Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To the end of the world? Tartessus in Spain

Tartessos cultural area
image wikimedia
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Jonah 1:3 NIV
The Jewish Encyclopaedia article on the Book of Jonah identifies the destination of the ship Tarsis as Tartessus in Spain.

Wikipedia tells about this possible Atlantis
Tartessos (Greek: Ταρτησσός) or Tartessus was a harbor city and 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 in the middle of the first millennium BC, for example Herodotus, who 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.

Archaeological discoveries in the region have built up a picture of a more widespread culture, identified as Tartessian, that includes some 97 inscriptions in a Tartessian 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". Trade in tin was very lucrative in the Bronze Age, since it is an essential component of true bronze, and comparatively rare.

Herodotus refers to a king of Tartessos, Arganthonios, presumably named for his wealth in silver.

The people from Tartessos became important trading partners of the Phoenicians, whose presence in Iberia dates from the 8th century BC, and who nearby built a harbor of their own, Gadir (Greek: τΓάδειρα, Latin: Gades, present-day Cádiz).

Phoenician ships might well have stopped at Joppa to take paying passengers travelling to Spain. But instead of the five hundred km to Tarsis the trip would have been about as far away as one can get, to the end of the known world actually.

As far away as Jonah could possibly travel.

The end of the world

Region of Santiago de Compostella
For ancient Iberians and than for the Romans the end of the world was the Atlantic coast west of Santiago de Compostella in the NW corner of Spain. There opened the ultimate sea that surrounds all land and even the sailors of Christopher Columbus were afraid of falling off the world if their boats reached too far west where sun sets.

The  world famous pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostella has strong prehistoric taste to it and maybe yet another ancient Iberian cultural tradition that was baptised with the arrival of Christianity.  (The nearby northern areas till the shores of Gulf of Biscay are inhabited continuously by the Basque people considered the earliest Europeans).

Tarsis or Tartessus?
Well, to be honest - I do not know! (need to study more the matter...)

But as for the question would Tartessus be more dramatic and to the point in the Book of Jonah than good old Tarsis my answer is a resounding YES!

Tarsis is in the close neighbourhood of Nineveh.

When you try to run away from God, good man, get as far as you can get!

And even that may not be enough for it is written in Psalm 139...

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Ps 139:7-12 NIV

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