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Spain is situated at the western most portion of the European continent. So it is not surprising that from early in its history, as successive waves of peoples that migrated throughout Europe, many would end up in the Iberian Peninsula. Its geography also forms a strategic gateway between the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and between Europe and Africa, that would point to its importance in world history.

The first to arrived in the region were a people called the Iberians from North Africa. These people would mix with the Celts who were next to settle in the region as they migrated across Europe. Together, forming what would be considered the foundation of what would be the Spanish people. Although the Spanish would fall victim to the expansionist Roman republic, the Celtiberi would eventually obtain latinitas and would  contribute some of Rome's most famous writers. Two of Rome's emperors would even be recruited from Spain.

Dawn of the Iberians[edit]

The word "iberian", known in Greek cutlure since 500BCE was probably derived of the river Ebro, a natural frontier between the new settlers (who were believed by the Greeks to have first arrived from Africa more than two millenia before) and the whole peninsula. Eventually, this demonym was extended to denote the Iron Age populations living in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean, from the Rhone delta (Camargue) to Heracles's columns (Gibraltar) and that were clearly distinct from the Celtic influenced populations that lived more to the interior of the peninsula.

By around 1900BCE the Iberians established a system of city-states which were ruled by despotic warrior or priestly castes. Iberian society was developing into a sophisticated society based the trade of metals and minerals that was abundant in the region. As the westernmost landmass in Europe, it is no surprise however that more would arrive and settle in the area, especially given the immense mineral wealth of the region, for in the days of the Romans, much wealth in the form of gold, copper, mercury and iron could all be found in the mountains of Iberia.

From around 1200BCE the Celts, in several waves came into the region as they migrated across the swath of Europe, and spread into the Peninsula and so by the onset of the Punic Wars, the Iberian peoples were split into three different groups — the north of Iberia, between the Duero (or Durius) and the Cantabrian coast were vastly Celtic like many other tribes to the north-east beyond the Pyrenees, while the centre was occupied by peoples whose culture was a fusion of both Celtic and Iberian customs, hence "Celt-Iberians" in differing degrees of "Celticisation". The coastal areas of the east and south, however, were more cosmopolitan due to their being exposed to foreign cultural influence through commerce and conquest. Most notable of these cosmopolitan societies were those of Tartessos in present-day Andalucia, which was eventually assimilated by the Carthaginians.


The Celtiberians[edit]

The Celtiberians differed from the Iberian proper, by several ways: they were considered to be militaristic, giving great social significance to those who forged weapons (and not to mention their users). Greek and Roman sources attest the existence of cultural sophistication and social organisation in all Iberia in the pre-Roman era. Archaeologists who excavated the ruins of the famous city of Numantia discovered a culture acquainted with urban planning and sophisticated arts and crafts, particularly in ceramics, whose members lived in houses with two rooms and vaulted basements.

While some of the more isolated communities such as those in the mountainous regions of Gallaecia and the Pyrenees were organised on a tribal basis, some of the more urbanised areas of pre-Roman Iberia could be best described as feudal republics, with voting power prescribed to the nobility, while others had their own kings (regulii in Latin). Men frequently trained for combat through gymnastics, equestrian exercises as well as hunting, and prized physical appearance like the Minoans almost two thousand years earlier on the other end of the Mediterranean — obesity appears to have been frowned upon.

Religion is poorly known; ancient chroniclers do not refer to it often and votive inscriptions were not decifered. The objects found and the sanctuaries indicate a polytheistic and naturalist religion of Mediterranean characteristics, strongly influenced by Greek culture. Some known representations of gods include the Master of "Beasts" (greek Potnia Thérôn) and a Goddess of the Aphrodite-Astarte archetype. We can also find representations of fabulous animals (lions and sphinxes) as well as of bulls. The most important religious sanctuary is the one from Cerro de Los Santos, a rectangle with 20 m in length and 8m in width (in antis); in the interior a stone platform was placed to recieve the statues; eastern influence is still very visible.