Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. Iberian cultures along with ancient Phoenician, Greek, Celtic and Carthaginian settlements developed on the peninsula until it came under Roman rule around 200 BCE, after which the region was named Hispania, based on the earlier Phoenician name Sp(a)n or Spania. At the end of the Western Roman Empire the Germanic tribal confederations migrated from Central Europe, invaded the Iberian peninsula and established relatively independent realms in its western provinces, including the Suebi, Alans and Vandals. Eventually, the Visigoths would forcibly integrate all remaining independent territories in the peninsula, including Byzantine provinces, into the Kingdom of Toledo, which more or less unified politically, ecclesiastically and legally all the former Roman provinces or successor kingdoms of what was then documented as Hispania.
The origins of the Roman name Hispania, from which the modern name España was derived, are uncertain due to inadequate evidence, although it is documented that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians referred to the region as Spania, therefore the most widely accepted etymology is a Semitic-Phoenician one. Down the centuries there have been a number of accounts and hypotheses:
Jesús Luis Cunchillos argues that the root of the term span is the Phoenician word spy, meaning "to forge metals". Therefore, i-spn-ya would mean "the land where metals are forged". It may be a derivation of the Phoenician I-Shpania, meaning "island of rabbits", "land of rabbits" or "edge", a reference to Spain's location at the end of the Mediterranean; Roman coins struck in the region from the reign of Hadrian show a female figure with a rabbit at her feet, and Strabo called it the "land of the rabbits". The word in question (compare modern Hebrew Shafan) actually means "Hyrax", possibly due to Phoenicians confusing the two animals.
Hispania may derive from the poetic use of the term Hesperia, reflecting the Greek perception of Italy as a "western land" or "land of the setting sun" (Hesperia, Ἑσπερία in Greek) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.
There is the claim that "Hispania" derives from the Basque word Ezpanna meaning "edge" or "border", another reference to the fact that the Iberian Peninsula constitutes the southwest corner of the European continent.
Two 15th-century Spanish Jewish scholars, Don Isaac Abravanel and Solomon ibn Verga, gave an explanation now considered folkloric. Both men wrote in two different published works that the first Jews to reach Spain were brought by ship by Phiros who was confederate with the king of Babylon when he laid siege to Jerusalem. Phiros was a Grecian by birth, but who had been given a kingdom in Spain. Phiros became related by marriage to Espan, the nephew of king Heracles, who also ruled over a kingdom in Spain. Heracles later renounced his throne in preference for his native Greece, leaving his kingdom to his nephew, Espan, from whom the country of España (Spain) took its name. Based upon their testimonies, this eponym would have already been in use in Spain by c. 350 BCE.