The Iberian Peninsula is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes modern-day states Portugal, Spain, Andorra, the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and a very small area of France. It is the westernmost of the three major southern European peninsulas—the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas. It is bordered on the southeast and east by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the north, west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean. The Pyrenees form the northeast edge of the peninsula, separating it from the rest of Europe. In the south, it approaches the northern coast of Africa. It is the second-largest peninsula in Europe, with an area of approximately .
The English word Iberia was adapted from the use of the Ancient Greek word Ιβηρία (Ibēría) by the Greek geographers under the Roman Empire to refer to what is known today in English as the Iberian Peninsula. The name was not then used to mean a single political country or a population speaking a single language. Strabo's Iberia was delineated from Keltikē by the Pyrenees and included the entire land mass south (he mistakenly said west) of there.
The Ancient Greeks discovered Iberia by voyaging westward. Hecataeus of Miletus was the first known to use the term around 500 BC. Herodotus of Halicarnassus says of the Phocaeans that "it was they who made the Greeks acquainted with ... Iberia." According to Strabo prior historians used Iberia to mean the country "this side of the Ἶβηρος (Ibēros)" as far north as the Rhone river in France but currently they set the Pyrenees as the limit. Polybius respects that limit but identifies Iberia as the Mediterranean side as far south as Gibraltar, with the Atlantic side having no name. Elsewhere he says that Saguntum is "on the seaward foot of the range of hills connecting Iberia and Celtiberia."
Strabo refers to the Carretanians as people "of the Iberian stock" living in the Pyrenees, who are to be distinguished from either Celts or Celtiberians.
When the Romans encountered the Greek geographers they used Iberia poetically and spoke of the Iberi, the population of Iberia. First mention was in 200 BC by the poet Quintus Ennius. The Romans had already had independent experience with the peoples on the peninsula during the long conflict with Carthage. The Roman geographers and other prose writers from the time of the late Roman Republic called the entire peninsula Hispania.
As they became politically interested in the former territories of Carthage the Romans came to use Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior for "near" and "far Spain". Even at that time large sections of it were Lusitania (Portugal south of Douro river and Extremadura in western Spain), Gallaecia (Northern Portugal and Galicia in Spain), Celtiberia (central Spain), Baetica (Andalusia), Cantabria (northwest Spain) and the Vascones (Basques). Strabo says that the Romans use Hispania and Iberia synonymously, and distance them as near and far. He was living in a time when the peninsula was divided into Roman provinces, some belonging "to the people and the Senate" and some to "the Roman emperor." Baetia was distinguished by being the only one belonging "to the people." Whatever language may have been spoken on the peninsula soon gave way to Latin, except for Basque, protected by the Pyrenees.
"Iberia" has always been associated with the Ebro river, Ibēros in ancient Greek and Ibērus or Hibērus in Latin. The association was so well known it was hardly necessary to state; for example, Ibēria was the country "this side of the Ibērus" in Strabo. Pliny goes so far as to assert that the Greeks had called "the whole of Spain" Hiberia because of the river Hiberus. The river appears in the Ebro Treaty of 226 BC between Rome and Carthage, setting the limit of Carthaginian interest at the Ebro. The fullest description of the treaty, stated in Appian, uses Ibērus. With reference to this border, Polybius states that the "native name" is Ibēr, apparently the original word, stripped of its Greek or Latin -os or -us termination.
The early range of these natives, stated by the geographers and historians to be from southern Spain to southern France along the Mediterranean coast, is marked by instances of a readable script expressing a yet unknown language, dubbed "Iberian". Whether this was the native name or was given to them by the Greeks for their residence on the Ebro remains unknown. Credence in Polybius imposes certain limitations on etymologizing: if the language remains unknown, the meanings of the words, including Iber, must remain unknown also.