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The first landing was in BC. Hannibal was eventually forced to retreat, finally being routed in North Africa in BC. Though the Romans eventually held sway on the Iberian Peninsula for years, it took them years to subdue the fiercest of local tribes. The Basques in the north, though defeated, were never Romanised in the same way as the rest of Hispania as the Romans called the peninsula.

Legendary stands against the Romans included the eight-year revolt led by the shepherd-turned-guerrilla Virathius in the west and the centre from around BC, and the siege of Numancia near Soria in BC.

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Rome had to bring in its most illustrious generals to deal with these insubordinations. By AD 50 most of the peninsula, particularly the south, had adopted the Roman way of life. This was the Pax Romana, a long and prosperous period of stability. Hispania became urbanised and highly organised. Rome gave the peninsula a road system, aqueducts, temples, theatres, amphitheatres, circuses, baths and the basis of its legal system and languages.

The Roman era also brought many Jews, who spread throughout the Mediterranean part of the Roman Empire, and Christianity, which probably came with soldiers from North Africa and merchants in the 3rd century AD. Hispania gave Rome gold, silver, grain, wine, soldiers, emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Theodosius and the literature of Seneca, Martial, Quintilian and Lucan. Another notable export was garum, a spicy sauce derived from fish and used as a seasoning. The Pax Romana started to crack when two Germanic tribes, the Franks and the Alemanni, swept across the Pyrenees towards the end of the 3rd century AD, causing devastation.

When the Huns arrived in Eastern Europe from Asia a century later, further Germanic peoples moved westwards. Among these were the Suevi and Vandals, who overran the Iberian Peninsula around The Visigoths, another Germanic people, sacked Rome itself in When the Visigoths were pushed out of Gaul in the 6th century by yet another Germanic people, the Franks, they settled on the Iberian Peninsula, making Toledo their capital.

The rule of the roughly , long-haired Visigoths, who had a penchant for gaudy jewellery, over the several million more-sophisticated Hispano-Romans was precarious and undermined by strife among their own nobility. The Hispano-Roman nobles still ran the fiscal system and their bishops were the senior figures in urban centres. Culturally, the Visigoths tended to ape Roman ways.

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Today a few Visigothic churches can be seen in northern Spain. By , with famine and disease in Toledo , strife among the aristocracy and chaos throughout the peninsula, the Visigothic kingdom was falling apart. Following the death of the prophet Mohammed in , Arabs had spread through the Middle East and North Africa, carrying Islam with them. If you believe the myth, they were ushered onto the Iberian Peninsula by the sexual exploits of the last Visigoth king, Roderic. Later chronicles relate how Roderic seduced young Florinda, the daughter of Julian, the Visigothic governor of Ceuta in North Africa, and how Julian sought revenge by approaching the Muslims with a plan to invade Spain.

Visigothic survivors fled north. Within a few years the Muslims had conquered the whole Iberian Peninsula, except small areas in the Asturian mountains in the north. The Muslims pushed on over the Pyrenees, but were driven back by the Franks.

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The Muslims sometimes referred to as Moors were the dominant force on the peninsula for nearly four centuries, a potent force for years after that, and a lesser one for a further years. Between wars and rebellions, Al-Andalus, the name given to Muslim territory on the peninsula, developed the most highly cultured society of medieval Europe.

Up to the midth century the frontier lay across the north of the peninsula, roughly from just south of Barcelona to northern Portugal , with a protrusion up to the central Pyrenees. Al-Andalus also suffered internal conflicts and Muslims and Christians even struck up alliances with each other in the course of quarrels with their own co-religionists.

These cities boasted beautiful palaces, mosques and gardens, universities, public baths and bustling zocos markets. The Muslims developed the Hispano-Roman agricultural base by improving irrigation and introducing new fruits and crops oranges, lemons, peaches, sugar cane, rice and more. It was through Al-Andalus that much of the learning of ancient Greece — picked up by the Arabs in the eastern Mediterranean — was transmitted to Christian Europe.


The Muslim settlers themselves were not a homogeneous group. Beneath the Arab ruling class was a larger group of Berbers, and tension between these two groups broke out in Berber rebellion numerous times. Before long, Muslim and local blood merged. There was even frequent aristocratic intermarriage with the northern Christians. In the Omayyad caliphal dynasty in Damascus was overthrown by a rival clan, the Abbasids, who shifted the caliphate to Baghdad.

