The history of Andalusia
Andalusia has a vivid history behind in which foreign conquerors play a major role. This was not always a disadvantage for Andalusia, as the period of the Arabian governance is not named as the "golden era" for nothing. But this country at the coasts of the mediterranean sea and the Atlantic was already an attractive area previously to that. Carthaginians, Romans, Phoenician and Greeks, they all kept an eye on Andalusia and also after the expulsion of the Moors, this region was a leading one under the guideance of the Catholic Royals.
Andalusia before the Arabs
With its pleasant climate, Andalusia was an attractive area long before the calendar. Thus, some relativly highly developed kingdoms emerged when some large areas of the remaining Europe were still wild and barbaric. The oldest known of these monarchs is "Tartessos", a monarchy of the 11th century BC. It was highly influenced by the Greeks and the Phoenicians, thus also civilizations.
Karthago, the most significant trade city at the North African coast, founded some branches in Andalusia. The victory of the Romans over Karthago in the Punic wars also had its effects on Andalusia, as the governance of the Carthaginians was finished and the Romans dominated this piece of country for approximately 700 years that they had taken as the province "Baetica". Andalusia became an important provider for Rome for, among other things, wine, oil and metals. Also some important Roman personalities were originally from Andalusia, so the philosoph Seneca to whom a monument is dedicated in Córdoba, the later Emperor Trajan and Hadrian.
But also the Roman empire did not last eternally and from the north, from Germany, the new monarchs, the Vandals, came. By the way, from them, the name Andalusia came, originally Vandalusia. But its influence did not take much time, the nexts who reigned there were the Visigoths under the leader Alarich II. But the Christian Andalusia was soon conquered by the Arabs, the Moors, with which the heydays of Andalusia began that last almost 800 years.
The Moorish Andalusia
Up into the 7th century, the christian Visigoths governed in Andalusia. At the beginning of the 8th century, a danger came from Africa that threatened this domination. Arabian tribes, thereunder many berber tribes from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, came to Andalusia and took over the dominance after some intensive fights; With these Arabs called Moors, an era in Andalusia began that was marked by tolerance, science and a relative economical well being. The Moors did not insist at all that the Christians and the Jewish population gave up their belief; they only expected them to recognize their dominance. Themselves, they were also ready to compromise. By this way, the Islamic prohibition of alcohol was not strictly followed at all but the Andalusian wine cultivation could be continued.
This dominance of the Moorish, many times also called the "golden era", took up to the end of the 15th century. Bit by bit, the country was reconquered by the Christian Monarchs up to the capitulation of the last bastion of the Moors, Granada, in the year 1492 and therewith Spain was completely christian again. By looking at the tolerance of these Moorish emperors of that time that had been practiced during eight centuries,.one should actually regret that the Christians retook the power.
The strong Moorish influence is kept in Andalusia up to date. It is represented by an abundance of significant and imposing buildings that were built during the time of the Moors and still today proove their amazing handcraft and sense of Arts. The Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Córdoba are some examples for these massive performances that took place for almost 1000 years. Also many Christian buildings, churches and cathedrals have been originated on the basic walls of Moorish buildings or have incorporated some parts of them.
But the Moors were not only exemplary in the field of the handcraft. The Arabian language, their language, was the scientific language. Mathematics, geography, medicine, astronomy and poetic, all this was many times first written in Arabian language. Many of the old Greek texts were only converted into the latin language over the stage in between in Arabian language. At the courts of the Caliphs some famous scientists cavort and also the culture and the recreation were very popular; Everywhere some baths, gardens with fountains and the courtyards adorned with flowers, the patios.
The landscape experienced a high time, some sophisticated irrigation systems provided some abundant and varied harvests. It should be also mentioned that apparently twenty percent of the Spanish vocabulary is based on the Arabian laguage. The Moors are of the past of Andalusia, but fortunatelty, a major part of their feeling for life, their craftmanship and also their tolerance remained. It would be advisable that many of the intolerant muslims of today would consider this culture as an example.
Andalusia up to the 20th century
With the expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia, the time started that made Spain to a leading nation in the world, at least economically. Due to the victory of the Christian Spanish monarchs, some free capacity was gained that Columbo could use for his exploring journeys. Thereby, Spain was able to built up a world empire and to increase its richness by the exploitation of the conquered areas. In the 16th and partly in the 17th century, Spain was the leading nation of sailors and the world's seas were dominated by the Spanish ships.
Thereby, the Andalusian ports had a great significancy; At the beginning, Sevilla was the main trade centre for the trade with America, later, Cádiz took over the monopoly. Over this trade and/or exploitation, life in Europe was changed in a sustainable manner, e.g. by some new nourishments as potatoes, corn, tomatoes or also stimulants as chocolate and tobacco. In Spain and therewith also in Andalusia, some gorgeous cathedrals were made, churches, palaces, public buildings and new plazas. Many of these buildings that many times were built up on the Moorish predecessors, can be still admired today in Andalusia.
But the scientific and the spiritual attainments were different. The times of tolerance were over, the catholic church had an extremely strong influence and specially in the newly discovered areas, some complete nations were exterminated in the name of Spain.
But as it is many times, sooner or later, too much richness induces to resentment and arrogance. Maladministration, inner politician rivalities and rigid dogmas led in the second half of the 17th century to the loss of the world dominance on the oceans. England took over this role and became thereby to the absolute world power for a long time.
In the Spanish war of succession, the Andalusian Gibraltar was lost to England that is still today an English enclave on Spanish ground. This is the way it continued in quick succession. in the year 1788, Cádiz loses the monopoly of trade to the new world. Napoleon all the former gets into Andalusia and in America, the Spanish colony empire falls, almost all former Spanisch colonies of America get independent. The golden era of Andalusia is definetely over.
Andalusia in the 20th century and today
In the 20th century, Spain had a big advantage compared to many other European countries, as it was not involved, at least military, in the two devastating world wars. Otherwise, this century provided Spain and therewith also Andalusia some eventful and problematic times.
This began with some strong social tensions that took place at the beginning of the century in a state that was mainly oriented to the agriculture and that led to the dictatorship. In the 30ies, the second Republic established. The opponents of the Republic, led by the General Franco, organized a putsch and a civil war began that last 3 years that cost numerous victims also amongst the civil population. Franco could keep the control, also due to the support of Germany that was dominated by Hitler at that time. He built a new dictatorship that last up to his death in the year 1975.
With the coronation if the King Juan Carlos I., the time of liberalization began and the opening towards the rest of Europe. Also the Spanish provinces benefited from this new politic. Andalusia got the status of an autonomous region. In Andalusia, a period of an economical boom began, that was not least due to the increasing tourism. Spain's accession to the European Union are also new perspectives for the agriculture that is so important for Andalusia.
Back to the index Andalusia
Author: Michael Nitzschke; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz