Identification of the Phoenicians as Puni now offers greater insights into the transactions taking place in the Mediterranean in the second and first millenniums. Tola and Pua are listed as among those who seek refuge in Egypt, Gen 46:13, and their children among those who are numbered among the returning tribes, Num 26:33. We are uncertain of the date of the reentry into Canaan. In any case, time seems sufficient for the Puni to infiltrate the Iberi Canaanites along the coast, interbreed, place their name upon that group, and begin the "Phoenician" migrations along the shores of the Mediterranean in the eleventh or tenth centuries.

By interbreeding with their "Canaanite" Semitic cousins the Puni placed Abrahamic blood among those people. This "red" blood stock spread out along the shores of the Mediterranean, and helped fulfill the promise made to Abraham about his progeny, Gen 15:5, 17:5, and so on.

But they were known as Puni, not Iberi.

Meanwhile the other Hebrew tribes, continuing to recognize themselves as Iberi, were securing a foothold in the promised land. Over the next several hundred years they multiplied, established a kingdom, and became an important element in the policies and politics of the surrounding countries.



The biblical record is informative.

Jeroboam wanted reassurance that he would rule long over Israel. On pretense he sent his wife to Ahijah the prophet, I Kings 14, seeking Yahweh's favor. But Ahijah said Yahweh would smite Israel (not Judah) as a reed is shaken in the water; he would root up Israel (not Judah) out of the good land which he gave to their fathers and scatter them beyond the Euphrates, I Kings 14:15.

When Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, became sick he sent his messenger Hazael to Elisha the prophet inquiring if he would live. Elisha told Hazael to tell Ben-hadad that he would live but actually he would die. Hazael stared at Elisha for such deceptive response until Elisha hung his head in shame. Elisha then began to weep and Hazael wanted to know why he wept. Elisha replied that he knew the evil which Hazael would do to the people of Israel. He would burn their fortresses, slay their young men, dash their little ones in pieces, and disembowel pregnant women. But Hazael could not believe that he would do such terrible things. Elisha replied that he was to be king over Syria. Hazael returned to Ben-hadad and smothered him in his sick bed, II Kings 8:7-15.

According to one inscription Shalmaneser III was victorious over Ben-hadad in 846 BCE, and in another inscription he was victorious over Hazael in 842 BCE. The consultation with Elisha had to fall between those two dates. From other inscriptions, Shalmeneser III was victorious over Ahab, an ally to Ben-hadad, in 854 BCE. This great battle was fought at Kir-haraseth (Karkar) on the Orontes River, II Kings 3:25. Although Shalmaneser won the battle he was in a weakened condition and was not able to prosecute conquest of Syria and Palestine. Nevertheless the people of Israel became subject to foreign invasions, conquest, and dispersion. According to I Kings 15:20 Ben-hadad captured cities of extreme northern Israel, including Ijon, Dan, Abelbethmaacha, "and all Chinneroth with all the land of Naphtali."

In those days Yahweh began to cut off parts of Israel. Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel, from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is the valley of the Arnon, that is, Gilead and Bashan, II Kings 10:32-33.

This territory was east of the Jordan. We have no historical records to show if the people remained in their territories after conquest, or if some were moved to other regions.

For the next hundred years Israel lived in mortal danger until Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria from 745 to 727 BCE, conquered Ijon, Abelbethmaacha, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, Galilee and all the land of Naphtali. These were the eastern and northern most lands of the twelve tribes.

He carried the people captive to Assyria, II Kings 15:29.

Kings 15:19 says that Pul was the Assyrian king who was appeased with heavy ransom by Menahem. This is an unfortunate translation of older texts; he was Tiglath-pileser (or Tilgath-pilneser) as identified in I Chron 5:26. He carried away the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, "to this day."

The last phrase was a remark made by Jewish scribes during the Babylonian captivity, more than a hundred years later. The northern tribes were still remembered, at least to their Jewish brothers.

