In the Beginning

The Bronze Age Kingdom of Tartessus was founded sometime in the 1st millennium B.C. Establishing itself at the mouth of the Río Guadalquivir, bordering Seville and Huelva provinces, Tartessos (its Greek name) flourished for centuries. By siding and trading with the Greeks, it encouraged the wrath of Carthage. That African kingdom sent its fleets across the Mediterranean to destroy the centuries-old Tartessus civilization. Andalusian archaeological museums, particularly those in Seville, display artifacts of Tartessus.

After bloody battles with the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and his generals, Romans reigned over Andalusia. Rome sent General Publius Cornelius Scipio to Spain in 209 B.C., where he seized Carthaginian bases and either killed the opposition or forced it back to Africa.

After internal battling, particularly among the forces of Julius Caesar and Pompey, Rome occupied southern Spain, a domination that would last for some 7 centuries. Julius Caesar himself governed Andalusia from 61 B.C. to 60 B.C. The major Roman base was at Itálica, whose ruins you can visit outside Seville.

Under the Romans, the colony of Andalusia became one of the richest in the Roman Empire. A Golden Age was proclaimed and the economy relied on such products as wine, grain, olive oil, and a strong-smelling fish sauce called garum.

The Coming of the Barbarians

In time, Rome's control over Andalusia began to decline. Sweeping across the Pyrenees in the 4th century B.C. came the first of the barbarian invasions from the north of Europe. They were not an immediate menace to the south but by A.D. 409 the Vandals had made inroads. Their rule over Andalusia was a bit weak; their reign was marked by much infighting and forced conversions to Christianity, especially among the downtrodden Jews.

Eleven Visigoth kings between 414 and 711 were assassinated. When the invading African Muslims arrived in southern Spain, the Visigothic monarchy was totally unprepared.

With extraordinary speed, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, the governor of Tangier, a far-western outpost of the Caliphate of Damascus, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in A.D. 711 with only 7,000 Berber warriors. The Moorish conquest of Andalusia had begun in earnest and Tariq ibn-Ziyad established himself at Gibraltar.

The last of the Visigothic kings, Roderick, pulled together an army to confront these African invaders. He disappeared, and his fate was lost to history, his armies either killed or fled.

In 3 decades, Muslim rulers established control of what they called al-Andalús. The capital of Islamic Spain became Córdoba, which went on to become the leading center of learning and culture in the west.

The Legacy of Al-Andalus

The Moors (Muslims who were an ethnic mixture of Berbers, Hispano-Romans, and Arabs) occupied southern Spain for nearly 8 centuries, leaving behind an intellectual and cultural legacy that influences modern life to this day. This was a time of soaring achievement in philosophy, medicine, and music.

Moorish rule brought the importation of the eggplant and the almond, as well as the Arabian steed. It heralded astronomy, a new and different view of Aristotle, Arabic numerals, and algebra. Ibn Muadh of Jaén wrote the first European treatise on trigonometry.

Intellectual giants like the Córdoba-born Jewish philosopher Maimónides emerged. It is said that Columbus evolved his theories about a new route to the East after hours and hours of studying the charts of Idrisi, an Arabian geographer who first sketched a world map in 1154. Arabs relied upon the compass as a navigational aid long before its use among Portuguese explorers.

Córdoba wished to shine more brightly than Baghdad as a center of science and the arts. In time it attracted Abd ar-Rahman II, who introduced the fifth string to the Arab lute, leading to the development of the six-string guitar. He also ordained the way food should be eaten at mealtimes, with courses being served in a regimented order, ending with dessert, fruit, and nuts.

Flamenco claims significant Middle Eastern influences, and Arab poetry may have inspired the first ballads sung by European troubadours; this, in turn, had an enormous impact on later Western literature. Many Spanish words have their origins in the Arabic language, including alcázar (fortress), arroz (rice), naranja (orange), and limón (lemon).

The Moors brought an irrigation system to Andalusia, which increased crop production; many of today's systems follow those 1,000-year-old channels. And paper first arrived in Europe through Córdoba.

