Ancient Spain: Their Rich Civilization, Religion and Art

Stone Age hunters from the Middle East were the forefathers of today’s Spaniards. Spaniards were the forefathers of almost half of the people who live in today’s America. Spain’s position on both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, in Europe and yet only a stone’s throw from Africa, is crucial to this vast ebb and flow of peoples, civilizations, and empires. This climatic position has entangled Spain in the concerns of half the world and the affairs of half the globe in Spain.

Human immigrants came to the province of Spain 35 thousand years ago. Iberians, Basques, and Celts mostly inhabited Hispania. Archaeologists have discovered cave drawings in Altamira that confirm early human habitation. As the Roman Empire expanded throughout the area, Spain fell under its control in 200 B.C. Although it took the Romans a long time to conquer this region, once they did, they ruled for almost six centuries.

Ancient Spain

During this period, they acquainted the locals with their customs. Aside from the Latin language, the law and Roman roads were enforcement of the law. The Romans desired to exploit their aquatic talents in addition to educating local populations. Gold, wine, wool, and olive oil were all shipped from Spain’s docks. Their agriculture expanded as the Romans built inundation systems that we may still observe today.

Ancient Spain: Civilization

Over the ages, the Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited by several empires. In the ninth century B.C., the Phoenicians came, followed by the Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans. The Roman Empire would have a long-lasting influence on Spanish culture. The Visigoths arrived later and drove away from the Romans. The Moors invaded much of Spain in 711 after crossing the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa. They would stay for hundreds of years until the Europeans retook Spain as part of the Reconquista.

During the Age of Exploration in the 1500s, Spain rose to become the most powerful kingdom in Europe and maybe the globe. This was owing to their colonies in the Americas, as well as the gold and vast wealth they obtained from them. Conquistadors from Spain, such as Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro, conquered and claimed most of the Americas for Spain. The British, however, defeated the Spanish Armada in a clash of the world’s largest warships in 1588. The Spanish Empire began to decline as a result of this.

Ancient Spain

Many of Spain’s colonies began uprisings to secede from Spain in the 1800s. Spain was involved in far too many wars, most of which were lost. It lost several of its main colonies when it lost the Spanish-American War against the United States in 1898.

Spain was embroiled in a civil war in 1936. Nationalist troops triumphed, and General Francisco Franco governed until 1975. Spain managed to remain neutral throughout World War II but sided with Germany in specific ways, complicating matters after the war. Spain has progressed toward reforms and economic improvement after the death of tyrant Francisco Franco. In 1986, Spain became a member of the European Union.

Ancient Spain: History

Phoenician empire

A maritime group called the Phoenicians, who originated from what is now Lebanon, traded with what is now Spain beginning around 900 BC. They established a network of trade towns on islands and peninsulas along the coast. In exchange for wine, olive oil, and jewelry, the Iberians offered the Phoenicians silver. The Phoenician civilization had a substantial effect on the Iberians. The Greeks also traded with Spain, and Greek culture impacted the Iberians.

Carthaginians Empire

Meanwhile, in North Africa, a Phoenician colony named Carthage grew to power and prominence. After their defeat to Romans in 241 BC, the Carthaginians expanded their dominance in Spain. They established New Carthage in 227 BC (modern Cartagena). However, the Carthaginians signed a pact with Spain in 226. They agreed not to extend to the north of the Ebro River. Nonetheless, the Carthaginians conquered Saguntum in 119 BC. It was south of the (now) Ebro, but the Romans took Saguntum as an ally and forced Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader, to leave. He declined, and war erupted as a result. In 218 BC, the Romans dispatched an army to Spain, eventually pushing back the Carthaginians. By 206 BC, the Carthaginian Empire had collapsed.

Roman era

Following that, Spain progressively assimilated itself into the Roman Empire. The Romans established cities and created a road network, and at least parts of Spain became Romanized. Spain prospered under Roman control. Mining was a significant industry. The metals gold and silver were exported. Olives, grapes, and cereals were also present. Garum, a fish sauce, was also exported by Roman Spain.

However, pirates from North Africa stormed into Spain in 171-173. At the beginning of the third century, there were further assaults. In any event, the Roman Empire began to fall in the mid-3rd century. Meanwhile, Roman Spain’s inhabitants progressively converted themselves to Christianity.

The Roman Empire was collapsing by the beginning of the fifth century when Germanic peoples entered. Alans, Sueves, and Vandals crossed the Pyrenees and conquered much of Spain in 409 AD.

Visigoth era

However, another Germanic group, the Visigoths, became Roman allies. They invaded Spain in 414-418. They overcame the Alans before retreating into France. The Vandals absorbed the remaining Alans and moved to North Africa in 429, leaving Spain to the Sueves. However, Theodoric II (453-466), King of the Visigoths, led an army into Spain and defeated the Sueves in combat in 456. The Visigoths ruled over the majority of Spain.

