A Brief History of Spain (2)

Moving forward to around 12,000 BC, we come to the Neolithic Age when a sophisticated culture seems to have developed in southern Spain, marked among things by the building of megalithic tombs along the coastal areas of the Peninsula, of which a particularly fine example is to be found at Antequera, here in Andalucía. The region around Almería was settled in the millennium from 5,000 to 4,000 BC by the Iberians, a neolithic people who arrived from North Africa bringing with them an agricultural, pastoral style of living.. With the arrival of the Bronze Age, made possible partly by a settled lifestyle, but mainly by the abundant supply of copper in the area, these people began to spread outwards from Almería, roughly 1,500 BC, into the rest of Andalucía and north onto the meseta. Then, in 1,000 BC they were joined by several waves of Celtic and Germanic tribes, and we find ourselves in the era of the Celt/Iberians. It was at this time that the Iberians founded the kingdom of Tartessus, based on the estuary of the Guadalquivir river and extending from present-day Huelva in the west to what is now Tarifa in the south. At the other end of the Mediterranean, a major power was the Phoenicians who were extending their trading activities westward, first into modern-day Libya, and then through the straits and up the west coast of the peninsula where they founded a trading post, the city of Gadir, now Cadiz, the oldest city in Europe. They remained a powerful influence in the area for the following four hundred years, until their growing links with Byzantium in the east shifted the whole emphasis of their activities. The Phoenicians left behind them the colony of Carthage on the North African coast. Freed from the control of the Phoenicians, in 600 BC the Carthaginians invade and destroyed Tartessus, and then spread eastwards along the Mediterranean coast as far as present-day Murcia; here they founded their new capital, Cartagena. The most famous of the Carthaginians was a gentleman by the name of Hannibal, he of elephant fame. The main, competing political entity to the Carthaginians was Rome and its empire to the east. At the time we are talking about - the early third century BC - Rome took little interest in the Iberian Peninsula, its westward expansion having stopped at the Pyrenees. Hannibal, on the other hand, had ambitions beyond his station. Confidently, he attacked the might of the Rpman Empire in 219 BC - and lost. Thus ended the rule of the Carthaginians and thus came the wholesale invasion and occupation of the peninsula by the Romans. More about the Romans next time.

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