The conquered Israelite cities were located in the tribal territories north of a line extending from Mt. Carmel to the Sea of Galilee. The tribes, as listed in I Chron, were those east of the Jordan river.

The cities of Assyria were located in the upper reaches of the Euphrates and the River Habor, west of Nineveh as far as Haran, approximately 150 miles south of Lake Van. These areas are the northernmost regions of modern Syria and Iraq.

The list of Assyrian cities probably is not exhaustive; it may be merely indicative. The resettlement of the people of Israel in the Assyrian cities could have extended to the boundaries of the kingdom -- west to the Mediterranean north of Lebanon, on around the coast to ancient Tarsus, northeastward through the Anti-Taurus Mts, into the lands of the Urartu north of Lake Van, southward past Lake Urmia, and into the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. Groups may have migrated beyond the regions of the Assyrian Empire, north to the Black Sea and upward to the Cyrus River and the Caucasus Mts.

The date was 732 BCE.

The conquest of Israel continued over the next decade. Shalmaneser V made Hoshea his vassal, forcing tribute, II Kings 17:3. When Hoshea sought help from the Egyptians and refused to pay the tribute, Shalmaneser V put him in prison and invaded all the land. He besieged Samaria for three years, finally taking it to carry away the people to Halah and to Habor, the river of Gozan, and "to the cities of the Medes," II Kings 17:6.

The date was 722 BCE.

The cities of the Medes extended as far in the northeast as the Caspian Sea and the Araxes River. Although Shalmaneser V died in 722 the conquest of the people of Israel was completed by Sargon II in 721. According to the records of Sargon he carried away 27,290 people, settling them in the regions of upper Mesopotamia and in Media. From that point they lose their identity as Hebrew people. But they were remembered in the west as Iberi.

Those Ibri (Iberi) became the Iberi of Asia, of Spain, and of Ireland. They also became other people.

The Iberi name is known to us yet today in the Iberian peninsula. It has echoes in the ancient Greek Hibernia, now known as Ireland. In fact, the name of Ireland comes from Iberia.

We know from historic sources that Iberi lived among the Caucuses mountains in 100 BCE.

The evidence from Alashar and Boghazkoi in Anatolia shows that the earlier Habiru/Haberi people were located as close as one hundred miles from the Black Sea. If one draws a straight line along the Tigris River from the Persia Gulf through Anatolia one passes through the heart of the ancient Hittite kingdom in Asia Minor dating between the 17th and 15th centuries BCE. We do not have evidence to say the Haberi/Iberi actually lived on the shore of the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus), nor how far in a northeast direction toward the Caucasus Mountains they may have been located. Since they are known some 500 miles from Mari on the Euphrates River it seems plausible that they could have been another hundred miles farther north to the shores of the Pontus Euxinus. It also seems plausible, with their wide geographical distribution, that groups of them could have migrated still farther to live in the Caucasus mountains.

Thus, if we find Iberi located at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in 100 BCE we cannot definitely decide if they came from the more ancient Haberi of the 15th century BCE, or if they derived from the Ibri tribes who were resettled in the cities of the Medes in 700 BCE.

Important for this study is the fact that later history shows a unique group of people resident in a region bordering on and just south of the Caucasus, what is now Georgia. The residents of that region were known to the ancients as Iberi.

Sure knowledge of Iberi east of the Black Sea comes from the campaigns of the Roman general Pompey. He was commissioned to stop the activities of Mithridates, king of the lands around the Black Sea. Mithridates had subjugated the people on the north shore of Anatolia and was extending his control into the regions of Cappadocia and Bithynia in Asia Minor. The latter two were allies of Rome and his adventures incurred Roman opposition. After the death of Sulla in 78 BCE Mithridates levied an army to expel the Romans from Asia. He was defeated by Lucullus and forced to seek refuge in Armenia where Tigranes, the king of Armenia, gave him safety and aid. From there Mithridates raised another great army and defeated the Romans in 67 BCE. He rapidly recovered his lost territory when the soldiers of Lucullus went into mutiny. Lucullus was recalled and replaced by Pompey who, a year later, completely routed the army of Mithridates near the Euphrates. Pompey then continued his advance into Armenia, where Tigranes capitulated. Pompey continued his advance to within three days' march of the Caspian Sea, including the territory of the Iberi and the Albani.

