Spain's location at the crossroads of European and African civilizations
has given it a rich and complex history. Throughout its history
Spain has been invaded and inhabited by members of many different
European and non-European civilizations Archeological evidence shows
that the first settlers came from North Africa and Western Europe.
These groups were Iberians, Celts, and Basques.
The country's strategic location at the narrow Gibraltar made it
the focus of interaction with many pre-classical and classical civilizations.
Along Spain's shores Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians set
up settlements and trading posts. During the second century BC the
Romans arrived in the peninsula, and brought with them their distinctive
socio-political institutions and traditions.
It took nearly two centuries for this new wave of invaders to pacify
the fierce Iberian people, but with that task completed, the Romans
succeeded in unifying the land under one political authority, and
the Spanish State began to take shape.
In the fifth century, Bellicose Visigoths from Northern Europe took
the Peninsula by storm. The imposition of the Catholic faith on
the whole land was King Leovigild's principal contribution to Spanish
Visigothic rule did not last long, however in 1711, Muslim Arabs
invaded and quickly expelled these Germanic tribesmen. Moorish influence
gave Spain it's unique cultural twist, and merits special attention.
Muslim Spain, or also known as Al-Andalus in Arabic was a very dynamic
and culturally rich place. The moors conquered Spain in a matter
of years and established control over all but the most remote regions
of the nation.
Muslim rulers generally tolerated Christians and Jews, and as a
consequence of this peaceful climate, the arts and sciences flourished
in Spain while the rest of Europe wallowed in the dark ages. Trade
was healthy and large cities predominated.
The Poet-King Mu-Tamid established in his court an assembly of some
of the greatest intellectuals of the time, and Arab poetry from
this period is world famous. The caliph fled Syria for Toledo in
750, and the center of the Islamic world was briefly transported
This led to an increased Moorish presence in the peninsula and occasioned
the construction of beautiful palaces, mosques, and fortresses which
still remain in the southern regions of the country.
The tiny Christian states that survived in the rugged mountains
of the North recuperated from their defeat, gradually became powerful
kingdoms, and eventually started the reconquest of Spain.
When the kingdoms of Castilla and Aragon rose to preeminence in
the peninsula and through a dramatic serious of battles, which lasted
for hundreds of years, this protracted conflict forced the Moors
back into Southern Spain.
Through the famous marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I, one
hundred years later, these kingdoms unified and fully consolidated
their political power. With greater internal cohesion, Spain was
able to expel the last of the Moors from Granada in 1492 and focus
its attention on becoming a world power.
The discovery of the New World in 1492 and the influx of precious
metals in the subsequent centuries made Spain the most powerful
nation in Europe, and gave rise to the country's golden age renaissance.
As the 17th century began, Spain reached its political, economic,
and cultural apex. Spanish military power was unrivaled, its diplomacy
feared, and its literature celebrated. From the golden age came
the famous works of Cervantes and Lope de Vega.
By the end of this century, however, Spain had mismanaged its wealth
and through a series of costly wars and failed economic policies,
it was a nation in decline.
Although not untouched by industrialization and political modernization,
Spain fell fall behind its European neighbors in these regards and
entered the 20th century an all-too-traditional nation.
The conditions were ripe for revolution, and the radical political
ideologies of the day took hold in Spain, resulting in a civil war,
and then the regime of the dictator Franco, which lasted until his
The Spanish state encompassed numerous distinct ethnic and cultural
minorities. In the new 1978 Constitution recognizes and guarantees
autonomy of nationalities and regions making up Spanish state, and
seventeen autonomous communities existed in late 1980s.
Major ethnic groups that existed are such as Basques, Catalans,
Galicians, Andalusians, Valencians, Asturians, Navarrese, Aragonese
and also a small number of Gypsies.