When the ancient Phoenician navigators landed in Spain to develop new relationships and businesses, they found this land so full of rabbits that they called it “Schephania”, which in their language meant precisely “land of rabbits”. And Spain must have been full of these rodents if in the days of Hadrian a rabbit was depicted on the medals at the foot of Spain. But of course rabbits were not the only inhabitants of the country; in it lived tribes of African and Celtic origin that soon merged into a single people and were the Celtiberians.
In 236 BC, the Carthaginians, eager to obtain wealth to support the wars against Rome, set out to conquer Spain in order to take advantage of the gold and silver mines present there. And they founded the city of Cartagena which meant “New Carthage”, from the Latin “Carthago Nova”.
The Punic wars ended, in Spain the Romans dominated. It was the year 209 BC but the complete occupation of Spain occurred in 133 BC with the emperor Augustus. He divided it into three provinces: Hispania Tarraconensis, Lusitania and Hispania Ulterior, then began extensive civilization work. Roads were built, new cities and culture developed greatly. Many Roman writers and emperors were of Spanish origin, such as the poets Lucano and Marziale, the writers Seneca, Floro, Silio Italico, Columella and Quintiliano and the emperors Traiano, Adriano and Teodosio.
At the end of the Roman Empire, Spain was also invaded by the barbarians: Basques, Vandals, Great Danes, Swabians, Visigoths. The latter, commanded by Ataulfo, prevailed at the beginning of the 5th century and held Spain until 711, the year in which the Arabs of Mauritania, or Moors, overthrew it, who conquered it entirely, except for Asturias and Galicia, with capital Oviedo. See Countryaah for population and country facts about Spain.
The population density shows great regional differences. The most densely populated are the capital region, the province of Barcelona and the Basque provinces of Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa. The regions of Castile-La Mancha, Aragon and Extremadura have the lowest population density. The rural exodus from the remote economic areas to the big cities continues. Most of the numerous Spaniards who work or have worked as migrant workers in Germany, France or Switzerland are returning to their home country.
A second metropolis next to Madrid is Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Other major cities are Valencia, Seville, Saragossa and Málaga. There is general compulsory schooling from 7 to 16 years of age. Private and church institutions have a substantial share in the school system. The majority of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, which was the state church from 1953 to 1978 and still has great social and political influence.
The Visigoth king Rodrigo who reigned then, at the beginning of the arrival of the Arabs, did not worry too much about them thinking that after doing some raids they would return to their country. What, however, was only a first step towards that undertaking that the year after the Arabs prepared to take with a powerful army. And when King Rodrigo began to worry it was too late. In a decisive battle that lasted three days he died there and the Moors became the masters of the peninsula. They ruled for 500 years managing to tame the sporadic rebellions attempted by the natives.
Towards the end of the eighth century Spain was partly freed by Charlemagne and the “Spanish Brand” was formed.
In the year 1000, following the victories of Christians over Muslims, 4 states were formed in the country: the kingdom of Navarre, the kingdoms of Castile and Leon united, that of Aragon and the County of Barcelona. And these kingdoms continued the work of reconquering the whole of Spain.
This feat had moments of epic greatness like that of Cid, the Campeador, that is Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, who became a national hero, who stood out in the service of Sancho II and Alfonso VI king of Castile.
In July 1212 thousands of Crusaders moved from all over Europe and this time it was not to go to fight against Muslims in the Holy Land, but to help the armies of the 4 Spanish provinces, engaged in the hard war to free themselves from the domination of the Mori. For over a week the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa lasted and the Moors were beaten; they had to leave the camp with thousands of dead. Only one Muslim kingdom resisted, that of Granada, which however fell into the hands of Christians in 1492.
Then the Crown of Spain was offered to the king of Castile. In that same year Christopher Columbus had discovered America on behalf of the King of Spain, thus opening the way to Spanish colonization in South America.
When King Ferdinand the Catholic died in 1516, the last of the Castile dynasty, his nephew Charles V ascended to the throne, related to the royal family of Austria; therefore, with his rise, the period of the Austrian dynasty began in Spain.
Since Charles V immediately started the geographical and exploration enterprises, Spain soon found himself the owner of a vast empire: Charles V said, in fact, that the sun never set on his states.
One of Spain’s first colonial exploits was the conquest of Mexico, accomplished in 1519 by Fernando Cortez. Venezuela, Florida, Peru, Honduras and Guatemala were added to Mexico. And even in Europe Spain was able to dominate in Italy, then tormented by continuous internal struggles. At that time Spain accumulated enormous wealth.
