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With a population of more than 40 million, Spain is one of the financial and cultural centers of Western Europe. However, it took thousands of years for Spain to reach its current status. And while Spain has a rich history, it is one that is steeply shaped by Spain's geography.
Because Spain was situated on the Iberian Peninsula, which is at the crossroads between Africa and Europe, Spain in its earliest history saw numerous influxes of tribes from both regions.
- At first the Iberians came from what is today Libya mainly because of the rich metal resources and agricultural opportunities afforded by Spain. And the Celts came from Northern Europe to form a common tribe called the Celtiberians.
- Shortly afterward, the Phoenicians saw the vast mining wealth in Spain and invaded to capture this wealth and set up ports along the coast of Spain from which they could ship the metals they mined.
- The Greeks also attempted to colonize Spain and were met by resistance from the Phoenicians.
- The Romans, which had conquered the Greek civilization by this point, raised a border dispute with all people that opposed Rome or Greece and thus drove the Phoenicians out of Spain and established Roman cities there. The Romans brought Christianity to Spain at this point. Because Rome's empire was too large, they had difficulty maintaining control over Spain and Germanic tribes gained control over parts of Spain.
In the 8th century, the Arab people invaded most of Spain displacing the Roman and Germanic populations that had existed in Spain. This Muslim people came in search of the agricultural opportunities in Spain. The Christians remained in northern Spain where they were able to build fortresses in the mountains and resist the Muslim's. Christian cities were built to protect key mountain passes or to act as fortresses either in the mountains or behind rivers that acted as protective moats. From these mountain fortresses, the Christians eventually reconquered Spain from the Muslim's. Following the reconquest, Spain consisted of two tribes, Castilla and Aragon, that were eventually united by marriage. This marked the beginning of Spain's Golden Age.