Our knowledge of these Iberi depends on Theophanes, a companion and intimate friend of Pompey. Although Theophanes' writings are not preserved they were quoted extensively by Strabo, circa 10 AD. According to Theophanes the Iberi were highly civilized, with towns and markets. They had some pretense to architecture with tile roofs on their buildings. They had four classes of society: the nobility, the priests, the soldiers and farmers, and slaves employed in menial tasks. Their domestic organization was patriarchal, with the property of each family possessed in common and administered by the eldest member. We have no information on their physical attributes, religion, or other details of their culture. Neither do we know their origins, their history, or their antiquity.

The middle of the first century BCE is well down into historical times. The question is the possible connection of the Caucasian Iberi to the Near East Haberi and the Hebrew Iberi. A thousand years passed since last mention of the Haberi in Near East documents. About 400 years passed since mention of the Ibri in Jeremiah. Were these Caucasian Iberi descended from either the older Haberi or the resettled Ibri?

Our query is complicated further by the presence of Iberi in the Iberian peninsula, modern Spain and Portugal. Historical record of the Iberian Iberi exist as far back as the sixth century BCE.


The solution to our query is confused by the ancient historians. According to Strabo, 1.3.21:

" . . . The migration of western Iberians (was) to the region beyond the Pontus and Colchis."

The Pontus is the Black Sea. Colchis was a region bordering on the Black Sea just south of the Caucasus mountains. It was separated from Armenia by the Araxes, according to Apollodonus, or by the river Cyrus and the Moskhican mountains, according to Strabo. The Iberi lived immediately adjacent to the Colchis. Herodotus thought the residents were of Egyptian origin. The Caucasus Iberian people in classical times were celebrated for frugality and industry. According to Strabo the country abounded in all kinds of fruits and material for shipbuilding. Linen and wool of fine quality and in great quantities were produced.

If we interpret Strabo's remark correctly he believed that elements of the "western" Iberi, those living in Spanish Iberia, migrated to the Iberian regions of the Caucasus. However, according to a 17th century English writer named Purchas in a work entitled Pilgrimage, published in 1614:

The Iberians:

"...saith Montanus, dwelt neare to Meotis; certaine Colonies of them inhabited Spaine and called it Hiberia."

Meotis was the ancient name for the Sea of Azov. If Montanus was correct, some of the eastern Iberi lived north of the Pontus Euxinus (Black Sea) and migrated to Spain. This would imply that the Iberi were spread over a large geographical area around the northern and eastern shores of the Black Sea. They were not limited to the small territory described by Theophanes. This is the territory of the Kimmerians of historic fame.

Montanus was a Christian heretic who lived in the 2nd century AD. He was a converted pagan priest who proclaimed himself to be the Comforter promised by Jesus. His influence spread after his death; Tertullian was counted among his disciples but the sect was soon stamped out. His native land of Phrygia was the home of the ancient Hittites and the location of elements of the earlier Haberi. It bordered on Armenia, Colchis and Iberia. The residents of Phrygia should have known something of the traditions of the people surrounding their land.

The first known historical mention of the Iberians was that of Hecataeus, born 540 BCE. Although his writings are not preserved other Greek and Roman historians quote him.

According to Hecataeus the Iberians occupied Spanish Iberia.