The dynasty of Charles V became extinct in 1700, the Bourbon dynasty succeeded the Spanish crown after a long and bloody succession war, which lasted 14 years. Then the Bourbons ruled until 1931, almost uninterruptedly, except for three short brackets: one from 1808 to 1814 during which Giuseppe Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, ruled; one from 1870 to 1873 during which Amedeo I of Savoy ruled, and another from 1873 to 1875 in which Spain had a republican regime.
In 1931 the monarchy was declared definitively decayed and the Republic was proclaimed. This lasted only 5 years because following the killing of an opposition MP, whom the government left unpunished, heated riots broke out all over the country. Soon the rebellion became civil war. The rebel command was taken over by General Francisco Franco who won and in 1937 was proclaimed Head of the Spanish State.
On April 8, 1939 he joined the “Anticommunist Pact” already existing between Germany, Italy and Japan; in July the reorganization of the army began; in August it constituted the “Party of the Spanish Traditionalist Phalanx”, of pure fascist imitation and at the outbreak of the Second World War it declared the non-belligerence of Spain and immediately occupied the international territory of Tangier.
On March 31, 1947, Spain was proclaimed “Monarchical State” under the “regency” of General Franco; what determined a delicate situation towards the suitor Don Juan. The relations between Spain and the democratic powers, after more than ten years of tension, normalized prevailing on the ideological differences the anti-communist attitude of the Franco regime and the geographical position of Spain, the cornerstone of an Atlantic-Mediterranean system. In fact, after long debates, on the initiative of the United States (opposed by Great Britain), on December 28, 1951, with the sending of the ambassador to Madrid, Hispanic-American diplomatic relations were regularly restored. Similarly Britain and Italy acted.
Particularly intense were the relations between Spain and the United States which granted loans for the economic recovery of the country, which was very depressed, and sent a military mission to Madrid. Meanwhile, Franco’s government was remodeled; the signs of economic malaise and political discontent were the strikes in Barcelona and some northern provinces and the unrest in Madrid.
Between 1951 and 1953 relations between Spain and the United States intensified, in the form of economic aid and agreements for a participation of Spain in the western defensive system. A Spanish-Portuguese agreement on the Iberian strategy was also established, for which a “Franco-Salazar Conversation” took place on 15 April 1952 in Ciudad Rodrigo. In September 1953, an agreement was concluded in Madrid with the United States whereby in exchange for economic and military aid, Spain ceded air and naval bases.
After the United States, Great Britain and France also strengthened their relations with Spain. At the end of 1955 Spain joined the United Nations and therefore left its isolation.
He immediately took care to enter European, Mediterranean and Latin American politics, entering into agreements with all the countries concerned. Between 1958 and 1959 he signed agreements with Chile, Peru and Paraguay for the granting of dual nationality to resident citizens.
Then the Francoist regime began to experience various jolts and strikes and anti-government demonstrations took place. Franco, then, decided to partially reform the regime and began by separating the two offices he had hitherto brought together in his person: that of head of state and that of head of government. The latter was delegated to the Undersecretary of the Presidency. He then proposed to restore the monarchy and for this purpose, in March 1960, he met with Don Juan, pretender to the throne.
In the meantime, however, the internal situation was not the best, neither in the industrial nor in the agricultural sector. Even the merchant petty bourgeoisie suffered from diminished national productivity. On the political-social level, at the end of the 1950s, there was a dangerous reawakening of the Basque and Catalan regionalisms.
The 1960s were decisive for the transformation of the country. The regime’s moderation process was initially expressed in the legislative field. Thus the press law was passed with the prohibition of censorship; then other laws relating to freedom of religion and the possibility of establishing associations of opinions were enacted. And then again laws were passed to regulate the National Movement, public education and official unions. And, in any case, all the demonstrations and strikes carried out outside the respect of the laws, found also in this decade a hard repression. There were also executions, such as that of the Communist leader Grimau in 1962, for crimes committed during the civil war.
On July 22, 1969, the “cortes” passed a law designating Juan Carlos de Bourbon, prince of Spain, grandson of the last king Alfonso XIII, as successor to Franco, head of state. On 20 November 1975 Franco died and became king Juan Carlos I. The bicameral Parliament was formed and on 3 July 1976 the head of government was A. Suarez Gonzales, who was able to guide the liquidation of the old structure of the regime with intelligence and definitively.
Political parties were immediately legalized, excluding those of the far left and separatists; 650 political prisoners were released. A Congress was formed made up of 350 freely elected deputies and a Senate with 207 senators.