also known as Iberia
is a peninsula
in the southwest corner of Europe
, defining the westernmost edge of Eurasia
. It is principally divided between Spain
, comprising most of their territory, as well as a small area of Southern France
and the British overseas territory
. With an area of approximately 583,254 square kilometres (225,196 sq mi),
and a population of roughly 53 million,
it is the second largest European peninsula by area, after the Scandinavian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula and southern France, satellite photo on a cloudless day in March 2014
The word Iberia
is a noun adapted from the Latin
word "Hiberia" originating in the Ancient Greek
word Ἰβηρία (Ibēríā
), used by Greek geographers under the rule of the Roman Empire
to refer to what is known today in English as the Iberian Peninsula.
At that time, the name did not describe a single geographical entity or a distinct population; the same name was used for the Kingdom of Iberia
, natively known as Kartli
in the Caucasus
, the core region of what would later become the Kingdom of Georgia
It was Strabo
who first reported the delineation of "Iberia" from Gaul
) by the Pyrenees
and included the entire land mass southwest (he says "west") from there.
With the fall of the Roman Empire and the consolidation of romanic languages
, the word "Iberia" continued the Roman word "Hiberia" and the Greek word "Ἰβηρία".
The ancient Greeks reached the Iberian Peninsula, of which they had heard from the Phoenicians
, by voyaging westward on the Mediterranean
. Hecataeus of Miletus
was the first known to use the term Iberia
, which he wrote about circa 500 BC. Herodotus
of Halicarnassus says of the Phocaeans
that "it was they who made the Greeks acquainted with […] Iberia."
According to Strabo
prior historians used Iberia
to mean the country "this side of the Ἶβηρος" (Ibēros
, the Ebro
) as far north as the Rhône
, but in his day they set the Pyrenees
as the limit. Polybius
respects that limit,
but identifies Iberia as the Mediterranean side as far south as Gibraltar
, with the Atlantic side having no name. Elsewhere
he says that Saguntum
is "on the seaward foot of the range of hills connecting Iberia and Celtiberia."
refers to the Carretanians as people "of the Iberian stock" living in the Pyrenees
, who are distinct from either Celts
According to Charles Ebel
, the ancient sources in both Latin and Greek use Hispania and Hiberia (Greek: Iberia) as synonyms. The confusion of the words was because of an overlapping in political and geographic perspectives. The Latin word Hiberia
, similar to the Greek Iberia
, literally translates to "land of the Hiberians". This word was derived from the river Hiberus
(now called Ebro
or Ebre). Hiber
(Iberian) was thus used as a term for peoples living near the river Ebro.
The first mention in Roman literature was by the annalist poet Ennius
in 200 BC. Virgil
refers to the Ipacatos Hiberos
("restless Iberi") in his Georgics
The Roman geographers and other prose writers from the time of the late Roman Republic
called the entire peninsula Hispania
In Greek and Roman antiquity, the name Hesperia
was used for both the Italian and Iberian Peninsula; in the latter case Hesperia Ultima
(referring to its position in the far west) appears as form of disambiguation from the former among Roman writers.
Also since Roman antiquity, Jews gave the name Sepharad
to the peninsula.
As they became politically interested in the former Carthaginian territories, the Romans began to use the names Hispania Citerior
and Hispania Ulterior
for 'near' and 'far' Hispania. At the time Hispania was made up of three Roman provinces
: Hispania Baetica
, Hispania Tarraconensis
, and Hispania Lusitania
. Strabo says
that the Romans use Hispania
synonymously, distinguishing between the near
northern and the far
southern provinces. (The name "Iberia" was ambiguous, being also the name of the Kingdom of Iberia
in the Caucasus.)
Whatever languages may generally have been spoken on the peninsula soon gave way to Latin, except for that of the Vascones
, which was preserved as a language isolate
by the barrier of the Pyrenees.
The modern phrase "Iberian Peninsula" was coined by the French geographer Jean-Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent
on his 1823 work "Guide du Voyageur en Espagne"
. Prior to that date, geographers had used the terms Spanish Peninsula
or Pyrenaean Peninsula
Northeast Iberian script from Huesca
The Iberian Peninsula has always been associated with the River Ebro
(Ibēros in ancient Greek
and Ibērus or Hibērus in Latin
). The association was so well known it was hardly necessary to state; for example, Ibēria was the country "this side of the Ibērus" in Strabo. Pliny
goes so far as to assert that the Greeks had called "the whole of Spain" Hiberia because of the Hiberus River.
The river appears in the Ebro Treaty
of 226 BC between Rome and Carthage, setting the limit of Carthaginian interest at the Ebro. The fullest description of the treaty, stated in Appian
uses Ibērus. With reference to this border, Polybius
states that the "native name" is Ibēr
, apparently the original word, stripped of its Greek or Latin -os
The early range of these natives, which geographers and historians place from the present southern Spain to the present southern France along the Mediterranean coast, is marked by instances of a readable script expressing a yet unknown language, dubbed "Iberian
". Whether this was the native name or was given to them by the Greeks for their residence near the Ebro remains unknown. Credence in Polybius imposes certain limitations on etymologizing: if the language remains unknown, the meanings of the words, including Iber, must also remain unknown. In modern Basque
, the word ibar
means "valley" or "watered meadow", while ibai
means "river", but there is no proof relating the etymology of the Ebro River with these Basque names.