Herodotus, circa 485 to 425 BCE, mentions the Iberians twice. In Book II.163 he states that the Phocaea were the first Greeks to make their fellow Greeks acquainted with the Adriatic, with Tyrrhenia, with Iberia, and with the city of Tartessus. Tartessus was an ancient site situated near the modern Cadiz beyond the straights of Gibraltar. For Herodotus Iberia was the Mediterranean side of Spain. In Book VII.165 he lists an army raised among various people by Terillus and under the command of Hamilcar, son of Hanno, king of the Carthaginians. The members of the army included men from Phoenicia, Libya, Iberia, Liguria, Helisycia, Sardinia and Corsica. From these references it appears that the Iberians of Spain were already well settled in their country, and could raise appreciable numbers of fighting men, in the mid-fifth century BCE. Hanno is roughly contemporaneous with Herodotus.

In order to better answer the question of the movement of the Iberi it is necessary to look at folk migrations and colonizing activities of various people during the first millennium BCE. Regardless of which direction the Iberi moved they certainly used the waters of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, if the Iberi came from the Haberi prior to the first millennium we could not depend upon classical Greek and Roman authors for information; they would not know. We would be forced to rely strictly upon archeology. While this is scientifically sound it does not reproduce living languages or cultural identifications beyond the remains of pottery, stone and bone. It cannot tell us if a people knew themselves as Iberi unless they left written evidence.

Unfortunately again, we lack written evidence around the Black Sea and the Mediterranean prior to 1000 BCE. We are forced to depend upon the classical historians. As we come down to the middle of the first millennium we discover stone monuments and inscriptions which permit further insight, but even these are so scattered and uncertain we cannot arrive at precise understanding.

From available evidence it seems reasonable to conclude that Iberi were on the move in the middle of the first millennium BCE. They were part of a great folk migration and colonizing movement that had participation by the Puni, Greeks, Etruscans, and others. If the Iberi were on the move, and since we must depend upon archeological artifacts, their movements could easily be obscured among those other people.

The general flow of migration was from east to west. If the Spanish Iberi moved from west to east they would have done so counter to the movement of all other people. Although Strabo provided an invaluable record of ancient geography, and of people, a good portion of his work was borrowed from earlier sources; he also was not noted for his scholarly rigor. Since he relates the two Iberi people, and since Montanus does also, it would appear that the Spanish Iberi came from the Caucasian Iberi, or that both came from other Iberi origins. In any case the western Iberi settled along the eastern and southern shores of the Iberian peninsula. They quickly penetrated to its heartland in heavy population, building many cities and towns. From pottery, buildings and artifacts archeology shows that an indigenous population could be called Iberian from before the eighth century. Although this culture can be identified distinctively from archeological remains it was not necessarily Iberian. The Iberi name may not have been used for those people until several centuries later as migrating Iberi mixed with the natives. The region may have retained its distinctive culture while becoming identified with immigrating Iberi. The Iberi may have imposed a powerful influence over the indigenous population, giving them the name while blending with their lifestyle.

Such proposition is well within reason. The Kelts who penetrated over the Pyrenees around the sixth century mixed with both the native population and the Iberi to create the famous Keltiberi tribes. They were valiant fighters greatly feared by the Romans, who called them "Spanish hearts of oak."

Other evidence supports such proposition. We saw that the Carthaginian general Hamilcar raised troops from among the Iberians. This is indicative of the close relationship with the Puni people, and the difficulty in separating cultural elements. Iberian pottery was found in Carthaginian cities, while Puni and Greek artifacts were found in Iberian urban centers. There was a heavy and general commercial traffic from one area to the other, as well as general movement of people.

The Iberi name was important; we should not underestimate its significance for the native populations. It was applied not only to people but also to geographical features and locales. The river that flows from the Cantabrian mountains in northern Spain to the eastern coast of Catalonia was called the Iberus by Strabo, 3.4.1. Elsewhere he calls it the Iber, 3.4.10. We would not say that the Spanish Iberi received their name from the river but rather that the Iber received its name from the people. Today it is called the Ebro.

