Iberian Peninsula

Iberian Peninsula

Overview

The Iberian Peninsula (Asturian
Asturian language
Asturian is a Romance language of the West Iberian group, Astur-Leonese Subgroup, spoken in the Spanish Region of Asturias by the Asturian people...

, Leonese
Leonese language
The Leonese language is the endonym term used to refer to all vernacular Romance dialects of the Astur-Leonese linguistic group in the Spanish provinces of León and Zamora; Astur-Leonese also includes the dialects...

, Mirandese
Mirandese language
The Mirandese language is a Romance language belonging to the Astur-Leonese linguistic group, sparsely spoken in a small area of northeastern Portugal, in the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro and Vimioso...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 and , , Aragonese
Aragonese language
Aragonese is a Romance language now spoken in a number of local varieties by between 10,000 and 30,000 people over the valleys of the Aragón River, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza in Aragon, Spain...

 and , ), sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and includes the modern-day sovereign state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

s of Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 and Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. It is the westernmost of the three major southern European peninsula
Peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

s — the Iberian, Italian
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, and Balkan
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 peninsulas. It is bordered on the southeast and east by the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, and on the north, west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Iberian Peninsula'
Start a new discussion about 'Iberian Peninsula'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia

The Iberian Peninsula (Asturian
Asturian language
Asturian is a Romance language of the West Iberian group, Astur-Leonese Subgroup, spoken in the Spanish Region of Asturias by the Asturian people...

, Leonese
Leonese language
The Leonese language is the endonym term used to refer to all vernacular Romance dialects of the Astur-Leonese linguistic group in the Spanish provinces of León and Zamora; Astur-Leonese also includes the dialects...

, Mirandese
Mirandese language
The Mirandese language is a Romance language belonging to the Astur-Leonese linguistic group, sparsely spoken in a small area of northeastern Portugal, in the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro and Vimioso...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 and , , Aragonese
Aragonese language
Aragonese is a Romance language now spoken in a number of local varieties by between 10,000 and 30,000 people over the valleys of the Aragón River, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza in Aragon, Spain...

 and , ), sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and includes the modern-day sovereign state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

s of Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 and Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. It is the westernmost of the three major southern European peninsula
Peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

s — the Iberian, Italian
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, and Balkan
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 peninsulas. It is bordered on the southeast and east by the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, and on the north, west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. The Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 form the northeast edge of the peninsula, separating it from the rest of Europe. In the south, it approaches the northern coast of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. It is the second-largest peninsula in Europe, with an area of approximately 580000 km² (223,939.3 sq mi).

Greek name


The English word Iberia was adapted from the use of the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 word Ιβηρία (Ibēría) by the Greek geographers under the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 to refer to what is known today in English as the Iberian Peninsula. At that time the name did not describe a single political entity or a distinct population of people. Strabo's Iberia was delineated from Keltikē by the Pyrenees and included the entire land mass south-west (he named it "west") of there.

The Ancient Greeks discovered the Iberian peninsula by voyaging westward. Hecataeus of Miletus was the first known to use the term around 500 BC. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 of Halicarnassus says of the Phocaea
Phocaea
Phocaea, or Phokaia, was an ancient Ionian Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia. Greek colonists from Phocaea founded the colony of Massalia in 600 BC, Emporion in 575 BC and Elea in 540 BC.-Geography:Phocaea was the northernmost...

ns that "it was they who made the Greeks acquainted with ... Iberia." According to Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 prior historians used Iberia to mean the country "this side of the Ἶβηρος (Ibēros)" as far north as the Rhone river
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

 in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 but currently they set the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 as the limit. Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

 respects that limit but identifies Iberia as the Mediterranean side as far south as Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, with the Atlantic side having no name. Elsewhere he says that Saguntum
Sagunto
Sagunto or Sagunt is an ancient city in Eastern Spain, in the modern fertile comarca of Camp de Morvedre in the province of Valencia. It is located in a hilly site, c. 30 km north of Valencia, close to the Costa del Azahar on the Mediterranean Sea...

 is "on the seaward foot of the range of hills connecting Iberia and Celtiberia."

Strabo refers to the Carretanians as people "of the Iberian stock" living in the Pyrenees, who are to be distinguished from either Celts or Celtiberians.

Roman names



When the Romans encountered the Greek geographers they used Iberia poetically and spoke of the Iberi. First mention was in 200 BC by the poet Quintus Ennius. The Romans had already had independent experience with the peoples on the peninsula during the long conflict with Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

. The Roman geographers and other prose writers from the time of the late Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 called the entire peninsula Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

.

As they became politically interested in the former territories of Carthage, the Romans came to use Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior for 'near' and 'far Spain'. Even at that time large sections of it were Lusitania
Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

 (Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 south of Douro
Douro
The Douro or Duero is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, flowing from its source near Duruelo de la Sierra in Soria Province across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto...

 river and Extremadura
Extremadura
Extremadura is an autonomous community of western Spain whose capital city is Mérida. Its component provinces are Cáceres and Badajoz. It is bordered by Portugal to the west...

 in western Spain), Gallaecia
Gallaecia
Gallaecia or Callaecia, also known as Hispania Gallaecia, was the name of a Roman province and an early Mediaeval kingdom that comprised a territory in the north-west of Hispania...

 (Northern Portugal and Galicia in Spain), Celtiberia (central Spain), Baetica (Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

), Cantabria
Cantabria
Cantabria is a Spanish historical region and autonomous community with Santander as its capital city. It is bordered on the east by the Basque Autonomous Community , on the south by Castile and León , on the west by the Principality of Asturias, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea.Cantabria...

 (northwest Spain) and the Vascones (Basques). Strabo says that the Romans use Hispania and Iberia synonymously, and distance them as near and far. He was living in a time when the peninsula was divided into Roman provinces, of which Baetia
Hispania Baetica
Hispania Baetica was one of three Imperial Roman provinces in Hispania, . Hispania Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica was part of Al-Andalus under the Moors in the 8th century and approximately corresponds to modern Andalucia...

 was supervised by the Senate, whereas the others were governed on behalf of the Emperor. Whatever language may have been spoken on the peninsula soon gave way to Latin, except for Basque, protected by the Pyrenees.

