Friday, April 20, 2018

Here’s 3,000 Years of Spanish History in 3,000 Words

You’ll be shocked at how much history is all around you the first time you visit Spain. Major roads follow the same routes the Romans first trailblazed; your hotel might operate out of a renovated luxury apartment block from the 1800s; and soaring cathedrals still stand today based on 800-year-old technology.

It can be overwhelming if, like me, you grew up in suburban America, where the oldest building dated back to the 1950s and Native American heritage was either scant or ignored. Coming to terms with the sweep of your country’s history is a lot easier when it’s only been around for a few centuries…versus a few millennia.

True to my history major roots, I’ve extensively studied the history of Spain, reading several books and visiting as many cathedrals, castles, and museums as I could in the three years I lived in Spain.

In this post, I’ve distilled 3,000 years of history down to around 3,000 words, saving you from having to read a 500-page textbook before you travel or move to Spain.

Prehistoric Iberia (1,000–200 BCE)

Antequera, Spain
Menga Dolmen, Antequera
By the 1st millennium BCE, Celts and other Indo-European tribes coexisted with descendants of those who had lived in the Iberian peninsula for generations—people like the Vascones, predecessors of modern-day Basques who speak a language related to no other on Earth.

The peninsula’s thousands of miles of strategic coastline left it vulnerable to being colonized by more “advanced” civilizations in the eastern Mediterranean. Greek traders, who set up coastal colonies as far away as the Black Sea and Sicily, also set up trading posts in northwest Iberia, while Phoenicians, straying far from their homeland in what is now Lebanon, established city-states across north Africa and the southern edge of the peninsula that ultimately gave rise to the Carthaginian Empire. Carthage, however, would ultimately lose control of Iberia—and the Mediterranean basin—to Rome during the Punic Wars.

Major destinations: the Cave of El Castillo in Cantabria guards prehistoric cave art dating back 30,000 years; the Dolmens of Antequera are Stonehenge-style mausoleums; and the ruins of Empúries represent one of the earliest Greek settlements on the peninsula.
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