The History of Spain
What makes a Spaniard unique within Western civilization? Why is Spain
so different from other European countries? Some people look for a
simple geographic answer. But the fact is that its geography has not
changed that much since the days when Spain, as so many other European
lands, was but a piece in the grand imperial mosaic put together by
Rome. This common background persisted for several centuries as
northern European tribes - Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks - overran
southern Europe and established themselves there.
[IMAGE]What really made the difference was the arrival in Spain of the
Arabs early in the 8th century. From that moment on, Spains
development took on a distinctive character. While it is true that the
Arabs also reached up into France, they were soon thrown back. In
Spain it was a different story. The Moslems conquered much of the
Iberian peninsula and stayed on for nearly eight centuries.
Small Christian nuclei in northern Spain resisted the Moslem invaders
from the beginning. Over the centuries these rugged groups grew into
powerful Christian kingdoms that pushed the infidel ever southward.
During this prolonged struggle, Spain served as an advance post for
Christianity, a religious frontier. The main performers on this
medieval stage were the monk and the warrior - the man who prayed and
the man who fought; the man who reflected upon death and the man who
faced it on the battlefield. The victory achieved after nearly 800
years of effort gave the Spaniard a feeling of superiority, which was
reinforced by medieval chroniclers who were quick to remind them that
their country had once given great emperors to Rome. In that long
contest Spain put ideological values ahead of purely material
interests. Rivers were more often used as moats behind which to fight
raiders than as trade routes. Cities sprang up not because of
economics but because of strategic imperatives....