Etymology


The Iberian Peninsula has always been associated with the Ebro river, Ibēros in ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and Ibērus or Hibērus in Latin. The association was so well known it was hardly necessary to state; for example, Ibēria was the country "this side of the Ibērus" in Strabo. Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 goes so far as to assert that the Greeks had called "the whole of Spain" Hiberia because of the river Hiberus. The river appears in the Ebro Treaty
Ebro Treaty
The Ebro Treaty was a treaty signed in 226 BC by Hasdrubal the Fair of Carthage and the Roman Republic, which fixed the river Ebro in Iberia as the boundary between the two powers. Under the terms of the treaty, Carthage would not expand north of the Ebro, as long as Rome likewise did not expand to...

 of 226 BC between Rome and Carthage, setting the limit of Carthaginian interest at the Ebro. The fullest description of the treaty, stated in Appian
Appian
Appian of Alexandria was a Roman historian of Greek ethnicity who flourished during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius.He was born ca. 95 in Alexandria. He tells us that, after having filled the chief offices in the province of Egypt, he went to Rome ca. 120, where he practised as...

, uses Ibērus. With reference to this border, Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

 states that the "native name" is Ibēr, apparently the original word, stripped of its Greek or Latin -os or -us termination.

The early range of these natives, stated by the geographers and historians to be from southern Spain to southern France along the Mediterranean coast, is marked by instances of a readable script expressing a yet unknown language, dubbed 'Iberian
Iberian language
The Iberian language was the language of a people identified by Greek and Roman sources who lived in the eastern and southeastern regions of the Iberian peninsula. The ancient Iberians can be identified as a rather nebulous local culture between the 7th and 1st century BC...

'. Whether this was the native name or was given to them by the Greeks for their residence on the Ebro remains unknown. Credence in Polybius imposes certain limitations on etymologizing: if the language remains unknown, the meanings of the words, including Iber, must remain unknown also.

Overall characteristics



The Iberian peninsula extends from the southernmost extremity at Punta de Tarifa
Punta de Tarifa
Punta de Tarifa is the southernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula and continental Europe. It is located in the province of Cádiz and the autonomous community of Andalusia on the Atlantic end of the Straits of Gibraltar. The coast of Morocco can be seen from this point....

 (36°00′15"N 5°36′37"W) to the northernmost extremity at Estaca de Bares Point (43°47′38"N 7°41′17"W) over a distance between lines of latitude of about 865 km (537.5 mi) based on a degree length of 111 km (69 mi) per degree, and from the westernmost extremity at Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is a cape which forms the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and continental Europe...

 (38°46′51"N 9°29′54"W) to the easternmost extremity at Cap de Creus
Cap de Creus
Cap de Creus is a peninsula and a headland located at the far NE of Catalonia, some 25 km south from the French border. The nearest town is Figueres, capital of the Alt Empordà and birthplace of Salvador Dalí...

 (42°19′09"N 3°19′19"E) over a distance between lines of longitude at 40° N latitude of about 1155 km (717.7 mi) based on an estimated degree length of about 90 km (55.9 mi) for that latitude. The irregular, roughly octagonal shape of the peninsula contained within this spherical quadrangle
Quadrangle (geography)
In geology or geography, the word "quadrangle" usually refers to a United States Geological Survey 7.5-minute quadrangle map, which are usually named after a local physiographic feature. The shorthand "quad" is also used, especially with the name of the map; for example, "the Ranger Creek, Texas...

 was compared to an ox-hide by the geographer, Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

.

Approximately ¾ of the octagon is the Meseta Central, a low and rolling plateau of up to several hundred metres in altitude. It is located roughly in the centre, staggered slightly to the east and tilted slightly toward the west (the conventional centre of the Iberian Peninsula has long been considered to be Getafe
Getafe
Getafe is a city in the southern zone of the Madrid metropolitan area, Spain, and one of the most populated and industrialized cities in the municipality. The city is home to one of the oldest Spanish military air bases, as well as the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid...

 just south of Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

). It is ringed by mountains and contains the sources of most of the rivers, which find their way through gaps in the mountain barriers on all sides.

Coastline


The coastline of the Iberian Peninsula is 3313 km (2,058.6 mi), 1660 km (1,031.5 mi) on the Mediterranean side and 1653 km (1,027.1 mi) on the Atlantic side. The coast is a drowned one, with sea levels having risen from a minimum of 115–120 m (377.3–393.7 ft) lower than today at the Last Glacial Maximum
Last Glacial Maximum
The Last Glacial Maximum refers to a period in the Earth's climate history when ice sheets were at their maximum extension, between 26,500 and 19,000–20,000 years ago, marking the peak of the last glacial period. During this time, vast ice sheets covered much of North America, northern Europe and...

 (LGM) to its current level at 4000 years BP
BP
BP p.l.c. is a global oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues and one of the six oil and gas "supermajors"...

. The coastal shelf created by sedimentation during that time remains below the surface; however, it was never very extensive on the Atlantic side, as the continental shelf drops rather steeply into the depths. An estimated 700 km (435 mi) length of Atlantic shelf is only 10–65 km (6.2–40.4 mi) wide. At the 500 m (1,640.4 ft) isobath, on the edge, the shelf drops off to 1000 m (3,280.8 ft).

The submarine topography of the coastal waters of the Iberian Peninsula has been studied extensively in the process of drilling for oil. Ultimately the shelf drops into the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

 on the north (an abyss), the Iberian abyssal plain at 4800 m (15,748 ft) on the west and Tagus abyssal plain to the south. In the north between the continental shelf and the abyss is an extension, the Galicia Bank, a plateau containing also the Porto, Vigo and Vasco da Gama seamount
Seamount
A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface , and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes, that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from a seafloor of depth. They are defined by oceanographers as...

s, creating the Galicia interior basin. The southern border of these features is marked by Nazare Canyon
Nazare Canyon
The Nazaré Canyon is an undersea canyon just off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. It has a maximum depth of at least and is about long. It is larger than the Grand Canyon....