The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited by members of the Homo
genus for at least 1.2 million years as remains found in the sites in the Atapuerca Mountains
demonstrate. Among these sites is the cave of Gran Dolina
, where six hominin
skeletons, dated between 780,000 and one million years ago, were found in 1994. Experts have debated whether these skeletons belong to the species Homo erectus
, Homo heidelbergensis
, or a new species called Homo antecessor
Around 200,000 BP
, during the Lower Paleolithic
period, Neanderthals first entered the Iberian Peninsula. Around 70,000 BP, during the Middle Paleolithic
period, the last glacial event began and the Neanderthal Mousterian
culture was established. Around 37,000 BP, during the Upper Paleolithic
, the Neanderthal Châtelperronian
cultural period began. Emanating from Southern France
, this culture extended into the north of the peninsula. It continued to exist until around 30,000 BP, when Neanderthal man faced extinction.
About 40,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans
entered the Iberian Peninsula from Southern France
Here, this genetically homogeneous population
(characterized by the M173 mutation
in the Y chromosome
), developed the M343 mutation, giving rise to Haplogroup R1b
, still the most common in modern Portuguese
On the Iberian Peninsula, modern humans developed a series of different cultures, such as the Aurignacian
cultures, some of them characterized by the complex forms of the art of the Upper Paleolithic
During the Neolithic expansion
, various megalithic
cultures developed in the Iberian Peninsula.
An open seas navigation culture from the east Mediterranean, called the Cardium culture
, also extended its influence to the eastern coasts of the peninsula, possibly as early as the 5th millennium BC. These people may have had some relation to the subsequent development of the Iberian civilization
A model recreating the Chalcolithic settlement of Los Millares
In the Chalcolithic
3000 BC), a series of complex cultures developed that would give rise to the peninsula's first civilizations
and to extensive exchange networks reaching to the Baltic
, Middle East
and North Africa
. Around 2800 – 2700 BC, the Beaker culture
, which produced the Maritime Bell Beaker
, probably originated in the vibrant copper-using communities of the Tagus
estuary in Portugal and spread from there to many parts of western Europe.
cultures developed beginning c.
when the culture of Los Millares
was followed by that of El Argar
During the Early Bronze Age, southeastern Iberia saw the emergence of important settlements, a development that has compelled some archeologists to propose that these settlements indicate the advent of state-level social structures.
From this centre, bronze metalworking technology spread to other cultures like the Bronze of Levante
, South-Western Iberian Bronze
and Las Cogotas
Early in the first millennium BC, several waves of Pre-Celts and Celts
migrated from Central Europe
, thus partially changing the peninsula's ethnic landscape to Indo-European-speaking
in its northern and western regions. In Northwestern Iberia (modern Northern Portugal, Asturias and Galicia), a Celtic culture developed, the Castro culture
, with a large number of hill forts and some fortified cities.
Iberia before the Carthaginian conquests circa 300 BC.
As early as the 12th century BC, the Phoenicians
, a thalassocratic civilization originally from the Eastern Mediterranean, began to explore the coastline of the peninsula, interacting with the metal-rich communities in the southwest of the peninsula (contemporarily known as the semi-mythical Tartessos
Around 1100 BC, Phoenician merchants founded the trading colony of Gadir or Gades (modern day Cádiz
). Phoenicians established a permanent trading port in the Gadir colony circa 800 BC in response to the increasing demand of silver from the Assyrian Empire
The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks
successively settled along the Mediterranean coast and founded trading colonies there over a period of several centuries. In the 8th century BC, the first Greek colonies
, such as Emporion (modern Empúries
), were founded along the Mediterranean coast on the east, leaving the south coast to the Phoenicians. The Greeks coined the name Iberia, after the river Iber (Ebro).
Together with the presence of Phoenician and Greek epigraphy, a number of paleohispanic scripts
developed in the Iberian Peninsula along the 1st millennium BC. The development of a primordial paleohispanic script antecessor to the rest of paleohispanic scripts (originally supposed to be a non-redundant semi-syllabary
) derived from the Phoenician alphabet
and originated in Southwestern Iberia by the 7th century BC has been tentatively proposed.
In the sixth century BC, the Carthaginians arrived in the peninsula while struggling with the Greeks for control of the Western Mediterranean. Their most important colony was Carthago Nova (modern-day Cartagena, Spain
During their 600-year occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the Romans introduced the Latin language that influenced many of the languages that exist today in the Iberian peninsula.
Germanic and Byzantine rule c. 560
In the early fifth century, Germanic peoples
occupied the peninsula, namely the Suebi
, the Vandals
) and their allies, the Alans
. Only the kingdom of the Suebi (Quadi
) would endure after the arrival of another wave of Germanic invaders, the Visigoths
, who occupied all of the Iberian Peninsula and expelled or partially integrated the Vandals and the Alans. The Visigoths eventually occupied the Suebi kingdom and its capital city, Bracara (modern day Braga
), in 584–585. They would also occupy the province
of the Byzantine Empire
(552–624) of Spania
in the south of the peninsula and the Balearic Islands
In 711, a Muslim army
conquered the Visigothic Kingdom in Hispania
. Under Tariq ibn Ziyad
, the Islamic army landed at Gibraltar and, in an eight-year campaign, occupied all except the northern kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula in the Umayyad conquest of Hispania
, tr. al-ʾAndalūs
, possibly "Land of the Vandals"),
is the Arabic name given to Muslim Iberia. The Muslim conquerors were Arabs
; following the conquest, conversion and arabization of the Hispano-Roman population took place, 
After a long process, spurred on in the 9th and 10th centuries, the majority of the population in Al-Andalus eventually converted to Islam.