However, the Moors were not to rule forever. In the 10th century Abd ar-Rahman III, the Muslim king, proclaimed himself an independent Western Islamic Empire, breaking with the eastern Caliphate of Baghdad. (Visitors can explore his ruined pleasure palace, Madinat Al-Zahra, outside Córdoba.) In time, the Muslims began to war among themselves as the Romans had before them. A new invasion arrived from Africa in 1086, the fanatically Islamic Almoravids, followed in 1147 by the Almohads; the latter left as their legacy the Giralda at Seville.

By 1212, the Reconquista had begun. Alfonso VIII in 1212 defeated the Muslim armies at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in Jaén, a turning point in Spanish history. It was the beginning of the end of al-Andalus, but many more decades would pass before the complete Reconquest had been carried out.

The Reconquista

By 1236 Córdoba had been conquered by King Ferdinand III. But the sultans must not have thought they would ever lose Andalusia because 2 years later construction began on the monumental Alhambra in Granada. In all, it would take a final 156 years before the conquest was complete.

In the 13th century, Christian soldiers began to knock down Moorish fortresses and take over their cities. Such rulers as James the Conqueror of Aragón and Fernando III of Castile attacked Baeza and Ubeda in 1233, Córdoba in 1236, Jaén in 1245, and, finally, Seville in 1248.

As the 13th century came to a close, only the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada remained under Muslim rule. One of the reasons the kingdom was to survive for such a long time was that it made payments to the monarchs of Castile.

Granada's fate was sealed with the marriage of Los Reyes Católicos (the Catholic monarchs) Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand V of Aragón. Uniting the kingdoms of Aragón and Castile in 1469, they also fired up religious bigotry and in the following year ushered in the dreaded Spanish Inquisition. By 1492 some 400,000 Jews had been forced to flee the country.

That previous year they had set out to reclaim Granada. Boabdil, the last of the Caliphs of Granada, watched in sorrow as his armies fell to 50,000 Christian foot soldiers and cavalrymen.

In the year of the completion of the Reconquista, 1492, a Genoese sailor, Christopher Columbus, sailed from Huelva. Instead of the riches of the East, he discovered the West Indies. He laid the foundations for a far-flung empire that brought wealth and power to Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries. Many of those riches from the New World were funneled through Andalusian cities like Cádiz and Seville.

The Hapsburgs & the Bourbons

The province as a whole did not benefit from the exploitation of the New World. The crown in Castile grabbed the treasures to fuel foreign wars and other horrors. Except for such ports as Cádiz and Seville, most of Granada languished. The people were mired in poverty, and many emigrated to the New World.

Unlike Andalusia, Spain itself had entered its Golden Age, with an empire that extended eventually to the Philippines. But the country squandered much of its resources in religious and secular conflicts. At a great loss to Andalusia, the Jews, then the Muslims, and finally the Catholicized Moors were driven out -- and with them much of the country's prosperity.

When a Habsburg, Carlos I (who 5 years later ruled the Holy Roman Empire as Charles V) came to the throne in 1516, little attention was paid to Andalusia. He was more interested in propping up his empire with gold and silver from the New World than in the needs of the people on his southern tier.

When Philip II ascended to the throne in 1556, Spain was at the epicenter of a great empire, not only the New World colonies but the Netherlands, Sicily, and Naples, and even parts of Austria and Germany. But the seeds of destruction had already been planted.

A fanatical Catholic, Philip became the standard-bearer for the Counter-Reformation. He also zealously renewed the Inquisition. He wanted a "final solution" (sound familiar?) to the problems of the Moriscos (Moors) in Las Alpujarras, who still clung to their Moorish traditions. He forcibly deported them to other parts of the country. He was followed by Felipe III, who was even harsher in his persecution of the Moriscos of Andalusia.

In April 1587 the forces of Sir Francis Drake attacked the port of Cádiz, which was filled with some 60 vessels. Within 24 hours, the English forces had destroyed or captured almost half of these ships. A year later Spain, aided by support from Andalusia, launched an Armada against England. The Armada was commanded by Andalusia's premier nobleman, the Duke of Medina Sidonia. The Spaniards were ignominiously defeated in a loss symbolizing the decline of Spanish power.

In 1700 Felipe V became king, bringing with him the War of Spanish Succession. His right to the throne was challenged by the Habsburg archduke, Charles of Austria, who was assisted by the British. When the Treaty of Utrecht ended the war in 1713, Spain lost most of its colonies. The British had landed in Gibraltar, conquering it and holding it to this day like a thorn in Spain's side.