, splitting the continental shelf and leading directly into the abyss.

Mountains


Mountains consist mainly of serrated ridges aligned in an east-west direction, due to the orogenic
Orogeny
Orogeny refers to forces and events leading to a severe structural deformation of the Earth's crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates. Response to such engagement results in the formation of long tracts of highly deformed rock called orogens or orogenic belts...

 factors of the region's geologic history. Rivers generally flow through the valleys between the ridges. In a counterclockwise direction, the major mountain ranges are: the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 crossing the isthmus of the peninsula so completely as to allow no passage except by mountain road or trail or coastal road, the Cantabrian Mountains
Cantabrian Mountains
The Cantabrian Mountains or Cantabrian Range are one of the main systems of mountain ranges in Spain.They extend for more than approximately 180 miles across northern Spain, from the western limit of the Pyrenees to the edges of the Galician Massif close to Galicia, along the coast of the...

 perched on the northern coastline, the Sistema Ibérico
Sistema Ibérico
The Sistema Ibérico or Iberian System is one of the main systems of mountain ranges in Spain.It is a vast and complex system of mountain chains and massifs located in the central regions of the Iberian Peninsula, but reaching almost the Mediterranean coast in the Land of Valencia in the east.From...

, the Sistema Central
Sistema Central
The Sistema Central is one of the main systems of mountain ranges in the Iberian Peninsula.-Description:The Sistema Central is a primary feature of the Meseta Central, the inner Iberian plateau, splitting the meseta into two parts...

, the Montes de Toledo
Montes de Toledo
The Montes de Toledo are one of the main systems of mountain ranges in Spain. They divide the drainage basin of the Tagus from the basin of the Guadiana.-Description:...

, the Sierra Morena
Sierra Morena
The Sierra Morena is one of the main systems of mountain ranges in Spain.It stretches for 400 kilometres East-West across southern Spain, forming the southern border of the Meseta Central plateau of the Iberian Peninsula, and providing the watershed between the valleys of the Guadiana to the...

 and the Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada (Spain)
The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the region of provinces of Granada and Almería in Spain. It contains the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén at 3478 m above sea level....

.

Modern countries and territories


Political divisions of the Iberian Peninsula sorted by area:
Country/
Territory
Peninsular area Description
Population km2 sq mi Share
  Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

46,000,000 505519195,182 85% occupies most of the peninsula
  Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

10,000,000 8926134,463.9 15% occupies most of the west of the peninsula
  France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

12,035 540208.5 <1% French Cerdagne
French Cerdagne
French Cerdagne is the northern half of Cerdanya, which came under French control as a result of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, while the southern half remained in Spain . Catalonians often refer to French Cerdagne as Upper Cerdanya...

 is in the south side of the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 range between Spain and France, so it is technically located in the Iberian peninsula
  Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

84,082 468180.7 <1% a northern edge of the peninsula in the south side of the Pyrenees range between Spain and France
  Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

29,431 73 <1% a British overseas territory near the southernmost tip of the peninsula

Major cities



The principal urban centres are: Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

, Valencia, Seville
Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

, Zaragoza
Zaragoza
Zaragoza , also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain...

, Málaga
Málaga
Málaga is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. With a population of 568,507 in 2010, it is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in Spain. This is the southernmost large city in Europe...

, Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, Murcia
Murcia
-History:It is widely believed that Murcia's name is derived from the Latin words of Myrtea or Murtea, meaning land of Myrtle , although it may also be a derivation of the word Murtia, which would mean Murtius Village...

, Palma, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria commonly known as Las Palmas is the political capital, jointly with Santa Cruz, the most populous city in the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands and the ninth largest city in Spain, with a population of 383,308 in 2010. Nearly half of the people of the island...

, Bilbao
Bilbao
Bilbao ) is a Spanish municipality, capital of the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. With a population of 353,187 , it is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain...

, Alicante
Alicante
Alicante or Alacant is a city in Spain, the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 334,418, estimated , ranking as the second-largest...

, Córdoba
Córdoba, Spain
-History:The first trace of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 32,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy...

, Valladolid
Valladolid
Valladolid is a historic city and municipality in north-central Spain, situated at the confluence of the Pisuerga and Esgueva rivers, and located within three wine-making regions: Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Cigales...

, Vigo
Vigo
Vigo is a city and municipality in north-west Spain, in Galicia, situated on the ria of the same name on the Atlantic Ocean.-Population:...

, Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia is a city in Vila Nova de Gaia Municipality, Portugal. It is located in the Porto District, south of the city of Porto on the other side of the Douro River. The city proper has a population of 178,255 and the municipality contains 24 parishes with a total...

, Gijón
Gijón
Gijón , officially Gijón / Xixón, is a coastal industrial city and a municipality in the autonomous community of Asturias in Spain. Early mediaeval texts mention it as "Gigia". It was an important regional Roman city, although the area has been settled since earliest history...

, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat
L'Hospitalet de Llobregat
L'Hospitalet de Llobregat or briefly L'Hospitalet is a city to the immediate southwest of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain, and the second largest in Catalonia by population...

, A Coruña
A Coruña
A Coruña or La Coruña is a city and municipality of Galicia, Spain. It is the second-largest city in the autonomous community and seventeenth overall in the country...

, Porto
Porto
Porto , also known as Oporto in English, is the second largest city in Portugal and one of the major urban areas in the Iberian Peninsula. Its administrative limits include a population of 237,559 inhabitants distributed within 15 civil parishes...

, Vitoria-Gasteiz
Vitoria-Gasteiz
Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital city of the province of Álava and of the autonomous community of the Basque Country in northern Spain with a population of 235,661 people. It is the second largest Basque city...

, Granada
Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

, Elche, Oviedo
Oviedo
Oviedo is the capital city of the Principality of Asturias in northern Spain. It is also the name of the municipality that contains the city....