The Cantabrian mountains received their name from the Cantabrian tribe of the Iberi who occupied the northern sections of Spain along the Atlantic coast. The Cantabri were also trouble to the Romans. Heavy campaigns against them began around 150 BCE but they were not subdued until the reigns of Agrippa and Augustus, at the time of Jesus. The Cantabri name is made up of two elements, Cant + Ibri. Other names show themselves related to the Iberi. Evora in the Evora district of Portugal was once called Ebora, an evident Iber/Eber name. Both the Aviero and the Beira regions of Portugal may be Iberi names. Other names, such as Miranda de Ebro and Villafranca del Bierzo, may reflect this ancient influence.

The Iberi trail does not end with the Iberian peninsula. It continues north to Ireland. The name Ireland comes from Old English Iraland from Yra-land. In turn Yra comes from an older Irish Eri. The Irish Eriu, with its inflected forms of Eirinn and Erin, comes from the Old Keltic Iveriu, with the accusative and ablative Iverionum and Iverione.

The first recorded mention of Ireland was by the Greek explorer Pytheas in the 4th century BCE, who traveled beyond the straights of Gibraltar and north along the English coast to Iceland. He called Ireland I'erne, as did the classical Greek writers after him. The Roman name used by Julius Caesar was Hibernia. Pomponius referred to it as Iuvernia.

The -an ending on proper names is an old Latin practice which is also found in many other Indo-European languages. English has African for Africa, American for America, Russian for Russia, and so on. Without the "n" Hibernia becomes Hiberia and this is the familiar Iberi. The Old Keltic Iveriu with a "b-to-v" shift is Iberiu and this also is the familiar Iberi name.

Other evidence points to the origins of the Irish Iveriu. The Lebor Gabala Erenn, "The Book of the Taking of Ireland," is a medieval work which attempts to describe the history of Ireland. According to those accounts one of the later people to invade Ireland were the Sons of Mil. They first occupied a land called Scythia. They came to Ireland through Egypt, Crete, Sicily and Spain. They were called Gaedhal (Gael) because their remote ancestor, who lived with Moses, was Gaodhal Glas. According to the Irish folk tales, as a child Gaedhal was cured of a serpent bite by Moses who promised that no serpent would infest the land where his descendants lived. Thus the folklore explanation for the lack of serpents in Ireland. According to the traditions a grandson of Gaodhal named Niul married a Pharaoh's daughter named Scota. Her name then became the ancient name Scotia by which Ireland was known to many people. (This name was later transferred with the migration of Irish people to Albion -- Scotland.) According to the folk tale, while in Egypt Niul and his people grew rich and powerful. They resented the injustices of a later Pharaoh, were driven from Egypt, and after long and varied wanderings, reached Spain. After sojourning in that land for some generations a certain Bregon, one of their number, heard of Inisfail, the Island of Destiny. Bregon built a tower in Spain and from there his son Ith was able to see the magic land. Ith set sail for Ireland to investigate but the Tuatha de Danann, who were in control of the island, were suspicious of his motives and killed him. His kinsmen, the eight Sons of Mil, invaded Ireland to avenge his death. Most prominent of the eight were Donn the king, Amairgen the poet and judge, Eremon the leader of the expedition, and, most important to our study, Eber. With a large body of people they defeated the Tuatha and took control of Ireland. According to some older Irish scholars the Sons of Mil reached Spain in the fifth century BCE.

The old Irish folk tales, including the Lebor Gabala Erenn, show many distorted folk traditions mixed with segments that must be based on actual events. The scribes who put these stories together in the eleventh and twelfth centuries had strong faith in their source materials, even though they did not fully understand them.

According to the stories Eremon and Eber divided Ireland between them, with Eremon receiving the north and Eber the south. In the new era that is being inaugurated Eriu will be the "high ship" of the Sons of Mil. To them and to Lugaid, son of Ith, will be traced the lineage of all the tribes of Ireland.

This folk evidence from Ireland supports our estimates that the Iberi came from "Abraham the Ibri" and not merely the Haberi. The time of those migrations would be in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, eventually reaching Ireland.