The Muslims were referred to by the generic name Moors
The Muslim population was divided per ethnicity (Arabs, Berbers, Muladi), and the supremacy of Arabs over the rest of group was a recurrent causal for strife, rivalry and hatred, particularly between Arabs and Berbers.
Arab elites could be further divided in the Yemenites (first wave) and the Syrians (second wave).
Christians and Jews were allowed to live as part of a stratified society under the dhimmah system
although Jews became very important in certain fields.
Some Christians migrated to the Northern Christian kingdoms, while those who stayed in Al-Andalus progressively arabised and became known as musta'arab
The slave population comprised the Ṣaqāliba
(literally meaning "slavs", although they were slaves of generic European origin) as well as Sudanese
The Umayyad rulers faced a major Berber Revolt
in the early 740s; the uprising originally broke out in North Africa (Tangier) and later spread across the peninsula.
Following the Abbasid
takeover from the Umayyads and the shift of the economic centre of the Islamic Caliphate from Damascus to Baghdad, the western province of al-Andalus was marginalised and ultimately became politically autonomous as independent emirate in 756, ruled by one of the last surviving Umayyad royals, Abd al-Rahman I
Al-Andalus became a center of culture and learning, especially during the Caliphate of Córdoba
. The Caliphate reached its height of its power under the rule of Abd-ar-Rahman III
and his successor al-Hakam II
, becoming then, in the view of Jaime Vicens Vives
, "the most powerful state in Europe".
Abd-ar-Rahman III also managed to expand the clout of Al-Andalus across the Strait of Gibraltar,
waging war, as well as his successor, against the Fatimid Empire
Between the 8th and 12th centuries, Al-Andalus enjoyed a notable urban vitality, both in terms of the growth of the preexisting cities as well as in terms of founding of new ones: Córdoba
reached a population of 100,000 by the 10th century, Toledo
30,000 by the 11th century and Seville
80,000 by the 12th century.
During the Middle Ages, the North of the peninsula housed many small Christian polities including the Kingdom of Castile
, the Kingdom of Aragon
, the Kingdom of Navarre
, the Kingdom of León
or the Kingdom of Portugal
, as well as a number of counties that spawned from the Carolingian Marca Hispanica
. Christian and Muslim polities fought and allied among themselves in variable alliances.[c]
The Christian kingdoms progressively expanded south taking over Muslim territory in what is historiographically known as the "Reconquista
" (the latter concept has been however noted as product of the claim to a pre-existing Spanish Catholic nation and it would not necessarily convey adequately "the complexity of centuries of warring and other more peaceable interactions between Muslim and Christian kingdoms in medieval Iberia between 711 and 1492").
The Caliphate of Córdoba subsumed in a period of upheaval and civil war (the Fitna of al-Andalus
) and collapsed in the early 11th century, spawning a series of ephemeral statelets, the taifas
. Until the mid 11th century, most of the territorial expansion southwards of the Kingdom of Asturias/León was carried out through a policy of agricultural colonization rather than through military operations; then, profiting from the feebleness of the taifa principalities, Ferdinand I of León
seized Lamego and Viseu (1057–1058) and Coimbra (1064) away from the Taifa of Badajoz
(at times at war with the Taifa of Seville
Meanwhile, in the same year Coimbra was conquered, in the Northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Aragon took Barbastro
from the Hudid Taifa of Lérida
as part of an international expedition sanctioned by Pope Alexander II. Most critically, Alfonso VI of León-Castile
conquered Toledo and its wider taifa
in 1085, in what it was seen as a critical event at the time, entailing also a huge territorial expansion, advancing from the Sistema Central
to La Mancha
In 1086, following the siege of Zaragoza by Alfonso VI of León-Castile, the Almoravids
, religious zealots originally from the deserts of the Maghreb, landed in the Iberian Peninsula, and, having inflicted a serious defeat to Alfonso VI at the battle of Zalaca
, began to seize control of the remaining taifas.
The Almoravids in the Iberian peninsula progressively relaxed strict observance of their faith, and treated both Jews and Mozarabs harshly, facing uprisings across the peninsula, initially in the Western part.
, another North-African Muslim sect of Masmuda Berber origin who had previously undermined the Almoravid rule south of the Strait of Gibraltar,
first entered the peninsula in 1146.
Somewhat straying from the trend taking place in other locations of the Latin West since the 10th century, the period comprising the 11th and 13th centuries was not one of weakening monarchical power in the Christian kingdoms.
The relatively novel concept of "frontier" (Sp: frontera
), already reported in Aragon by the second half of the 11th century become widespread in the Christian Iberian kingdoms by the beginning of the 13th century, in relation to the more or less conflictual border with Muslim lands.
By the beginning of the 13th century, a power reorientation took place in the Iberian Peninsula (parallel to the Christian expansion in Southern Iberia and the increasing commercial impetus of Christian powers across the Mediterranean) and to a large extent, trade-wise, the Iberian Peninsula reorientated towards the North away from the Muslim World.
During the Middle Ages, the monarchs of Castile and León, from Alfonso V
and Alfonso VI
(crowned Hispaniae Imperator
) to Alfonso X
and Alfonso XI
tended to embrace an imperial ideal based on a dual Christian and Jewish ideology.
Merchants from Genoa and Pisa were conducting an intense trading activity in Catalonia already by the 12th century, and later in Portugal.