, Braga
Braga
Braga , a city in the Braga Municipality in northwestern Portugal, is the capital of the Braga District, the oldest archdiocese and the third major city of the country. Braga is the oldest Portuguese city and one of the oldest Christian cities in the World...

, Sintra
Sintra
Sintra is a town within the municipality of Sintra in the Grande Lisboa subregion of Portugal. Owing to its 19th century Romantic architecture and landscapes, becoming a major tourist centre, visited by many day-trippers who travel from the urbanized suburbs and capital of Lisbon.In addition to...

, Coimbra
Coimbra
Coimbra is a city in the municipality of Coimbra in Portugal. Although it served as the nation's capital during the High Middle Ages, it is better-known for its university, the University of Coimbra, which is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest academic institution in the...

 and Setúbal
Setúbal
Setúbal is the main city in Setúbal Municipality in Portugal with a total area of 172.0 km² and a total population of 118,696 inhabitants in the municipality. The city proper has 89,303 inhabitants....

.

Various other notable cities are also present on the peninsula.

Major metropolitan areas


The main metropolitan areas and conurbations over a million are: Madrid
Madrid metropolitan area
The Madrid Metropolitan Area comprises the city of Madridand forty surrounding municipalities. It has a populationof slightly more than 6.4 million people and covers an areaof 4.609,7 km²...

, Barcelona
Barcelona metropolitan area
This article is about the metropolitan area. For the administrative area, see Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona .Barcelona metropolitan area is the metropolitan area in Catalonia, north of Spain, centered on the city of Barcelona...

, Lisbon, Valencia, Porto, Seville, Bilbao
Bilbao metropolitan area
The Bilbao Metropolian Area is the metropolitan area or continuous urban area based around the city of Bilbao, in the Basque Country, Spain...

 and Málaga.

Forests


The woodlands of the Iberian Peninsula are distinct ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s. Although the various regions are each characterized by distinct vegetation, there are some similarities across the peninsula.

While the borders between these regions are not clearly defined, there is a mutual influence which makes it very hard to establish boundaries and some species find their optimal habitat in the intermediate areas.

East Atlantic flyway


The Iberian Peninsula in an important stopover on the East Atlantic flyway
Flyway
A flyway is a flight path used in bird migration. Flyways generally span over continents and often oceans.-Flyways of the Americas:*Atlantic Flyway*Central Flyway*Mississippi Flyway*Pacific Flyway*Allegheny Front...

 for birds migrating from northern Europe to Africa. For example, Calidis ferruginea
Curlew Sandpiper
The Curlew Sandpiper is a small wader that breeds on the tundra of Arctic Siberia. It is strongly migratory, wintering mainly in Africa, but also in south and southeast Asia and in Australasia...

 rests in the region of Cadiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 Bay.

In addition to the birds migrating through, some seven million wading birds from the north spend the winter in the estuaries and wetlands of the Iberian Peninsula, mainly at locations on the Atlantic coast. In Galicia are the Ria de Arousa (a home of Pluvialis squatarola
Grey Plover
The Grey Plover , known as the Black-bellied Plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding....

), Ria de Ortigueira
Ortigueira
Ortigueira is a seaport and municipality in the Province of A Coruña, Galicia, Spain; it is located on the northern slope of the Serra da Faladoira, the river Mera and on the eastern shore of the Ria de Santa Marta—a winding, rock-bound and much indented inlet of the Bay of Biscay, between Capes...

, Ria de Corme and Ria de Laxe. In Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 the Aveiro Lagoon
Aveiro Lagoon
The Aveiro lagoon is a lagoon in Portugal. It is located on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, south the municipalitiy of Espinho and north of Mira . Its average area covers approximately 75 km². It is named after the city of Aveiro, which is the chief urban centre located nearby the lagoon...

 hosts Recurvirostra avosetta
Avocet
The four species of Avocets are a genus, Recurvirostra, of waders in the same avian family as the stilts.Avocets have long legs and long, thin, upcurved bills which they sweep from side to side when feeding in the brackish or saline wetlands they prefer...

, Charadrius hiaticula
Ringed Plover
The Common Ringed Plover or Ringed Plover is a small plover.Adults are 17-19.5 cm in length with a 35–41 cm wingspan. They have a grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes...

, Pluvialis squatarola
Grey Plover
The Grey Plover , known as the Black-bellied Plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding....

 and Calidris minuta
Little Stint
The Little Stint, Calidris minuta , is a very small wader. It breeds in arctic Europe and Asia, and is a long-distance migrant, wintering south to Africa and south Asia...

. Ribatejo
Ribatejo
The Ribatejo is the most central of the traditional provinces of Portugal, with no coastline or border with Spain. The region is crossed by the Tagus River...

 on the Tagus River supports Recurvirostra arosetta
Avocet
The four species of Avocets are a genus, Recurvirostra, of waders in the same avian family as the stilts.Avocets have long legs and long, thin, upcurved bills which they sweep from side to side when feeding in the brackish or saline wetlands they prefer...

, Pluvialis squatarola
Grey Plover
The Grey Plover , known as the Black-bellied Plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding....

, Culidris alpina
Dunlin
The Dunlin, Calidris alpina, is a small wader, sometimes separated with the other "stints" in Erolia. It is a circumpolar breeder in Arctic or subarctic regions. Birds that breed in northern Europe and Asia are long-distance migrants, wintering south to Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East...

, Limosa lapponica
Bar-tailed Godwit
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a large wader in the family Scolopacidae, which breeds on Arctic coasts and tundra mainly in the Old World, and winters on coasts in temperate and tropical regions of the Old World...

 and Tringa totanus
Common Redshank
The Common Redshank or simply Redshank is an Eurasian wader in the large family Scolopacidae.- Description and systematics :...

