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Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples in the Iberian Peninsula
Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula from north of the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artefacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of northern Spain, which were likely created about 15,000 BCE.

The historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the southwest part of the peninsula and along the Mediterranean side through to the northeast, the latter inhabiting the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive, culture was present, known as Celt Iberian.

The earliest urban culture is believed to be that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BCE). Between about 500 BCE and 300 BCE, the seafaring Phoenicians, and Greeks founded trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast over a period of several centuries.

The Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans.

Roman Empire and Germanic invasions
During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast (from roughly 210 BCE to 205 BCE), leading to eventual Roman control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula – a control which lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road. The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of Romanization, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.

The Romans improved existing cities, such as Lisbon (Olissipo) and Tarragona (Tarraco), and established Zaragoza (Caesar Augusta), Mérida (Augusta Emerita), and Valencia (Valentia).

The peninsula's economy expanded under Roman tutelage. Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbours exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania.

Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the first century CE and it became popular in the cities in the second century CE. Most of Spain's present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period.

The first Barbarians to invade Hispania arrived in the 5th century, as the Roman Empire decayed. The tribes of Goths, Visigoths, Swabians (Suebi), Alans, Asdings and Vandals, arrived in Spain by crossing the Pyrenees mountain range.

The highly Romanized Visigoths entered Hispania in 415, and the Visigoth Kingdom eventually encompassed the entire Iberian Peninsula after the Roman Catholic conversion of the Gothic monarchs. The horseshoe arch was originally an example of Visigoth architecture.


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