Since the 13th century, the Crown of Aragon
expanded overseas; led by Catalans, it attained an overseas empire in the Western Mediterranean, with a presence in Mediterranean islands such as the Balearics
, and even conquering Naples in the mid-15th century.
Genoese merchants invested heavily in the Iberian commercial enterprise with Lisbon becoming, according to Virgínia Rau
, the "great centre of Genoese trade" in the early 14th century.
The Portuguese would later detach their trade to some extent from Genoese
The Nasrid Kingdom of Granada
, neighbouring the Strait of Gibraltar
and founded upon a vassalage
relationship with the Crown of Castile,
also insinuated itself into the European mercantile network, with its ports fostering intense trading relations with the Genoese as well, but also with the Catalans, and to a lesser extent, with the Venetians, the Florentines, and the Portuguese.
Between 1275 and 1340, Granada became involved in the "crisis of the Strait", and was caught in a complex geopolitical struggle ("a kaleidoscope of alliances") with multiple powers vying for dominance of the Western Mediterranean, complicated by the unstable relations of Muslim Granada with the Marinid Sultanate
The conflict reached a climax in the 1340 Battle of Río Salado
, when, this time in alliance with Granada, the Marinid Sultan (and Caliph pretender) Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman
made the last Marinid attempt to set up a power base in the Iberian Peninsula. The lasting consequences of the resounding Muslim defeat to an alliance of Castile and Portugal with naval support from Aragon and Genoa ensured Christian supremacy over the Iberian Peninsula and the preeminence of Christian fleets in the Western Mediterranean.
Map of the Iberian Peninsula and Northern Africa (inverted) by Fra Mauro
The 1348–1350 bubonic plague
devastated large parts of the Iberian Peninsula, leading to a sudden economic cease.
Many settlements in northern Castile and Catalonia were left forsaken.
The plague had the start of the hostility and downright violence towards religious minorities (particularly the Jews) as additional consequence in the Iberian realms.
The 14th century was a period of great upheaval in the Iberian realms. After the death of Peter the Cruel of Castile
(reigned 1350–69), the House of Trastámara
succeeded to the throne in the person of Peter's half brother, Henry II
(reigned 1369–79). In the kingdom of Aragón, following the death without heirs of John I
(reigned 1387–96) and Martin I
(reigned 1396–1410), a prince of the House of Trastámara, Ferdinand I
(reigned 1412–16), succeeded to the Aragonese throne.
The Hundred Years' War
also spilled over into the Iberian peninsula, with Castile particularly taking a role in the conflict by providing key naval support to France that helped lead to that nation's eventual victory.
After the accession of Henry III
to the throne of Castile, the populace, exasperated by the preponderance of Jewish influence, perpetrated a massacre of Jews at Toledo. In 1391, mobs went from town to town throughout Castile and Aragon, killing an estimated 50,000 Jews,
or even as many as 100,000, according to Jane Gerber
Women and children were sold as slaves to Muslims, and many synagogues were converted into churches. According to Hasdai Crescas
, about 70 Jewish communities were destroyed.
During the 15th century, Portugal, which had ended its southwards territorial expansion across the Iberian Peninsula in 1249 with the conquest of the Algarve, initiated an overseas expansion in parallel to the rise of the House of Aviz
, conquering Ceuta
(1415) arriving at Porto Santo
and the Azores
, as well as establishing additional outposts along the North-African Atlantic coast.
In addition, already in the Early Modern Period, between the completion of the Granada War in 1492 and the death of Ferdinand of Aragon in 1516, the Hispanic Monarchy would make strides in the imperial expansion along the Mediterranean coast of the Maghreb.
During the Late Middle Ages, the Jews
acquired considerable power and influence in Castile and Aragon.
Throughout the late Middle Ages, the Crown of Aragon took part in the mediterranean slave trade, with Barcelona
(already in the 14th century), Valencia
(particularly in the 15th century) and, to a lesser extent, Palma de Mallorca
(since the 13th century), becoming dynamic centres in this regard, involving chiefly eastern and Muslim peoples.
Castile engaged later in this economic activity, rather by adhering to the incipient atlantic slave trade involving sub-saharan people thrusted by Portugal (Lisbon being the largest slave centre in Western Europe) since the mid 15th century, with Seville becoming another key hub for the slave trade.
Following the advance in the conquest of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, the seizure of Málaga
entailed the addition of another notable slave centre for the Crown of Castile.
By the end of the 15th century (1490) the Iberian kingdoms (including here the Balearic Islands) had an estimated population of 6.525 million (Crown of Castile, 4.3 million; Portugal, 1.0 million; Principality of Catalonia, 0.3 million; Kingdom of Valencia, 0.255 million; Kingdom of Granada, 0.25 million; Kingdom of Aragon, 0.25 million; Kingdom of Navarre, 0.12 million and the Kingdom of Mallorca, 0.05 million).
In the late 15th century, the imperial ambition of the Iberian powers was pushed to new heights by the Catholic Monarchs
in Castile and Aragon, and by Manuel I
Iberian Kingdoms in 1400
The last Muslim stronghold, Granada
, was conquered by a combined Castilian and Aragonese force in 1492. As many as 100,000 Moors died or were enslaved in the military campaign, while 200,000 fled to North Africa.
Muslims and Jews throughout the period were variously tolerated or shown intolerance in different Christian kingdoms. After the fall of Granada
, all Muslims and Jews were ordered to convert to Christianity or face expulsion—as many as 200,000 Jews were expelled from Spain
Historian Henry Kamen estimates that some 25,000 Jews died en route from Spain.
