SPAIN - PREHISTORY - ROMAN AND GERMANIC INVASIONS
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.
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
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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