The Alhambra was constructed during the 13th and 14th centuries, as a palace-fortress. The Moors built it on a high, rocky plateau- a natural citadel- in Granada, on a site used first by the Iberians and then the Romans. The Moors believed in plain
architecture on the outside, and magnificence on the inside. Their reasoning: why should the rich show the poor how well they live?
Spain lies on the Iberian Peninsula, south of France, north of African Morocco and east of Portugal. Including the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and several North African enclaves, it’s 194, 897 square miles. Its population is around 36 million, with Roman Catholicism the overwhelming religious preference. Its economy is based on olives, grapes,
wheat, citrus fruits, wine making, shipbuilding, cork, minerals, fishing and tourism. An industrialization drive started about 1960 and peaked in 1974. The unemployment is around eight percent.
The Phoenicians were the first people to voyage to Spain, in the 11th century B.C., followed by traders from the island of Rhodes and Greece. The African state of Carthage (in present Tunisia) began exploring the peninsula in the second half of the 3rd century B.C. Rome objected to this, and in 206 B.C. the Second Punic War started between the two powers. Rome won, and Carthage left Spain. Rome ruled until the late 5th century A.D., when the Visigoths triumphed: they maintained rule until 711 when the Berber Muslim army conquered Spain, on their way to France. They reached Poitiers, near Tours, in France, where they were defeated, afterward returning to Africa. The Muslims ruled Spain until 1492.
In 1469, the marriage of Isabella I of Castile to Ferdinand V of Navarro initiated developments that made Spain a great power.
In 1478 the ruthless Inquisition attempted to halt the Protestant tide and to enforce purity of the Roman Catholic faith. Christopher Columbus was sponsored by the royal court, which financed his sea voyage to try to find a westward route to the Indies. In the 16th century, Spain sent two expeditions to find reported gold and silver in Mexico and on the South American continent. In 1519, Hernan Cortes began the conquest of the Aztec empire in Mexico, and in 1552-53, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. Spain now controlled most South America, Central America, Florida, Cuba and in Asia, the Philippine Islands. The plundering of rich silver and gold mines brought enormous wealth to Spain. Spain was now a world power. In 1519, Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V. His son, Philip Ii succeeded him in 1556. But Spain’s golden age was passing, as its avarice for wealth and power produced events that started the country on a decline.
In the 16th century, interior revolts in Spain and the sinking of the Spanish Armada by England in 1588 started the decline of the once mighty power. In addition, two wars with France had taken an economic toll. In the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Spain relinquished its European possessions. The French in Napoleon’s time restored the Spanish monarchy, and after the Spanish- American War of 1898, Spain lost Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. Spain’s neutrality in World War I gave a huge boost to the economy, and the Second Spanish Republic was born. But on 18 July 1936, a revolt began with the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco fighting the Royalists. Franco was aided by support from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, who used the war to hone the skills their military in preparation for World War II. The Royalists were aided by the Russians. On 1 April 1939, Franco’s Nationalists triumphed, and for the next 36 years Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist, until his death November 1975. In 1947, Spain was declared a monarchy, but Franco actually ruled. Spain moved from being a pariah to acceptance in the world community when it joined with UN forces against the communists in Korea in 1950. King Juan Carlos succeeded to the throne on Franco’s death. Today, Spain is a major player in European affairs.