The Jews were also expelled from Sicily
and Sardinia, which were under Aragonese rule, and an estimated 37,000 to 100,000 Jews left.
In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal
forced all Jews in his kingdom to convert or leave. That same year he expelled
all Muslims that were not slaves,
and in 1502 the Catholic Monarchs
followed suit, imposing the choice of conversion to Christianity
or exile and loss of property. Many Jews and Muslims fled to North Africa
and the Ottoman Empire
, while others publicly converted to Christianity and became known respectively as Marranos
(after the old term Moors
However, many of these continued to practice their religion in secret. The Moriscos revolted several times and were ultimately forcibly expelled
from Spain in the early 17th century. From 1609 to 1614, over 300,000 Moriscos were sent on ships to North Africa and other locations, and, of this figure, around 50,000 died resisting the expulsion, and 60,000 died on the journey.
The change of relative supremacy from Portugal to the Hispanic Monarchy in the late 15th century has been described as one of the few cases of avoidance of the Thucydides Trap
This section needs expansion
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. (February 2020)
Expelling of the moriscos in the Port of Denia
Challenging the conventions about the advent of modernity, Immanuel Wallerstein
pushed back the origins of the capitalist modernity to the Iberian expansion of the 15th century.
During the 16th century Spain created a vast empire in the Americas, with a state monopoly in Seville
becoming the center of the ensuing transatlantic trade, based on bullion
Iberian imperialism, starting by the Portuguese establishment of routes to Asia and the posterior transatlantic trade with the New World by Spaniards and Portuguese (along Dutch, English and French), precipitated the economic decline of the Italian peninsula
The 16th century was one of population growth with increased pressure over resources;
in the case of the Iberian Peninsula a part of the population moved to the Americas meanwhile Jews and Moriscos were banished, relocating to other places in the Mediterranean Basin.
Most of the Moriscos remained in Spain after the Morisco revolt
in Las Alpujarras during the mid-16th century, but roughly 300,000 of them were expelled from the country
in 1609–1614, and emigrated en masse
to North Africa.
An anonymous picture depicting Lisbon, the centre of the slave trade, by the late 16th century.
In 1580, after the political crisis that followed the 1578 death of King Sebastian
, Portugal became a dynastic composite entity of the Hapsburg Monarchy; thus, the whole peninsula was united politically during the period known as the Iberian Union
(1580–1640). During the reign of Phillip II of Spain
(I of Portugal), the Councils of Portugal, Italy, Flanders and Burgundy were added to the group of counselling institutions of the Hispanic Monarchy
, to which the Councils of Castile, Aragon, Indies, Chamber of Castile, Inquisition, Orders, and Crusade already belonged, defining the organization of the Royal court that underpinned the polysinodial system [es]
through which the empire operated.
During the Iberian union, the "first great wave" of the transatlantic slave trade
happened, according to Enriqueta Vila Villar
, as new markets opened because of the unification gave thrust to the slave trade.
By 1600, the percentage of urban population for Spain
was roughly a 11.4%, while for Portugal the urban population was estimated as 14.1%, which were both above the 7.6% European average of the time (edged only by the Low Countries and the Italian Peninsula).
Some striking differences appeared among the different Iberian realms. Castile, extending across a 60% of the territory of the peninsula and having 80% of the population was a rather urbanised country, yet with a widespread distribution of cities.
Meanwhile, the urban population in the Crown of Aragon
was highly concentrated in a handful of cities: Zaragoza
(Kingdom of Aragon
(Principality of Catalonia
), and, to a lesser extent in the Kingdom of Valencia
, in Valencia
The case of Portugal presented an hypertrophied capital, Lisbon
(which greatly increased its population during the 16th century, from 56,000 to 60,000 inhabitants by 1527, to roughly 120,000 by the third quarter of the century) with its demographic dynamism stimulated by the Asian trade,
followed at great distance by Porto
(both roughly accounting for 12,500 inhabitants).
Throughout most of the 16th century, both Lisbon and Seville
were among the Western Europe's largest and most dynamic cities.
The 17th century has been largely considered as a very negative period for the Iberian economies, seen as a time of recession, crisis or even decline,
the urban dynamism chiefly moving to Northern Europe.
A dismantling of the inner city network in the Castilian plateau took place during this period (with a parallel accumulation of economic activity in the capital, Madrid
), with only New Castile
resisting recession in the interior.
Regarding the Atlantic façade of Castile, aside from the severing of trade with Northern Europe, inter-regional trade with other regions in the Iberian Peninsula also suffered to some extent.
In Aragon, suffering from similar problems than Castile, the expelling of the Moriscos in 1609 in the Kingdom of Valencia aggravated the recession. Silk turned from a domestic industry into a raw commodity to be exported.
However, the crisis was uneven (affecting longer the centre of the peninsula), as both Portugal and the Mediterranean coastline recovered in the later part of the century by fuelling a sustained growth.
