Ancient Spain: The forebears of today’s Spaniards consisted of Stone Age hunters from Africa, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and other European peoples, Berber tribes from Morocco; and Phoenicians, Jews, and Arabs from the Middle East. The forebears of a good half of the people residing in the Americas today and others sprinkled across the rest of the globe were Spaniards. The key to this great ebb and flow of peoples, cultures, and empires is Spain’s location on both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, in Europe yet just a stone’s throw from Africa. This climactic position has implicated Spain in the affairs of half the world and the affairs of half the world in Spain’s.

Human settlers arrived in Spain’s province 35 thousand years ago. Hispania, as Spain was originally named, was occupied mostly by Iberian, Basques, and Celts. Archeologists have been fruitful in unearthing cave paintings in Altamira that verify early human settlements. As the Roman Empire developed in the province, Spain fell under its regime in 200 before Christ. Although it took huge efforts of the Romans to occupy this province, once they obtain it, they led for more than six centuries.

During this time they accustomed the local citizens to their ways. Apart from the Latin language, the law was enforced as well as Roman roads. Romans didn’t just want to educate local citizens, they wanted to use their aquatic capabilities. Products such as gold, wine, wool, and olive oil were exported from Spain’s docks. Their agriculture grew as the Romans installed their inundation mechanisms, which can still be seen today.

Ancient Spain
Ancient Spain

Ancient Spain Timeline 

Ancient Spain

900 BC: The Phoenicians trade with Spain
227 BC: The Carthaginians from North Africa found Cartagena
218 BC: The Romans send an army to Spain and they gradually drive out the Carthaginians
197 BC: The Romans divide the Iberian Peninsula into 2 areas, Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior
171-73 AD: People from North Africa raid Spain
409 AD: Alans, Sueves, and Vandals invade Spain
456: The Visigoths conquer Spain

Middle Age Spain

587: King Reccared becomes a Catholic
560-636: The great scholar Isidore of Seville lives
654: King Recceswinth makes a code of laws
711: The Moors invade Spain
10th-11th centuries: The kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre emerge
1085: The Castilians capture Toledo
1212: The combined armies of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre win a victory at Las Navas de Tolosa
1250: Only Granada is still in Muslim hands
1340: The Christians win the Battle of Salado
1343: The Aragonese capture the Balearic Islands
1348: The Black Death reaches Spain
1469: Ferdinand heir of Aragon marries Isabel heir of Castile
1492: Ferdinand and Isabel capture Granada. All Jews are ordered to convert to Christianity or leave.

Renaissance Spain

1516: Charles V becomes king of Spain
1580: Spain annexes Portugal
1587-1604: England fights Spain
1609: Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) are expelled from Spain
1640: The Portuguese rebel against Spanish rule
1659: Spain is forced to cede territory to France
1704: The British capture Gibraltar
1708-11: Spain suffers poor harvests
1763-66: Spain has poor harvests again. Nevertheless, agriculture is expanding so is the population and trade and commerce.
1767: The Jesuits are expelled from Spain

19th Century Spain

1808: Napoleon forces the Spanish king to abdicate and he makes his own brother king of Spain. The Spaniards refuse to accept him so the French send an army. The Spanish begin a guerrilla war.
1813: The French are driven out of Spain
1820: The Spanish rebel
1823: The French army restores Ferdinand to absolute power
1833-39: Civil War in Spain
1834: The Spanish Inquisition is finally abolished
1848: The first railway is built in Spain
1868: A rebellion takes place against Queen Isabella
1876: Spain gets a new constitution
1880-82: Famine in southern Spain
1892: All men are given the vote
1898: Spain loses a war with the USA

20th Century Spain

1909: Riots take place in Catalonia
1917: A General Strike is held in Spain
1923: General Primo de Rivera stages a coup
1930: de Riviera resigns
1931: Spain gains a new constitution
1933: An uprising takes place in Asturias
1936: In February the left-wing wins an election
1936: In July the Spanish Civil War begins. On 1 October General Franco becomes the leader of the Nationalist army.
1937: The Nationalists capture Bilbao
1939: The Nationalists capture Barcelona and Madrid.
1953: Franco signs a treaty with the USA
1955: Spain joins the UN
1975: Franco dies
1977: Elections are held
1981: Army officers attempt a coup in Spain
1999: Spain joins the Euro

