Separated from western Europe by the Pyrenees and from Africa by the Strait of Gibraltar, the Iberian Peninsula (occupied by Spain and Portugal) was long an attractive target for expanding Mediterranean empires and greedy outsiders.
Around 1100 BC southern Iberia was colonized by the Phoenicians, and by 220 BC, the Romans and their culture dominated the entire peninsula. When the Roman Empire faded, assorted ethnic groups settled in, and the forceful Visigoths eventually ruled.
In the early 700’s, Muslim forces from North Africa crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and their culture and traditions subsequently influenced most of the peninsula for the next 800 years.
Christianity revived itself (albeit slowly) during the Muslim era, and when Fernando, heir to the throne of Aragon, and Princess Isabel of Castille married in 1469, large Christian parts of Spain were now united as one.
Their forces overran Granada, and the last Muslim stronghold surrendered. Now known as the ‘Catholic Monarchs,’ Fernando and Isabel resumed the Spanish Inquisition (or Reconquest), a time of aggressive religious persecution, where Muslims, Jews and other non-Christians were expelled and/or executed.
The royal couple supported expeditions to the New World by Columbus, and other explorers like Balboa, Cotez and Magellan. Untold riches flowed into Spain from their new colonies in the Americas, and Spain became a powerful country.
In fact, in the 16th and 17th centuries (under the Habsburgs), with its colonies spread across the Americas and its navy dominating the oceans, the Spanish Empire literally became the first global superpower. At home it was enjoying a so-called Golden Age, as the creative geniuses of Cervantes, El Greco, Lope de Vega and Velazquez (and others) produced enduring masterpieces, international law was born, and Spain was now writing its own cultural history.
In 1808, shortly after Louis XVI was guillotined in France, Napoleon’s troops crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. The Spanish people resisted and after a five-year war of independence, French forces were finally expelled, and the Spanish throne restored.
- Name: Spain
(long form) Kingdom of Spain
- Capital City: Madrid (3,255,950 pop.)
- Spain Population: 46,754,784 (2010 est.)
- World Populations (all countries)
- Currency: Euro
- Ethnicity: Spanish 87%, Latin Americans 7%, Western Europeans 3%, African and Middle Eastern 2%, other 1%
- GDP total: $1.376 trillion (2010 est.)
- GDP per capita: $29,500 (2010 est.)
- Land Sizes
- Language: Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%, are official regionally
- Largest Cities: (by population) Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Malaga, Murcia, Las Palmas, Bilbao, Palma
- Name: The meaning of the name Espana comes from the Phoenician word i-spn-ya, meaning “land where metals are forged”.
- National Day: October 12
- Religion: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%.
- Coastline: 4,964 km (3,084.48 miles)
- Land Area:
(land) 192,656 sq miles (498,980 sq km)
(water) 2,467 sq miles (6,390 sq km)
(TOTAL) 195,123 sq miles (505,370 sq km)
To convert sq km (kilometers) to sq mi (miles)
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- Land Area: (all countries)
- Land Divisions: Spain has 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities. They are: Andalucia, Aragon, Asturias, Baleares (Balearic Islands), Ceuta, Canarias (Canary Islands), Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Cataluna, Comunidad Valenciana, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Melilla, Murcia, Navarra, Pais Vasco (Basque Country)
Note: The autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla plus three small islands of Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, administered directly by the Spanish central government, are all located along the coast of Morocco and are collectively referred to as Places of Sovereignty (Plazas de Soberania)
- Regions Map
- Regions (largest by population) Andalusia, 7,975,672 (2005 est)
- Regions (largest by size) Castilla y Leon,
94,223 sq km
- Horizontal Width: 1017 km (631 miles) from La Coruna to Portbou
- Vertical Length: 805 km (501 miles) from Bilbao south to Gibraltar
- Bordering Countries: (3) Andorra, France and Portugal, plus the British colony of Gibraltar
- Geographic Center: 5.95 km (3.7 miles) southeast of Madrid
- Highest Point: Pico del Teide, the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, at 3,718 m (12,198 ft)
- Lowest Point: Atlantic Ocean, 0 m (0 ft)
LATITUDE & LONGITUDE:
- Latitude/Longitude (Absolute Locations)
Madrid: (capital city) 40° 25′ N, 3° 42′ W
Barcelona: 41° 23′ N, 2° 10′ E
Gijon: 43° 32′ N, 5° 39′ W
Malaga: 36° 43′ N, 4° 25′ W
Palma de Mallorca: 39° 34′ N, 2° 38′ E