Despite both Portugal and Spain starting their path towards modernization with the liberal revolutions of the first half of the 19th century, this process was, concerning structural changes in the geographical distribution of the population, relatively tame compared to what took place after World War II in the Iberian Peninsula, when strong urban development ran in parallel to substantial rural flight
Geography and geology
Physical map of the Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula is the westernmost of the three major southern European peninsulas—the Iberian, Italian
, and Balkan
It is bordered on the southeast and east by the Mediterranean Sea
, and on the north, west, and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean
. The Pyrenees
mountains are situated along the northeast edge of the peninsula, where it adjoins the rest of Europe. Its southern tip, located in Tarifa
is the southernmost point of the European continent and is very close to the northwest coast of Africa, separated from it by the Strait of Gibraltar
and the Mediterranean Sea
The Iberian Peninsula encompasses 583,254 km2
and has very contrasting and uneven relief.
The mountain ranges of the Iberian Peninsula are mainly distributed from west to east, and in some cases reach altitudes of approximately 3000 mamsl
, resulting in the region having the second highest mean altitude (637 mamsl) in Western Europe
The Iberian Peninsula extends from the southernmost extremity at Punta de Tarifa
to the northernmost extremity at Punta de Estaca de Bares
over a distance between lines of latitude of about 865 km (537 mi) based on a degree length
of 111 km (69 mi) per degree, and from the westernmost extremity at Cabo da Roca
to the easternmost extremity at Cap de Creus
over a distance between lines of longitude at 40° N latitude
of about 1,155 km (718 mi) based on an estimated degree length of about 90 km (56 mi) for that latitude. The irregular, roughly octagonal shape of the peninsula contained within this spherical quadrangle
was compared to an ox-hide by the geographer Strabo
About three quarters of that rough octagon is the Meseta Central
, a vast plateau ranging from 610 to 760 m in altitude.
It is located approximately in the centre, staggered slightly to the east and tilted slightly toward the west (the conventional centre of the Iberian Peninsula has long been considered Getafe
just south of Madrid
). It is ringed by mountains and contains the sources of most of the rivers, which find their way through gaps in the mountain barriers on all sides.
The coastline of the Iberian Peninsula is 3,313 km (2,059 mi), 1,660 km (1,030 mi) on the Mediterranean side and 1,653 km (1,027 mi) on the Atlantic side.
The coast has been inundated over time, with sea levels having risen from a minimum of 115–120 m (377–394 ft) lower than today at the Last Glacial Maximum
(LGM) to its current level at 4,000 years BP
The coastal shelf created by sedimentation during that time remains below the surface; however, it was never very extensive on the Atlantic side, as the continental shelf drops rather steeply into the depths. An estimated 700 km (430 mi) length of Atlantic shelf is only 10–65 km (6.2–40.4 mi) wide. At the 500 m (1,600 ft) isobath
, on the edge, the shelf drops off to 1,000 m (3,300 ft).
The submarine topography of the coastal waters of the Iberian Peninsula has been studied extensively in the process of drilling for oil. Ultimately, the shelf drops into the Bay of Biscay
on the north (an abyss), the Iberian abyssal plain at 4,800 m (15,700 ft) on the west, and Tagus abyssal plain to the south. In the north, between the continental shelf and the abyss, is an extension called the Galicia Bank, a plateau that also contains the Porto, Vigo, and Vasco da Gama seamounts
, which form the Galicia interior basin. The southern border of these features is marked by Nazaré Canyon
, which splits the continental shelf and leads directly into the abyss.
Discharge of the Douro
into the Atlantic Ocean near Porto
The major rivers flow through the wide valleys between the mountain systems. These are the Ebro
All rivers in the Iberian Peninsula are subject to seasonal variations in flow.
The Tagus is the longest river on the peninsula and, like the Douro, flows westwards with its lower course in Portugal. The Guadiana river bends southwards and forms the border between Spain and Portugal in the last stretch of its course.
The terrain of the Iberian Peninsula is largely mountainous
The major mountain systems are:
and their foothills, the Pre-Pyrenees
, crossing the isthmus of the peninsula so completely as to allow no passage except by mountain road, trail, coastal road or tunnel. Aneto
in the Maladeta
massif, at 3,404 m, is the highest point
, the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula
- The Cantabrian Mountains along the northern coast with the massive Picos de Europa. Torre de Cerredo, at 2,648 m, is the highest point
- The Galicia/Trás-os-Montes Massif in the Northwest is made up of very old heavily eroded rocks. Pena Trevinca, at 2,127 m, is the highest point
- The Sistema Ibérico, a complex system at the heart of the peninsula, in its central/eastern region. It contains a great number of ranges and divides the watershed of the Tagus, Douro and Ebro rivers. Moncayo, at 2,313 m, is the highest point
- The Sistema Central, dividing the Iberian Plateau into a northern and a southern half and stretching into Portugal (where the highest point of Continental Portugal (1,993 m) is located in the Serra da Estrela). Pico Almanzor in the Sierra de Gredos is the highest point, at 2,592 m
- The Montes de Toledo, which also stretches into Portugal from the La Mancha natural region at the eastern end. Its highest point, at 1,603 m, is La Villuerca in the Sierra de Villuercas, Extremadura
- The Sierra Morena, which divides the watershed of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir rivers. At 1,332 m, Bañuela is the highest point
- The Baetic System, which stretches between Cádiz and Gibraltar and northeast towards Alicante Province. It is divided into three subsystems:
- Prebaetic System, which begins west of the Sierra Sur de Jaén, reaching the Mediterranean Sea shores in Alicante Province. La Sagra is the highest point at 2,382 m.
- Subbaetic System, which is in a central position within the Baetic Systems, stretching from Cape Trafalgar in Cádiz Province across Andalusia to the Region of Murcia. The highest point, at 2,027 m (6,650 ft), is Peña de la Cruz in Sierra Arana.