Ancient Spain

  • From about 900 BC a seafaring people called the Phoenicians who came from what is now Lebanon traded with what is now Spain. They organized a chain of trading settlements along the bank on islands and peninsulas. The Iberians gave the Phoenicians silver in return for wine and olive oil as well as gold.
  • The people of Spain were heavily changed by the Phoenician culture. The Greeks also traded with Spain the Iberians were also impressed by Greek culture. A Phoenician colony in North Africa called Carthage rose to be dominant and important.
  • After the Romans overpowered them in 241 BC the Carthaginians heightened their impact in Spain.
  • In 227 BC they organized New Carthage (modern Cartagena). However, in 226 the Carthaginians made a deal with Spain. They acknowledge not to enlarge north of the River Ebro.
  • Yet in 119 BC the Carthaginians took the town of Saguntum. It was south of the Ebro but the Romans called for Saguntum was their ally and they warned the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, to withdraw. He dismissed and war ensued.
  • The Romans delivered an army to Spain in 218 BC and they gradually force back the Carthaginians. By 206 BC the Carthaginians were gone from Spain.
  • In 197 BC the Romans split the Iberian peninsula into 2 areas, Hispania Citerior (east of the River Iberius) and Hispania Ulterior. However, the Iberians demanded independence and they rebelled against the Romans. Rome sent a man named Cato who took back control of most of Spain.
  • Nevertheless, the Iberians went on to resist, and fighting continued for nearly 200 years. War finally finished when the Cantabrians were defeated in 19 BC. Afterward, Spain was regularly integrated into the Roman Empire. The Romans built a network of roads and created towns and Spain became highly civilized. Under Roman rule Spain became well-off.
  • Mining was an important industry. Gold and silver were shipped. So were olives, grapes, and grain. Roman Spain also shipped a fish sauce called garum.
  • However, in 171-173 raiders from North Africa cleaned into Spain. There were further attacks at the starting of the 3rd century.
  • In any case from the mid-3rd century, the Roman Empire regularly denied. Meanwhile, the people of Roman Spain were gradually transformed into Christianity.
  • By the opening of the 5th century, the Roman Empire was disintegrating and Germanic peoples violated.
  • In 409 AD Alans, Sueves and Vandals crossed the Pyrenees and owned most of Spain. However another Germanic people, the Visigoths became allies of the Romans.
  • In 416-418 they raided Spain. They routed the Alans but then quit into France. The Vandals then took in the remaining Alans but in 429 they crossed to North Africa quitting Spain to the Sueves.
  • The Visigoth king Theodoric II (453-466) led an army into Spain and in 456 he demolished the Sueves in battle. Most of Spain came under the rule of the Visigoths.
  • After 409 one small part of Northeast Spain was left under Roman control.
  • However, in 476 the Visigoths took it over.
  • In 587 King Reccared became a Catholic and in 654 King Recceswinth made a single code of law for his dynasty. The Visigoths formed new towns in Spain. They also secure the Roman culture and learning developed.
  • In the 6th century, Saint Isidore of Seville lived in Spain. He was a brilliant scholar. He wrote many books including works on history, geography, theology, grammar, and astronomy.
  • However, the Visigoth kings were never very strong. The Visigoth kingdom in Spain went through from internal divisions and in the end, it was easy prey for the Moors.
  • However, at the beginning of the 8th century, the Visigoth realm was wiped out by a Muslim raid. In 711 an army of Berbers from North Africa, led by Arabs raided Spain and they perfectly defeated the Visigoths at the Barbate River on 19 July 711.
  • The Muslim army quickly propelled and by 714 most of Spain was under their control. The Muslims called the country al-Andalus, which became Andalusia. Between the 9th and 11th centuries Christian kingdoms materialized in northern Spain.
  • Aragon, Castile, and Navarre. The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile regularly bolstered south. (They were greatly helped by divergence among the Muslims).
  • The Castilians occupy Toledo in 1085 and in the 12th century they pursue to advance. In 1212 the united armies of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre won a definitive victory at Las Navas de Tolosa.
  • By 1250 only Granada, the southernmost part of Spain covered in Muslim hands. In the 14th century, there were wars between Christians and Muslims. The Christians won a definitive victory at the Battle of Salado in 1340. The Aragonese occupied the Balearic Islands in 1343.
  • Then in 1348, the Black Death hit Spain and it wiped out the population. In the late 14th century Jews in Spain experienced a wave of the massacre.
  • In 1391 a pogrom began in Seville and it spread to other cities. Persecution forced many Jews to transform into Christianity.
  • Meanwhile, in 1469 Ferdinand, heir of Aragon married Isabel, heir of Castile. Isabel became Queen of Castile in 1474 and Ferdinand became king of Aragon in 1479.
  • In 1482 they began a war against Granada, the last Muslim bastion in Spain. Granada abdication in 1492. Then in 1512, Navarre was taken in and Spain became a united country.
  • In 1492 the king and queen conducted all Jews to convert to Christianity or leave Spain. Many chose to leave. The Spanish Inquisition was formed in 1480. In Spain, at that time there were Jews who had transformed into Christianity and Moriscos (Muslims who had transformed into Christianity).
  • Both groups were speculated of practicing their old religion in secret. Torture was sometimes used to obtain confessions. The Spanish Inquisition also picked on Protestants.
  • 1492 was also a symbolic year because Ferdinand and Isabel decided to finance an expedition by Christopher Columbus. He held he could reach Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. However, Columbus belittled the size of the earth and docked in the West Indies. Columbus made 4 voyages across the Atlantic and Spain did to build an empire in North and South America.
Ancient Spain Geography, Map
Ancient Spain Geography, Map