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Most of Al-Andalus was more or less unified under Cordoban rule for long periods. Astronomy, medicine, mathematics and botany flourished and one of the great Muslim libraries was established in the city. Later in the 10th century the fearsome Cordoban general Al-Mansour or Almanzor terrorised the Christian north with odd forays in 20 years. Political unity was restored to Al-Andalus by the Almoravid invasion of The Almoravids, a strict Muslim sect of Saharan nomads who had conquered North Africa, were initially invited to the Iberian Peninsula to help the Seville taifa against the growing Christian threat from the north.

Seventy years later a second Berber sect, the Almohads, invaded the peninsula after overthrowing the Almoravids in Morocco. Both sects soundly defeated the Christian armies they encountered.

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Under the Almoravids and the Almohads, religious intolerance sent Christian refugees fleeing north. But in time both mellowed in their adopted territory and Almohad rule saw a cultural revival in Seville. Almohad power eventually disintegrated in the face of internal disputes and Christian advances. The Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula began in about at Covadonga, Asturias, and ended with the fall of Granada in It was a stuttering affair, conducted by a tangled sequence of emerging, merging and demerging Christian states that were as often at war with each other as with the Muslims.

An essential ingredient in the Reconquista was the cult of Santiago St James , one of the 12 apostles. The town of Santiago de Compostela grew here, to become the third-most popular medieval Christian pilgrimage goal after Rome and Jerusalem. Christian generals experienced visions of Santiago before forays against the Muslims, and Santiago became the inspiration and special protector of soldiers in the Reconquista, earning the sobriquet Matamoros Moor-slayer. Today he is the patron saint of Spain. Covadonga lies in the Picos de Europa mountains, where Visigothic nobles took refuge after the Muslim conquest.

Christian versions of the battle tell of a small band of fighters under their leader, Pelayo, defeating an enormous force of Muslims; Muslim accounts make it a rather less important skirmish. Whatever the facts of Covadonga, by Christians occupied nearly a quarter of the Iberian Peninsula.

Portugal emerged as an independent Christian kingdom in the 12th century. The sole surviving Muslim state on the peninsula was now the Emirate of Granada. At Toledo he gathered around him scholars regardless of their religion, particularly Jews who knew Arabic and Latin. Alfonso was, however, plagued by uprisings and plots, even from within his own family.

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This was also an era of growing intolerance towards the Jews and Genoese, who came to dominate Castilian commerce and finance, while the Castilians themselves were preoccupied with their low-effort, high-profit wool production. In the s anti-Jewish feeling culminated in pogroms around the peninsula. The pious Isabel and the Machiavellian Fernando became an unbeatable team.

After Emir Abu al-Hasan of Granada refused, in , to pay any more tribute to Castilla, Isabel and Fernando launched the final crusade of the Reconquista in , with an army largely funded by Jewish loans and the Catholic Church. By now the rulers of Granada were riven by internal feuds. Matters degenerated into a confused civil war, and the Christians took full advantage of the situation. Isabel and Fernando entered Granada , after a long siege, on 2 January , to kick off what turned out to be the most momentous year in Spanish history.

The surrender terms were fairly generous to Boabdil, the last emir, who got the Alpujarras valleys south of Granada and 30, gold coins. The Inquisition was responsible for perhaps 12, deaths over years, of them in the s. It focused initially on conversos Jews who had converted to Christianity , accusing many of continuing to practise Judaism in secret.

Up to , Jews converted, but some , — the first Sephardic Jews — left for other Mediterranean destinations.

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  6. In the former Granada emirate he carried out forced mass baptisms, burnt Islamic books and banned the Arabic language. Afterwards, Muslims were ordered to convert to Christianity or leave. Most around , underwent baptism and stayed. They came to be known as moriscos converted Muslims , but their conversion was barely skin-deep and they never assimilated.

    The moriscos were finally expelled between and They stopped at the Canary Islands , then sailed west for 31 days, sighting no land; the rebellious crew gave Columbus two more days. Columbus made three more voyages, founding Santo Domingo on Hispaniola, finding Jamaica , Trinidad and other Caribbean islands, and reaching the mouth of the Orinoco and the coast of Central America.