- Penibaetic System, located in the far southeastern area stretching between Gibraltar across the Mediterranean coastal Andalusian provinces. It includes the highest point in the peninsula, the 3,478 m high Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada.
Major Geologic Units of the Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula contains rocks of every geological period from the Ediacaran
to the Recent
, and almost every kind of rock is represented. World-class mineral deposits
can also be found there. The core of the Iberian Peninsula consists of a Hercynian cratonic
block known as the Iberian Massif
. On the northeast, this is bounded by the Pyrenean fold belt, and on the southeast it is bounded by the Baetic System
. These twofold chains are part of the Alpine belt
. To the west, the peninsula is delimited by the continental boundary formed by the magma
-poor opening of the Atlantic Ocean. The Hercynian Foldbelt is mostly buried by Mesozoic and Tertiary cover rocks to the east, but nevertheless outcrops through the Sistema Ibérico
and the Catalan Mediterranean System
The Iberian Peninsula features one of the largest Lithium
deposits belts in Europe (an otherwise relatively scarce resource in the continent), scattered along the Iberian Massif's Central Iberian Zone [es]
and Galicia Tras-Os-Montes Zone [es]
Also in the Iberian Massif, and similarly to other Hercynian blocks in Europe, the peninsula hosts some uranium
deposits, largely located in the Central Iberian Zone unit.
The Iberian Pyrite Belt
, located in the SW quadrant of the Peninsula, ranks among the most important volcanogenic massive sulphide districts on Earth, and it has been exploited for millennia.
Köppen climate types of Iberia
The Iberian Peninsula's location and topography, as well as the effects of large atmospheric circulation
patterns induce a NW to SE gradient of yearly precipitation (roughly from 2,000 mm to 300 mm).
The Iberian peninsula has three dominant climate types. One of these is the oceanic climate
seen in the northeast in which precipitation has barely any difference between winter and summer. However, most of Portugal and Spain have a Mediterranean climate
; the Warm-summer Mediterranean climate
and the Hot-summer Mediterranean climate
, with various differences in precipitation and temperature depending on latitude and position versus the sea, this applies greatly to the Portuguese and Galician Atlantic coasts where, do to upwelling
phenomena average temperatures in summer can vary through as much as 10 °C (50 °F) in only a few kilometers (e.g. Peniche
) There are also more localized semi-arid climates
in central Spain, with temperatures resembling a more continental Mediterranean climate. In other extreme cases highland alpine climates such as in Sierra Nevada
and areas with extremely low precipitation and desert climates
or semi-arid climates
such as the Almería
area and southern Alicante
In the southwestern interior of the Iberian Peninsula the hottest temperatures in Europe are found, with Córdoba
averaging around 37 °C (99 °F) in July.
The Spanish Mediterranean coast usually averages around 30 °C (86 °F) in summer. In sharp contrast A Coruña
at the northern tip of Galicia
has a summer daytime high average at just below 23 °C (73 °F).
This cool and wet summer climate is replicated throughout most of the northern coastline. Winters in the Peninsula are for the most part, mild, although frosts are common in higher altitude areas of central Spain. The warmest winter nights are usually found in downwelling
favourable areas of the west coast, such as on capes. Precipitation varies greatly between regions on the Peninsula, in December for example the northern west coast averages above 200 mm (7.9 in) whereas the southeast can average below 30 mm (1.2 in). Insolation
can vary from just 1,600 hours in the Bilbao
area, to above 3,000 hours in the Algarve
and Gulf of Cádiz
Major modern countries
Satellite image of Iberia at night
French Cerdagne is on the south side of the Pyrenees
mountain range, which runs along the border between Spain and France.
For example, the Segre
river, which runs west and then south to meet the Ebro
, has its source on the French side. The Pyrenees range is often considered the northeastern boundary of Iberian Peninsula, although the French coastline converges away from the rest of Europe north of the range.
Political divisions of the Iberian Peninsula:
The Iberian city network is dominated by 3 international metropolises (Madrid
) and four regional metropolises (Valencia
The relatively weak integration of the network favours a competitive approach vis-à-vis the inter-relation between the different centres.
Among these metropolises, Madrid stands out within the global urban hierarchy in terms of its status as a major service centre and enjoys the greatest degree of connectivity.
Major metropolitan regions
According to Eurostat
the metropolitan regions with a population over one million are listed as follows:
An Iberian lynx
The woodlands of the Iberian Peninsula are distinct ecosystems
. Although the various regions are each characterized by distinct vegetation, there are some similarities across the peninsula.
While the borders between these regions are not clearly defined, there is a mutual influence that makes it very hard to establish boundaries and some species find their optimal habitat in the intermediate areas.
The endangered Iberian lynx
) is a symbol of the Iberian mediterranean forest and of the fauna of the Iberian Peninsula altogether.
East Atlantic flyway
The Iberian Peninsula is an important stopover on the East Atlantic flyway
for birds migrating from northern Europe to Africa. For example, curlew sandpipers
rest in the region of the Bay of Cádiz
In addition to the birds migrating through, some seven million wading birds from the north spend the winter in the estuaries and wetlands of the Iberian Peninsula, mainly at locations on the Atlantic coast. In Galicia
are Ría de Arousa
(a home of grey plover
), Ria de Ortigueira
, Ria de Corme and Ria de Laxe. In Portugal, the Aveiro Lagoon
hosts Recurvirostra avosetta
, the common ringed plover
, grey plover
and little stint
. Ribatejo Province
on the Tagus
supports Recurvirostra arosetta
, grey plover, dunlin
, bar-tailed godwit
and common redshank
. In the Sado Estuary
, Eurasian curlew
, grey plover and common redshank
. The Algarve
hosts red knot
, common greenshank
. The Guadalquivir Marshes
region of Andalusia
and the Salinas de Cádiz
are especially rich in wintering wading birds: Kentish plover
, common ringed plover, sanderling
, and black-tailed godwit
in addition to the others. And finally, the Ebro delta is home to all the species mentioned above.
