Around 1100 BCE, Phoenicians from present-day Lebanon set up trading colonies along the Spanish coast. Greeks also traded along the northeastern coast. With the fall of Phoenicia, the Iberian peninsula came under the rule of Carthage, and then occupied by Rome following the Punic Wars. The Romans ruled in Iberia for six centuries, laying the foundations of the Latin language, Roman law, the municipality, and the Christian religion.
After the Roman Empire fell, the Suevi, Vandals, and Alans came to Spain. They all were defeated by the Visigoths who, by the end of the 6th century, occupied most of the Peninsula.
The Arabs entered from the south at the beginning of the 8th Century. They conquered the country quickly, except for a small area in the North which would become the initial springboard for the Reconquest eight centuries later. The period of Muslim dominance is divided into three periods: the Emirate (711 to 756), the Caliphate (756-1031), and the Reinos de Taifas (small independent kingdoms) (1031 to 1492).
In 1469, two Catholic Monarchs were married: Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, who prepared the way for the two kingdoms to be united. This union marked the opening of a period of growing power for Spain.
1492 heralded the discovery of America by the Crown of Castile under the command of Christopher Columbus. Then the Canary Islands became part of Spanish territory (1495), the Kingdom of Naples was taken from France, and Navarre was incorporated into the Kingdom. During the 16th and the 17th, the Spanish Empire become the world's foremost power, and a huge presence in European politics.
In 1808, Joseph Bonaparte was installed on the Spanish throne,
following the Napoleonic invasion. A fierce resistance followed,
and Spanish rule was restored with Fernando VII occupying the
During elections in 1931, it became clear that the people no longer wanted the monarchy ruling over them. In all the large towns of Spain, the pro monarchy candidates were defeated soundly. However, many rural towns supported the monarchy, and they kept power. The major cities held a lot of power though, and there was enormous support for the Republican cause. Great crowds gathered in Madrid, and the King's most trusted friends advised him to leave. He did so and the Republic was established on 14 April 1931.
During its five-year lifetime, the Republic was ridden with political, economic and social conflicts that split opinion into two irreconcilable sides: those who still supported a republic and those who did not. The climate of violence grew, and on 18 July 1936 there was a military uprising that turned into a tragic civil war that lasted three years.
On 1 October 1936, General Franco took over as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Spanish State embarked on a period of forty years' dictatorship. Franco died in 1975, bringing to an end this period of Spanish history and opening the way to the restoration of the monarchy with the rise to the throne of Juan Carlos I.
Once in power, the young King pushed for change to a western-style democracy. Adolfo Suarez, the prime minister of the second Monarchy Government, carried out the transition to democracy, culminating in the first democratic parliamentary elections in 41 years, on June 15th, 1977.