz to Seville, but in Roman times it was navigable to Córdoba.
Why was “most” of the Roman bridge at Córdoba reconstructed in the 8th century and then restored and renovated “in particular” during the 10th century?
The Roman bridge of Córdoba is a bridge in the Historic centre of Córdoba, Andalusia, southern Spain, originally built in the early 1st century BC across the Guadalquivir river, though it has been reconstructed at various times since.
Most of the present structure dates from the Moorish reconstruction in the 8th century.
During its history, the bridge was restored and renovated several times (in particular in the 10th century), and now only the 14th and 15th arches (counting from the Puerta del Puente) are original.
Why would the Carthaginians [whose merchants ships specialised in visiting maritime ports] suddenly decide to change their winning strategy by sailing up the Guadalquivir river?
Carthage was the Phoenician city-state of Carthage and during the 7th to 3rd centuries BC, included its sphere of influence, the Carthaginian Empire.
The empire extended over much of the coast of North Africa as well as encompassing substantial parts of coastal Iberia and the islands of the western Mediterranean Sea.
Carthage’s merchant ships, which surpassed in number even those of the cities of the Levant, visited every major port of the Mediterranean, as well as Britain and the Atlantic coast of Africa.
These ships were able to carry over 100 tons of goods.
Hamilcar Barca or Barcas (c. 275 – 228 BC) was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago.
Hamilcar probably landed at Gades in the summer of 237 BC.
Hamilcar’s immediate objective was to secure access to the gold and silver mines of Sierra Morena, either by direct and indirect control. Negotiations with the “Tartessian” tribes were successfully concluded, but Hamilcar faced hostility from the Turdetani or Turduli tribe, near the foothills of modern Seville and Córdoba.
Having secured control over the mines, and the river routes of Guadalquiver and Guadalete giving access to the mining area, Gades began to mint silver coins from 237 BC.
To unravel these mysteries it’s necessary to set your geologic clock to historic time.
It’s also necessary to remember the geography of the Mediterranean has changed over time.
These changes have occurred in historic times – not geologic time.
In historic times the Corredor Bético connected the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
Strabo (64 or 63 BC – c. 24 AD) was a Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian who lived in Asia Minor during the transitional period of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.
Some of these location changes were tracked in Ptolemy’s Geographia gazetteer.
This means that within historic times southern Spain was attached to Carthaginian Africa but separated from the Iberian peninsula by the Corredor Bético.
Southern Spain only became sutured onto the Iberian peninsula in the last 2,000 years.
In structural geology, a suture is a joining together along a major fault zone, of separate terranes, tectonic units that have different plate tectonic, metamorphic and paleogeographic histories.
In other words:
1) The Carthaginians didn’t change their strategy by sailing up the Guadalquivir.
The maritime Carthaginians simply sailed along the Corredor Bético.
2) The Romans didn’t sail up the Guadalquivir to Cordoba.
The Romans simply sailed along the Corredor Bético to Cordoba.
The evidence suggests the Corredor Bético finally closed at the Arabian Horizon.
This would explain:
3) The disappearance of the Tartessian and their “semi-mythical harbor city”.
4) The need for major repairs to the Cordoba bridge in the 8th and 10th centuries.
5) The naming of the Guadalquivir river in the newly formed “great valley”.
6) The Punic War narratives are distinctly dubious.
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC.
In 213 BC, Castulo was the site of Hasdrubal Barca’s crushing victory over the Roman army with a force of roughly 40,000 Carthaginian troops plus local Iberian mercenaries.
7) The destruction of Carthage was likely a natural disaster i.e. The Arabian Horizon.
A second offensive… breached the walls, sacked the city, and systematically burned Carthage to the ground in 146 BC.
Carthage was systematically burned for 17 days; the city’s walls and buildings were utterly destroyed.
8) The Umayyad conquest of Hispania wasn’t an invasion or conquest.
As has happened so many times in history: The people didn’t migrate – the land did.
9) The Reconquista was an invasion and conquest.
My guess is that Cástulo was an Indo-Greek port [with Phoenician merchants] on the north shore of the Corredor Bético.
Which, by my reckoning, doesn’t leave a lot of room in the history books for The Romans unless that’s just another way of saying: Indo-Greek.