Mainland Spain is overshadowed by high plateaux and mountain areas such as the Pyrenees or the Sierra Nevada. Running from these tops are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana, and the Guadalquivir.

Alluvial plains are located along the coast, the biggest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia. Spain is attached to the east by the Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), to the north by the Bay of Biscay and to its west by the Atlantic Ocean, where the Canary Islands off the African coast are found.

Spain’s climate is essentially temperate and Mediterranean; there are clear hot summers in the marrow, with more tame and cloudy preconditions along the coast. Winters are cloudy and cold in the interior, with the coastal regions being relatively temperate.


  1. As history would dictate it, Spain is one of the oldest constitutional monarchies in the world. Spain’s former king, King Juan Carlos I came to power after General Franco – a ruthless dictator, died in 1975. Presently, former King Juan Carlos I abdicated his throne to his son. As of 2014, King Felipe VI is the new king of Spain.
  2. Spanish author, Cervantes’ is known for his Don Quixote novel which was written in 1605. Don Quixote is considered to be one of the first modern novels.
  3. Spain has 47 World Heritage Sites.
  4. According to records, the first known stapler was made in the 18th century in the Basque country for the French King Louis XV.
  5. Spain is responsible for giving the world the mop and bucket. This occurred in 1856.
  6. The precedent to modern cigarettes, which was developed around the 17th century was first developed in Spain.
  7. The first astronaut’s spacesuit was developed in Spain in 1935.
  8. Red Eléctrica de España (REE), is one of the main operators of the electrical system in Spain.
  9. Some of the most renowned artists that have impacted today’s knowledge in the arts include Valázquez from the 17th century, Goya from the 18th and 19th centuries to Picasso, Miró and Dali throughout the 20th century.
  10. Guinness World Records awarded the title of the oldest restaurant to El Restaurante Botín, which originally opened in 1725 and continues to be open today.


What Was Ancient Spain Called?
Spain Was First Called Iberia A Name Given To It By Its Iberian Inhabitants (From North Africa). The Name Was Supposedly Based On The Iberian Word For River, Iber.
Who First Lived In Spain?
The First Human Settlers Arrived In Spain’s Territory 35 Thousand Years Ago. Hispania, As Spain Was Initially Named, Was Inhabited Mostly By Iberian, Basques, And Celts. Archeologists Have Been Successful In Finding Cave Paintings In Altamira That Prove Early Human Settlements.
How Old Is Spain?
The Reconquista, The Struggle Among The Christian Kingdoms And The Moors Lasted Until 1492. By 1512, The Unification Of Present-day Spain Was Complete. During The 16Th Century, Spain Became The Most Powerful Nation In Europe, Due To The Immense Wealth Derived From Their Possessions In The Americas.
When Did Spain Rule The World?
Spain’s World Empire Reached Its Greatest Territorial Extent In The Late 18Th Century But It Was Under The Habsburg Dynasty In The 16Th And 17Th Centuries It Reached The Peak Of Its Power And Declined.
What Was Spain Called In The Bible?
While There Was No Biblical Name For Spain, The People Of The New Testament, In The Later Roman Period, Would Probably Be Familiar With The Terms “Iberia” And “Hispania”, Being Part Of The Empire Themselves.