. In the Estuário do Sado
Sado River
The Sado River is a river in Southern Portugal, and is one of the major rivers in the country. It flows in a South/North direction through 175 km from its springs in the Caldeirão hills before entering the Atlantic Ocean in an estuary in the city of Setúbal.In Setúbal, its estuary is famous...

 are Calidris alpina
Dunlin
The Dunlin, Calidris alpina, is a small wader, sometimes separated with the other "stints" in Erolia. It is a circumpolar breeder in Arctic or subarctic regions. Birds that breed in northern Europe and Asia are long-distance migrants, wintering south to Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East...

, Numenius arquata
Eurasian Curlew
The Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata, is a wader in the large family Scolopacidae. It is one of the most widespread of the curlews, breeding across temperate Europe and Asia...

, Pluvialis squatarola
Grey Plover
The Grey Plover , known as the Black-bellied Plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding....

 and Tringa totanus
Common Redshank
The Common Redshank or simply Redshank is an Eurasian wader in the large family Scolopacidae.- Description and systematics :...

. The Algarve hosts Calidris canutus
Red Knot
The Red Knot, Calidris canutus , is a medium sized shorebird which breeds in tundra and the Arctic Cordillera in the far north of Canada, Europe, and Russia. It is a large member of the Calidris sandpipers, second only to the Great Knot...

, Tringa nebularia
Greenshank
The Common Greenshank is a wader in the large family Scolopacidae, the typical waders. Its closest relative is the Greater Yellowlegs, together with which and the Spotted Redshank it forms a close-knit group...

 and Arenaria interpres
Turnstone
Turnstones are the bird species in the genus Arenaria in the family Scolopacidae. They are closely related to calidrid sandpipers and might be considered members of the tribe Calidriini....

. The Marismas de Guadalquivir
Las Marismas
The Guadalquivir Marshes is an area of marshy lowlands near the banks of Guadalquivir River, part of Seville province, in Western Andalusia , which contains part of the territories of the municipalities of Isla Mayor, Los Palacios y Villafranca, La Puebla del Río, Villafranco del Guadalquivir,...

 region of Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

 and the Salinas de Cádiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 are especially rich in wintering wading birds: Charadrius alexandrinus
Kentish Plover
The Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, is a small wader in the plover bird family. Despite its name, this species no longer breeds in Kent, or even Great Britain...

, Charadrius hiaticula
Ringed Plover
The Common Ringed Plover or Ringed Plover is a small plover.Adults are 17-19.5 cm in length with a 35–41 cm wingspan. They have a grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes...

, Calidris alba
Sanderling
The Sanderling is a small wader. It is a circumpolar Arctic breeder, and is a long-distance migrant, wintering south to South America, South Europe, Africa, and Australia...

, and Limosa limosa
Black-tailed Godwit
The Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, is a large, long-legged, long-billed shorebird first described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. It is a member of the Limosa genus, the godwits...

 in addition to the others. And finally, the Ebro
Ebro
The Ebro or Ebre is one of the most important rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.The Ebro flows through the following cities:*Reinosa in Cantabria.*Miranda de Ebro in Castile and León....

 delta is home to all the species mentioned above.

Geology


The Iberian Peninsula contains rocks from every age from Ediacaran
Ediacaran
The Ediacaran Period , named after the Ediacara Hills of South Australia, is the last geological period of the Neoproterozoic Era and of the Proterozoic Eon, immediately preceding the Cambrian Period, the first period of the Paleozoic Era and of the Phanerozoic Eon...

 to Recent, and almost every kind of rock is represented. World class mineral deposits can also be found there. The core of the Iberian Peninsula consists of a Hercynian craton
Craton
A craton is an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere. Having often survived cycles of merging and rifting of continents, cratons are generally found in the interiors of tectonic plates. They are characteristically composed of ancient crystalline basement rock, which may be covered by...

ic block known as the Iberian Massif. On the northeast this is bounded by The Pyrenean fold belt
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

, and on the southeast it is bounded by the Betic Foldchain
Baetic Cordillera
The Baetic System is the main system of mountain ranges in Spain. Located in southern and eastern Spain, it is also known as the Baetic Cordillera, Baetic Ranges or Baetic Mountains...

. These twofold chains are part of the Alpine belt
Geology of the Alps
The Alps form part of a Tertiary orogenic belt of mountain chains, called the Alpide belt, that stretches through southern Europe and Asia from the Atlantic all the way to the Himalayas. This belt of mountain chains was formed during the Alpine orogeny. A gap in these mountain chains in central...

. To the west, the peninsula is delimited by the continental boundary formed by the magma
Magma
Magma is a mixture of molten rock, volatiles and solids that is found beneath the surface of the Earth, and is expected to exist on other terrestrial planets. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and dissolved gas and sometimes also gas bubbles. Magma often collects in...

 poor opening of the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. The Hercynian Foldbelt is mostly buried by Mesozoic and Tertiary cover rocks to the east, but nevertheless outcrops through the Iberian Chain and the Catalonia
Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...

n Coastal Ranges.

Prehistory





Palaeolithic


The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited for at least 1,000,000 years as remains found in the sites at Atapuerca
Atapuerca
The Atapuerca Mountains is an ancient karstic region of Spain, in the province of Burgos and near Atapuerca and Ibeas de Juarros. It contains several caves, where fossils and stone tools of the earliest known Hominins in West Europe have been found. The earliest hominids may have dated to 1.2...

 demonstrate. Among these sites is the cave of Gran Dolina, where six hominin skeletons, dated between 780,000 and one million years ago, were found in 1994. Experts have debated whether these skeletons belong to the species Homo erectus
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

, Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The best evidence found for these hominins date between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. H...

, or a new species called Homo antecessor
Homo antecessor
Homo antecessor is an extinct human species dating from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago, that was discovered by Eudald Carbonell, Juan Luis Arsuaga and J. M. Bermúdez de Castro. H. antecessor is one of the earliest known human varieties in Europe. Various archaeologists and anthropologists have...

.

