If one were to go by the archaeological remains and artifacts, Spain is actually one of the earliest settlements in Europe. Places like the caves and sites in Granada, Altamira, Almeria and Murcia have yielded evidences of a prehistoric Spain as far back as 1.2 million years ago. The Basques are believed to have descended from the Cro-Magnons.
Spain’s strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea attracted settlers who took advantage of its abundant natural resources and fertile lands. The Iberians came from the South followed by Celtic tribes who had interracial relationships with the former giving rise to tribes of Celtiberians.
The Phoenicians arrived in the Iberian Peninsula and founded settlements which are known today as Cadiz, Malaga and Adra. To the south and the Mediterranean coast came the Greeks and later on the Carthaginians who conquered most of the peninsula and founded colonies such as Ibiza and Cartagena. However, after the Second Punic War in 213-201 B.C. the Romans defeated the Carthaginians and took over Hispania.
The Romans made significant contributions to the country’s cultural, economic, intellectual and artistic development: aside from building historical monuments, the Romans also left landmark legacies such as the Roman laws, the Latin language and Christianity.
The Roman Empire was followed by the takeover of the Visigoths in 410 and although their occupation lasted more than three centuries, their influences were not as deep and as significant as that made by the Romans.
Moorish Empire and New Territories
The Arabs laid siege to the Iberian Peninsula and defeated the Visigoths in the 8th century paving the way for Muslim rule for over 700 years. A caliphate was established in Al-Andalus and Cordoba reached its zenith as the capital of the empire.
The Arabs also left major legacies, not only in splendid architecture but also in technology, food and culture. Although there was great tolerance for the Christians during this era, there was almost constant war between the two forces. These pockets of resistance led to the Reconquista when Muslim-controlled areas began to fall into the hands of the Christian military forces.
By the 15th century, the union of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon marked the unification of what were then two of the most powerful kingdoms in Spain and the end of the Muslim epoch. It also ushered the golden era for Spain, when for the next two centuries it became a political, economic, intellectual, financial and cultural superpower. Expeditions by conquistadors led to the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, and subsequent colonization of areas in East Asia, North and South America and Africa.
End of Global Empire and Seven Years of War
Towards the end of the 16th century, Spain was involved in wars with the Netherlands, England and France. Eventually it was defeated and the French took power over Spain, first with Philip of Borbon ascending to the throne and later on Napoleon Bonaparte would install his brother Joseph as the king of Spain. The Spaniards revolted, overthrew Bonaparte’s armies in 1815 and Ferdinand VII succeeded as king.
A feud with his brother Charles over the throne ensued resulting to the Seven Years’ War. With the civil war, Spain’s hold over its colonies waned and even with the declaration of the First Republic it finally lost all its overseas territories with the fall of Cuba by the end of the 19th century.
The 20th Century Spain
In the 1920s, General Primo de Ribera ruled over Spain as a dictator until another civil war broke out in 1936. The Nationalists led by General Franco succeeded and he ruled Spain until the end of 1960s when he proclaimed Juan Carlos de Borbon as his successor. With the demise of Franco in 1975, a constitutional monarchy was established and for the first time a president was elected in Spain. It was able to rebuild itself through the years, gaining enough international presence by becoming a member of NATO in 1985 and the European Economic Community in 1986.