Why is Spain called Spain?

We know that the Roman historian Tito Livio (Patavium, 59 BC – ibid, 17 AD) used the term Spain with some naturalness, as if it were something natural and known to all; That was rooted and agreed by all.


Land of Rabbits, according to Schulten

The historian, archaeologist and philologist of German origin Adolf Schulten, proposed in the twentieth century that the word Spain came from a Punic root word, and that it referred to the abundance of rabbits that existed in the vast territory that today is the Iberian Peninsula.

This theory, however, is not accepted by all, especially by the etymologists, those who study the origin of words, the reason for their existence and their significance and form.


According to another theory coinciding with that of Adolf Schulten, Hispania would come from the Phoenician term i-spn-ya, a term whose use has been documented since ancient times, and that has quite a lot of likelihood. That word, i-spn-ya, has been used since the second millennium before Jesus Christ, which would come to mean land of rabbits due to the large number of rabbits that populated what we now call Spain.

This was Hispania for the Romans
This was Hispania for the Romans

A bull skin for Strabo

For the Greek geographer and historian Strabo, (Amasia, Ponto, c. 64 or 63 a. C.-c. 19 or 24 d. C.) from the difficulties that in its historical moment entailed the observation of the profiles of the coast He discovered something unique.

Strabo discovered that the Peninsula is shaped as if it represented a bull skin.

The Pyrenees would be the neck and the Rock of Gibraltar, the tail. In this way, Strabo wanted to give the Peninsula a magical and extraordinary air, where «the Lusitanian mares were fertilized by the wind» …

Ophioússa, land of snakes, for the Greeks

On the other hand, the Greeks called what we know today as the Iberian Peninsula, with the name of Ophioússa, which means ‘land of snakes’, and which later evolved, the reason is unknown, for Iberia.

It is thought that this word was adopted because the word iber was a word that they constantly heard among the inhabitants of those lands.

It is believed that iber is a geographical term, also thinking that the word referred to the Ebro river.

In any case, we observe that the description of the name for the Iberian Peninsula, is merely descriptive and is fixed in the abundance of what existed on this earth, or how it was its form: if they were rabbits or snakes, if it was in the form of skin of bull, also abundant animal, or how it was spoken in that territory, perhaps it only differed from the gaze of those who watched, Greeks or Romans.

So, finally, this land is called Spain, with that particular ñ, perhaps unique as the land (terruño in spanish) that supports it.

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