Modern era

After 409, just a tiny portion of northeast Spain remained under Roman authority. The prince was a bright student. He published several volumes on history, religion, language, geography, and astronomy. The Visigoth rulers, on the other hand, were never mighty. Internal disputes plagued the Visigoth realm, making it easy prey for the Moors.

                    Ancient Spain                                                

Ancient Spain: Religion

Before Christianity arrived, the Iberian Peninsula was home to a plethora of animist and polytheistic traditions, including Celtic, Greek, and Roman theologies. According to tradition, the Apostle James introduced Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. He was eventually designated as Spain’s patron saint.

During the Roman Empire and the Visigoth domination, Christianity, particularly Catholicism, expanded over the peninsula. Though the Visigoths embraced Arian Christianity, the Visigoth monarch converted to Catholicism and made it the state religion.

As the Visigoth kingdom plunged into social and political upheaval, the Arabs, also known as the Moors, crossed from Africa into the Iberian Peninsula, defeated the Visigoths, and seized the country. These Moors ruled towns via force as well as the spread of knowledge and religion. They also taught astronomy, mathematics, and medicine in addition to Islam.

During the Middle Ages, early Moorish tolerance gave way to forced conversion or execution, culminating in the Christian reconquest of Spain and expulsion of Jews and Muslims. Since then, Spain has been a primarily Catholic country, spreading Catholicism throughout Central and South America, as well as the Philippines, through cooperation.


Notably, most festivals in Spain honor a Catholic saint or prominent religious person, and these celebrations are frequently followed by a procession. Three Kings Day, Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville, and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona’s Festival of San Fermin are all basically Catholic holidays. More than 200,000 people walk the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, each year, as part of a typically Catholic pilgrimage.

Only approximately one-third, or 34%, of Catholics in Spain, self-identify as practicing, which means they regularly attend mass and usually adhere to Catholic Church doctrines. This group is more likely to live in rural areas and tiny villages, and they are more likely to be religious.

Other Religions in Spain

Only approximately 2.3 percent of Spaniards identify as belonging to a faith other than Catholicism or as being irreligious. Islam is the most prevalent religion in Spain, outnumbering all others. Though the Iberian Peninsula was nearly entirely Muslim in the past, the bulk of Muslims in Spain now is immigrants or children of immigrants who came to the nation during the 1990s.


Ancient Spain: Art


The classical period brought in a lot of new artists and art forms. The Romans built the Roman theatre in Merida. This is the only example of art in this period.


The Visigoths were influenced by Roman culture and constructed cathedrals with horseshoe arches, columns, and pillars for support. They also decorated with Corinthian capitals. It was simpler than Roman capitals. It depicted animals and plants. An example of it is the church of San Juan de Baños in Palencia.


The presence of Muslims in Spain brought with it a new form of art, which enhanced our legacy. Chapiters influenced by the classical style are ubiquitous in mosques and palaces, albeit they are more stylized and polished. The interior design is lavish, with several horseshoe or lobed arches, hardwood ceilings and domes, and walls covered in Arabic writing and Koranic verses. An example is Alhambra of Granada.


Romanesque art is defined by its sobriety and meditative mood, with low lighting, strong walls and pillars, and extremely small windows, and is centered mostly on monasteries and cathedrals for pilgrimage reasons. Half-point arches and barrel vaults are also frequent architectural features. There are a handful of Romanesque churches in Spain, mostly in the north. The cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos in the province of Burgos is one of the most notable.

The Gothic Period

The cathedral became to be the most significant edifice in the city as the Middle Ages progressed. As a metaphor for the celestial ascent, Gothic architecture is more vertical and brilliant. The windows are larger and employ rosettes and colored glass to illuminate the cathedrals’ interiors. Gothic is one of the most easily recognized styles; simply look at the arches and windows. The cathedral of León, known as the ‘Pulchra Leonina,’ is one of the greatest specimens of gothic architecture in Spain.

We have looked at the most popular periods in Spanish art history. Now we present to you the notable artists from ancient Spain.

El Greco

Domenikos Theotokopoulos is widely regarded as the leading figure of the Spanish Renaissance and was far ahead of his time. He eschewed realism in favor of a more conceptual approach to depiction and the use of paint to express himself spiritually. In View of Toledo, he shows the Spanish town where he lived for over 40 years. This is also in the shadow of a stormy sky reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Diego Velázquez

He was the most well-known artist in the history of early modern Spanish art. He was also the inspiration for Las Meninas, one of Spain’s national treasures. Velázquez worked as a court painter under Philip IV and was a painter of both the human figure and landscapes. The King was a fervent patron of the arts and a fan of Velázquez. Around the year 1638, he appears in the Portrait of Philip IV of Spain. Manet, the renowned Impressionist painter, admired Velázquez’s skillful modeling of light and shadow and atmospheric compositions.

About the Author: mike

You May Also Like