Around 200,000 BCE, during the Lower Paleolithic
Lower Paleolithic
The Lower Paleolithic is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago when the first evidence of craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the...

 period, Neanderthals first entered the Iberian Peninsula. Around 70,000 BCE, during the Middle Paleolithic
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology. The Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age...

 period, the last ice age began and the Neanderthal Mousterian
Mousterian
Mousterian is a name given by archaeologists to a style of predominantly flint tools associated primarily with Homo neanderthalensis and dating to the Middle Paleolithic, the middle part of the Old Stone Age.-Naming:...

 culture was established. Around 35,000 BCE, during the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

, the Neanderthal Châtelperronian
Châtelperronian
Châtelperronian was the earliest industry of the Upper Palaeolithic in central and south western France, extending also into Northern Spain. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des Fées, in Châtelperron, Allier, France....

 cultural period began. Emanating from Southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

 this culture extended into the north of the peninsula. It continued to exist until around 28,000 BCE when Neanderthal man faced extinction.

At about the 40th millennium BCE Modern Humans
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 entered the Iberian peninsula, coming from Southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

. Here, this genetically homogeneous population
Population genetics
Population genetics is the study of allele frequency distribution and change under the influence of the four main evolutionary processes: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow. It also takes into account the factors of recombination, population subdivision and population...

 (characterized by the M173 mutation
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

 in the Y-chromosome
Y chromosome
The Y chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in most mammals, including humans. In mammals, it contains the gene SRY, which triggers testis development if present. The human Y chromosome is composed of about 60 million base pairs...

), developed the M343 mutation, giving rise to the R1b Haplogroup
Haplogroup
In the study of molecular evolution, a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor having the same single nucleotide polymorphism mutation in both haplotypes. Because a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, this is what makes it possible to predict a haplogroup...

, still the most common in modern Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 and Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 males. On the Iberian peninsula, Modern Humans developed a series of different cultures, such as the Aurignacian
Aurignacian
The Aurignacian culture is an archaeological culture of the Upper Palaeolithic, located in Europe and southwest Asia. It lasted broadly within the period from ca. 45,000 to 35,000 years ago in terms of conventional radiocarbon dating, or between ca. 47,000 and 41,000 years ago in terms of the most...

, Gravettian
Gravettian
thumb|right|Burins to the Gravettian culture.The Gravettian toolmaking culture was a specific archaeological industry of the European Upper Palaeolithic era prevalent before the last glacial epoch. It is named after the type site of La Gravette in the Dordogne region of France where its...

, Solutrean
Solutrean
The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP.-Details:...

 and Magdalenian cultures, some of them characterized by complex forms of Paleolithic art.

Neolithic


During the Neolithic expansion
Neolithic Europe
Neolithic Europe refers to a prehistoric period in which Neolithic technology was present in Europe. This corresponds roughly to a time between 7000 BC and c. 1700 BC...

, various megalithic cultures developed in the Iberian peninsula. An open seas navigation culture from the east Mediterranean, called the Cardium culture
Cardium Pottery
Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the Cardium edulis, a marine mollusk...

, also extended its influence to the eastern coasts of the peninsula, possibly as early as the 5th millennium BCE. These people may have had some relation to the subsequent development of the Iberian civilization
Iberians
The Iberians were a set of peoples that Greek and Roman sources identified with that name in the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian peninsula at least from the 6th century BC...

.

Chalcolithic


In the Chalcolithic or Copper Age (c. 3000 BCE) a series of complex cultures developed, which would give rise to the peninsula's first civilizations and to extensive exchange networks reaching to the Baltic
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

. At about 2150 BCE the Bell Beaker culture intruded into the peninsula, being of Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

an origin.

Bronze Age


Bronze Age cultures developed beginning c.1800 BCE, when the civilization of Los Millares
Los Millares
Los Millares is the name of a Chalcolithic occupation site 17 km north of Almería, in the municipality of Santa Fe de Mondújar, Andalusia, Spain. The complex was in use from the end of the fourth millennium to the end of the second millennium BC and probably supported somewhere around 1000...

 was followed by that of El Argar
El Argar
El Argar is the type site of an Early Bronze Age culture called the Argaric culture, which flourished from the town of Antas, in what is now the province of Almería, south-east of Spain, between c. 1800 BC and 1300 BC....

. From this centre, bronze technology spread to other areas, such as those of the Bronze of Levante
Bronze of Levante
Bronze of Levante is the name of the proto-Iberian culture extending approximately by the Land of Valencia in the 2nd millennium BCE. It is contemporary of the culture of El Argar by which it is strongly influenced.Between c...

, South-Western Iberian Bronze
South-Western Iberian Bronze
The South-Western Iberian Bronze is a loosely-defined Bronze Age culture of Southern Portugal and nearby areas of SW Spain . It replaced the earlier urban and Megalithic existing in that same region in the Chalcolithic age....

 and Cogotas I.

In the Late Bronze Age the urban civilisation of Tartessos
Tartessos
Tartessos or Tartessus was a harbor city and surrounding culture on the south coast of the Iberian peninsula , at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. It appears in sources from Greece and the Near East starting in the middle of the first millennium BC, for example Herodotus, who describes it as...

 developed in the area of modern western Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

, characterized by Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n influence and using the Tartessian script for its Tartessian language
Tartessian language
The Tartessian language is the extinct Paleohispanic language of inscriptions in the Southwestern script found in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula: mainly in the south of Portugal , but also in Spain . There are 95 of these inscriptions with the longest having 82 readable signs...

, a language isolate
Language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...

 not related to the Iberian language
Iberian language
The Iberian language was the language of a people identified by Greek and Roman sources who lived in the eastern and southeastern regions of the Iberian peninsula. The ancient Iberians can be identified as a rather nebulous local culture between the 7th and 1st century BC...

.

Early in the first millennium BCE, several waves of Pre-Celts and Celts migrated from central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

, thus partially changing the peninsula's ethnic landscape into Indo-European
Indo-European
Indo-European may refer to:* Indo-European languages** Aryan race, a 19th century and early 20th century term for those peoples who are the native speakers of Indo-European languages...

 space in its northern and western regions.