In modern times, Spanish
(the official language of Spain, spoken by the entire 45 million population in the country, the native language of about 36 million in Europe), Portuguese
(the official language of Portugal, with a population over 10 million), Catalan
(over 7 million speakers in Europe, 3.4 million with Catalan as first language), Galician
(understood by the 93% of the 1.5 million Galician population)
(cf. around 1 million speakers)
are the most widely spoken languages in the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish and Portuguese have expanded beyond Iberia to the rest of world, becoming global languages
Other minority romance languages with some degree of recognition include the several varieties of Astur-leonese
, collectively amounting to about 0.6 million speakers,
and the Aragonese
(barely spoken by the 8% of the 130,000 people inhabiting the Alto Aragón
Both Spain and Portugal have traditionally used a non-standard rail gauge (the 1,668 mm Iberian gauge
) since the construction of the first railroads in the 19th century. Spain has progressively introduced the 1,435 mm standard gauge
in its new high-speed rail network (one of the most extensive in the world),
inaugurated in 1992 with the Madrid–Seville line
, followed to name a few by the Madrid–Barcelona
(2010), an Alicante branch of the latter (2013) and the connection to France of the Barcelona line.
Portugal however suspended all the high-speed rail projects in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis
, putting an end for the time being to the possibility of a high-speed rail connection between Lisbon, Porto and Madrid.
Handicapped by a mountainous range (the Pyrenees
) hindering the connection to the rest of Europe, Spain (and subsidiarily Portugal) only has two meaningful rail connections to France able for freight transport, located at both ends of the mountain range.
An international rail line across the Central Pyrenees linking Zaragoza
and the French city of Pau
through a tunnel existed in the past; however, an accident in the French part destroyed a stretch of the railroad in 1970 and the Canfranc Station
has been a cul-de-sac
The prospect of the development (as part of a European-wide effort) of the Central, Mediterranean and Atlantic rail corridors is expected to be a way to improve the competitiveness of the ports of Tarragona
vis-à-vis the rest of Europe and the World.
A transit point for many submarine cables, the Fibre-optic Link Around the Globe
, Europe India Gateway
, and the SEA-ME-WE 3
feature landing stations in the Iberian Peninsula.
The West Africa Cable System
, Main One
, Africa Coast to Europe
also land in Portugal.MAREA
, a high capacity communication transatlantic cable, connects the north of the Iberian Peninsula (Bilbao) to North America (Virginia), while EllaLink
is an upcoming high-capacity communication cable expected to connect the Peninsula (Sines) to South America and the mammoth 2Africa project
intends to connect the peninsula to the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa (via Portugal and Barcelona) by 2023–24.
Two gas pipelines: the Pedro Duran Farell pipeline
and (more recently) the Medgaz
(from, respectively, Morocco and Algeria) link the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula, providing Spain with Algerian natural gas.
Major industries include mining, tourism, small farms, and fishing. Because the coast is so long, fishing is popular, especially sardines, tuna and anchovies. Most of the mining occurs in the Pyrenees mountains. Commodities mined include: iron, gold, coal, lead, silver, zinc, and salt.
Regarding their role in the global economy, both the microstate of Andorra
and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar
have been described as tax havens
- ^ In the local languages:
- ^ In the local languages:
- Spanish, Aragonese, Asturian and Galician: Iberia
- Portuguese and Mirandese: Ibéria
- Catalan and Occitan: Ibèria
- French: Ibérie [ibeʁi]
- Basque: Iberia [iβeɾia]
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- ^ III.1.3.
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- ^ These figures sum the figures given in the Wikipedia articles on the geography of Spain and Portugal. Most figures from Internet sources on Spain and Portugal include the coastlines of the islands owned by each country and thus are not a reliable guide to the coastline of the peninsula. Moreover, the length of a coastline may vary significantly depending on where and how it is measured.
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- ^ Dahlkamp 1991, pp. 232–233.
- ^ Tornos, F.; López Pamo, E.; Sánchez España, F.J. (2008). "The Iberian Pyrite Belt" (PDF). Contextos geológicos españoles: una aproximación al patrimonio geológico de relevancia internacional. Instituto Geológico y Minero de España. p. 57.
- ^ Lorenzo-Lacruz et al. 2011, pp. 2582–2583.
- ^ "IBERIAN CLIMATE ATLAS" (PDF). www.aemet.es. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
- ^ "Standard climate values for Córdoba". Aemet.es. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- ^ "Standard climate values for A Coruña". Aemet.es. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- ^ Paul Wilstach (1931). Along the Pyrenees. Robert M. McBride Company. p. 102.
- ^ James Erskine Murray (1837). A Summer in the Pyrenees. J. Macrone. p. 92.
- ^ Census data, "Official Spanish census"
- ^ Census data, "Portuguese census department"
- ^ a b Sánchez Moral 2011, p. 312.
- ^ Sánchez Moral 2011, p. 313.
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