At the Battle of Trafalgar off the coast of Cádiz in 1805, the Spanish fleet was defeated. As a result of these Napoleonic Wars, King Carlos IV abdicated in 1808, and Napoleon put his brother, Joseph, on the throne. Most of the artistic heritage of Andalusia was ransacked during this period of French domination. The War of Independence (also called the Peninsular War) saw the arrival of the troops of the duke of Wellington onto the shores of Andalusia. Joseph fled back to France. On another front the American colonies had begun to assert their independence.

The rest of the century didn't bring much relief to either Spain or Andalusia. The country was at war with itself, as a right-wing monarchy clashed with the aspirations of liberal reformers.

In 1812, the Cortés (Spanish parliament) met in Cádiz and daringly drafted a liberal constitution. It was this constitution that introduced the word "liberal" to describe a political movement. However, when the despotic Fernando VII returned to the throne, he abolished their constitution.

The loss of Spain's colonies brought a deathblow to Andalusia's economy, and in the 1870s a phylloxera plague wiped out its vineyards. Despite all these woes, this period in Andalusian history became known as the Romantic Age, as depicted in such operas as The Barber of Seville and Carmen.

The 19th Century to the Present

In 1876, Spain became a constitutional monarchy. But labor unrest, disputes with the Catholic Church, and war in Morocco combined to create political chaos. Conditions eventually became so bad that the Cortés was dissolved in 1923, and General Miguel Primo de Rivera formed a military directorate. Early in 1930, he resigned, but unrest continued.

On April 14, 1931, a revolution occurred, a republic was proclaimed, and King Alfonso XIII and his family were forced to flee. Initially, the liberal constitutionalists ruled, but they were soon pushed aside by the socialists and anarchists, who adopted a constitution separating church and state, secularizing education, and containing several other radical provisions (for example, agrarian reform and the expulsion of the Jesuits).

The extreme nature of these reforms fostered the growth of the conservative Falange party (Falange española, or Spanish Phalanx), modeled after Italy's and Germany's fascist parties. By the 1936 elections, the country was divided equally between left and right, and political violence was common. On July 18, 1936, the army, supported by Mussolini and Hitler, tried to seize power, igniting the Spanish Civil War. General Francisco Franco, coming from Morocco to Spain via Andalusia, led the Nationalist (conservative) forces in the 3 years of fighting that ravaged the country. Towns were bombed and atrocities were committed in abundance. Early in 1939, Franco entered Barcelona and went on to Madrid; thousands of republicans were executed. Franco became chief of state, remaining so until his death in 1975.

Although Franco adopted a neutral position during World War II, his sympathies obviously lay with Germany and Italy. Spain, as a nonbelligerent, assisted the Axis powers. This intensified the diplomatic isolation into which the country was forced after the war's end -- in fact, it was excluded from the United Nations until 1955.

Before his death, General Franco selected as his successor Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón, son of the pretender to the Spanish throne. After the 1977 elections, a new constitution was approved by the electorate and the king; it guaranteed human and civil rights, as well as free enterprise, and canceled the status of the Roman Catholic church as the church of Spain. In 1980 Andalusia voted to become an autonomous region of Spain. With a regional government based in Seville, Andalusia assumed control of a large part of its destiny for the first time in its history.

In 1981, a group of ring-wing military officers seized the Cortés and called upon Juan Carlos to establish a Francoist state. When the king refused and the conspirators were arrested, the fledgling democracy had overcome its first trial. Its second major accomplishment -- under the Socialist rule of Prime Minister Felipe González, the country's first liberal government since 1939 -- was to secure Spain's entry into the European Union in 1986. Spain, and by extension Andalusia, had at long last become part of the modern world.

Andalusia is also caught up in the modern world of vast social change, something unthinkable in the Franco era. In 2006, in one of the most highly publicized weddings in the world, two handsome Spanish air force privates said, "I do" in Seville. In front of family and friends -- and the world press -- Alberto Linero, 27, and Alberto Sánchez, 24, were married. Same-sex marriages became legal in 2006 in Spain while the fight for marriage equality continues to face setbacks in the United States.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.