Proto-history


By the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

, starting in the 7th century BCE, the Iberian peninsula consisted of complex agrarian and urban civilizations, either Pre-Celtic or Celtic (such as the Lusitanians
Lusitanians
The Lusitanians were an Indo-European people living in the Western Iberian Peninsula long before it became the Roman province of Lusitania . They spoke the Lusitanian language which might have been Celtic. The modern Portuguese people see the Lusitanians as their ancestors...

, the Celtiberians
Celtiberians
The Celtiberians were Celtic-speaking people of the Iberian Peninsula in the final centuries BC. The group used the Celtic Celtiberian language.Archaeologically, the Celtiberians participated in the Hallstatt culture in what is now north-central Spain...

, the Gallaeci, the Astur
Astur
The Astures were the Hispano-Celtic Gallaecian inhabitants of the northwest area of Hispania that now comprises almost the entire modern autonomous community of Asturias and the modern provinces León, and northern Zamora , and east of Trás os Montes in Portugal...

, or the Celtici
Celtici
]The Celtici were a Celtic tribe or group of tribes of the Iberian peninsula, inhabiting three definite areas: in what today are the provinces of Alentejo and the Algarve in Portugal; in the Province of Badajoz and north of Province of Huelva in Spain, in the ancient Baeturia; and along the...

, amongst others), the cultures of the Iberians
Iberians
The Iberians were a set of peoples that Greek and Roman sources identified with that name in the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian peninsula at least from the 6th century BC...

 in the eastern and southern zones and the cultures of the Aquitanian
Aquitanian language
The Aquitanian language was spoken in ancient Aquitaine before the Roman conquest and, probably much later, until the Early Middle Ages....

 in the western portion of the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

.

The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 and Carthaginians successively settled along the Mediterranean coast and founded trading colonies there over a period of several centuries. Around 1100 BCE, Phoenician merchants founded the trading colony of Gadir or Gades (modern day Cádiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

) near Tartessos
Tartessos
Tartessos or Tartessus was a harbor city and surrounding culture on the south coast of the Iberian peninsula , at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. It appears in sources from Greece and the Near East starting in the middle of the first millennium BC, for example Herodotus, who describes it as...

. In the 8th century BCE, the first Greek colonies, such as Emporion (modern Empúries
Empúries
Empúries , formerly known by its Spanish name Ampurias , was a town on the Mediterranean coast of the Catalan comarca of Alt Empordà in Catalonia, Spain. It was founded in 575 BC by Greek colonists from Phocaea with the name of Ἐμπόριον...

), were founded along the Mediterranean coast on the East, leaving the south coast to the Phoenicians. The Greeks coined the name Iberia, after the river Iber (Ebro
Ebro
The Ebro or Ebre is one of the most important rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.The Ebro flows through the following cities:*Reinosa in Cantabria.*Miranda de Ebro in Castile and León....

). In the 6th century BCE the Carthaginians arrived in the peninsula while struggling with the Greeks for control of the Western Mediterranean. Their most important colony was Carthago Nova (Latin name of modern day Cartagena
Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2011, it has a population of 218,210 inhabitants being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital...

).

History






Roman rule


In 219 BC the first Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 troops invaded the Iberian Peninsula, during the Second Punic war
Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of the Berbers on...

 against the Carthaginians, and annexed it under Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 after two centuries of war with the Celtic and Iberian tribes and the Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian colonies, resulting in the creation of the province of Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

. It was divided into Hispania Ulterior
Hispania Ulterior
During the Roman Republic, Hispania Ulterior was a region of Hispania roughly located in Baetica and in the Guadalquivir valley of modern Spain and extending to all of Lusitania and Gallaecia...

 and Hispania Citerior
Hispania Citerior
During the Roman Republic, Hispania Citerior was a region of Hispania roughly occupying the northeastern coast and the Ebro Valley of what is now Spain. Hispania Ulterior was located west of Hispania Citerior—that is, farther away from Rome.-External links:*...

 during the late Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, and during the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, it was divided into Hispania Taraconensis in the northeast, Hispania Baetica
Hispania Baetica
Hispania Baetica was one of three Imperial Roman provinces in Hispania, . Hispania Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica was part of Al-Andalus under the Moors in the 8th century and approximately corresponds to modern Andalucia...

 in the south and Lusitania
Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

 in the southwest.

Hispania supplied the Roman Empire with food, olive oil, wine, and metal. The emperors Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

, Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

, and Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, the philosopher Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

, and the poets Martial
Martial
Marcus Valerius Martialis , was a Latin poet from Hispania best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan...

 and Lucan were born from families living on the peninsula.

Germanic kingdoms


In the early 5th century, Germanic tribes invaded the peninsula, namely the Suevi, the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 (Silingi
Silingi
The Silings or Silingi supposedly were an East Germanic tribe, probably part of the larger Vandal group. According to most scholars, examples Jerzy Strzelczyk, Norman Davies, Jerzy Krasuski, Andrzej Kokowski, Henryk Łowmiański, the Silingi may have lived in Silesia...

 and Hasdingi
Hasdingi
The Hasdingi were the southern tribes of the Vandals, an East Germanic tribe. They lived in areas of today's southern Poland, Slovakia and Hungary...

) and their allies, the Sarmatian Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

. Only the kingdom of the Suevi (Quadi
Quadi
The Quadi were a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little is definitively known. We only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' through reports of the Romans themselves...

 and Marcomanni
Marcomanni
The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribe, probably related to the Buri, Suebi or Suevi.-Origin:Scholars believe their name derives possibly from Proto-Germanic forms of "march" and "men"....

) would endure after the arrival of another wave of Germanic invaders, the Visigoths, who conquered all of the Iberian peninsula and expelled or partially integrated the Vandals and the Alans. The Visigoths eventually conquered the Suevi kingdom and its capital city Bracara (modern day Braga
Braga
Braga , a city in the Braga Municipality in northwestern Portugal, is the capital of the Braga District, the oldest archdiocese and the third major city of the country. Braga is the oldest Portuguese city and one of the oldest Christian cities in the World...

) in 584-585. They would also conquer the province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 (552-624) of Spania
Spania
Spania was a province of the Roman Empire from 552 until 624 in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. It was a part of the conquests of Roman Emperor Justinian I in an effort to restore the western half of the Empire....

 in the south of the peninsula and the Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

.

Islamic rule


In AD 711, a North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

n Moorish
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 Umayyad army invaded
Umayyad conquest of Hispania
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania is the initial Islamic Ummayad Caliphate's conquest, between 711 and 718, of the Christian Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania, centered in the Iberian Peninsula, which was known to them under the Arabic name al-Andalus....

 Visigothic Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

. Under their leader Tariq ibn-Ziyad
Tariq ibn-Ziyad
Tariq ibn Ziyad was a Muslim Berber general who led the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711 A.D. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Iberian history. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army from the north coast of...

, they landed at Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 and brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. Al-ʾAndalūs
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

 (Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 الإندلس : Land of the Vandals) is the Arabic name given the Iberian Peninsula by its Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 conquerors and its subsesquent inhabitants.

From the 8th-15th centuries, parts of the Iberian peninsula were ruled by the Moors
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 (mainly Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

) who had crossed over from North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

.

Reconquest


Many of the ousted Gothic
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands
Kingdom of Asturias
The Kingdom of Asturias was a Kingdom in the Iberian peninsula founded in 718 by Visigothic nobles under the leadership of Pelagius of Asturias. It was the first Christian political entity established following the collapse of the Visigothic kingdom after Islamic conquest of Hispania...

. From there, they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors; this war of reconquest is known as the Reconquista
Reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

. Christian and Muslim kingdoms fought and allied among themselves. The Muslim taifa
Taifa
In the history of the Iberian Peninsula, a taifa was an independent Muslim-ruled principality, usually an emirate or petty kingdom, though there was one oligarchy, of which a number formed in the Al-Andalus after the final collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba in 1031.-Rise:The origins of...

 kings competed in patronage of the arts, the Way of Saint James attracted pilgrims from all Western Europe, and the Jewish population
Golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula
The golden age of Jewish culture in Spain coincided with the Middle Ages in Europe, a period of Muslim rule throughout much of the Iberian Peninsula. During that time, Jews were generally accepted in society and Jewish religious, cultural, and economic life blossomed.The nature and length of this...

 set the basis of Sephardic culture.

In medieval times
Medieval Times
Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is a family dinner theater featuring staged medieval-style games, sword-fighting, and jousting performed by a cast of 75 actors and 20 horses. Each location is housed in a replica 11th-century castle, with the exception of the Toronto location, which is housed...

 the peninsula housed many small states including Castile
Kingdom of Castile
Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region...

, Aragon
Crown of Aragon
The Crown of Aragon Corona d'Aragón Corona d'Aragó Corona Aragonum controlling a large portion of the present-day eastern Spain and southeastern France, as well as some of the major islands and mainland possessions stretching across the Mediterranean as far as Greece...

, Navarre
Kingdom of Navarre
The Kingdom of Navarre , originally the Kingdom of Pamplona, was a European kingdom which occupied lands on either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean....

, León
Kingdom of León
The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León...

 and Portugal
Kingdom of Portugal
The Kingdom of Portugal was Portugal's general designation under the monarchy. The kingdom was located in the west of the Iberian Peninsula, Europe and existed from 1139 to 1910...

. The peninsula was part of the Islamic Almohad
Almohad
The Almohad Dynasty , was a Moroccan Berber-Muslim dynasty founded in the 12th century that established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains in roughly 1120.The movement was started by Ibn Tumart in the Masmuda tribe, followed by Abd al-Mu'min al-Gumi between 1130 and his...

 empire until they were finally uprooted. The last major Muslim stronghold was Granada
Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

 which was eliminated by a combined Castilian and Aragonese force in 1492.

Post reconquest


The small states gradually amalgamated over time, with the exception of Portugal, even if for a brief period (1580–1640) the whole peninsula was united politically under the Iberian Union
Iberian Union
The Iberian union was a political unit that governed all of the Iberian Peninsula south of the Pyrenees from 1580–1640, through a dynastic union between the monarchies of Portugal and Spain after the War of the Portuguese Succession...

. After that point the modern position was reached and the peninsula now consists of the countries of Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 (excluding their islands — the Portuguese Azores
Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

 and Madeira Islands and the Spanish Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

 and Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

; and the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta
Ceuta
Ceuta is an autonomous city of Spain and an exclave located on the north coast of North Africa surrounded by Morocco. Separated from the Iberian peninsula by the Strait of Gibraltar, Ceuta lies on the border of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ceuta along with the other Spanish...

 and Melilla
Melilla
Melilla is a autonomous city of Spain and an exclave on the north coast of Morocco. Melilla, along with the Spanish exclave Ceuta, is one of the two Spanish territories located in mainland Africa...

), Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

, French Cerdagne
French Cerdagne
French Cerdagne is the northern half of Cerdanya, which came under French control as a result of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, while the southern half remained in Spain . Catalonians often refer to French Cerdagne as Upper Cerdanya...

 and Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

.

Languages


Most modern languages of Iberia descend from Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

, except for Basque which is of unknown origin
Language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...

. Throughout history (and pre-history), many different languages have been spoken in the Iberian peninsula contributing to the formation and differentiation of the contemporanean languages of Iberia, however most of them have become extinct or fallen into disuse. Basque is the only non-Indo-European surviving language in Iberia and Western Europe.

In modern times, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 (cf. 30 to 40 million speakers), Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 (cf. around 10 million speakers), Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

 (cf. around 9 million speakers), Galician
Galician language
Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is co-official with Castilian Spanish, as well as in border zones of the neighbouring territories of Asturias and Castile and León.Modern Galician and...

 (cf. around 3 million speakers) and Basque
Basque language
Basque is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories...

 (cf. around half a million speakers) are the most widely spoken languages in the Iberian peninsula. Out of these languages; only two, Spanish and Portuguese, have expanded beyond Iberia to the rest of world, thus becoming global language
World language
A world language is a language spoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers , but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations...

s.