Historical Perspective

Ferdinand and Isabella
Spain is situated at the western most portion of the European continent. So it is not surprising that from early in its history, as successive waves of peoples that migrated throughout Europe, many would end up in the Iberian Peninsula. Its geography also forms a strategic gateway between the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and between Europe and Africa, that would point to its importance in world history. Various Mediterranean powers from the Phoenicians, and Romans to the French, two thousand years later, fought for the area.

The first to arrived in the region were a people called the Iberians from North Africa. These people would mix with the Celts who were next to settle in the region as they migrated across Europe. Together, forming what would be considered the foundation of what would be the Spanish people. Attracted by the land's mineral wealth, the Phoenicians and then later Greek Merchants also set up a number of trade colonies along the coast. The Carthaginians as inheritors of the Phoenician Empire eventually conquered the Greek settlements in Spain to seize control of the entire Southern coast. However, the Romans saw the expansion as a threat to Rome itself. This would lead to the Second Punic War and the period of Roman influence over the Iberian Peninsula that would last for six centuries.

The period of Romanization also saw Spain not only contributing some of Rome's most famous writers, but a couple of its most favored and successful Emperors in that of Trajan and Hadrian. After the fall of Rome, the Visigoths followed, eventually establishing their dominion throughout the Iberian Peninsula. But by the 8th century A.D., Muslim Arabs invaders, known as the Moors managed to seize control of the area except for a handful of Kingdoms in the North. Spain under the Moors (specifically the Cordoban Caliphate) was a vibrant nation intellectually and economically in the midst of Dark Age Europe. The Christian Kingdoms in the North however would eventually manage to retake the whole of Spain in 1492 A.D.

Spain was united under the rule of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. They quickly set Spain on a path that would make Spanish and Christian presence felt throughout the world. This began with the discovery and the establishment of permanent European colonies by Christopher Columbus of the New World. In the succeeding century Spain would come into contact with the great civilizations of Central and South America. These cultures however were no match for the advanced weaponry and greed of the Spanish. The wealth of two continents poured into one nation, making it for a time the most powerful nation in Europe, if not the World. The Spaniards did not just stop at the Americas but also eventually got as far as the Philippines. Indeed, Spain could be considered history's first global super power.

The earliest organized tribal group that is known to have existed in Spain were the Basque, believed to the descendents of the original hunter gatherers that inhabited that region of Europe. The Basque people to this day, see themselves apart from Spain, and struggles for independence and sometimes by violent means. However, before we get too ahead of the story let's describe how Spain came to be.

The Iberian Peninsula, by which the region that Spain is known geographically got its name from the first peoples that arrived in the region around 3000 B.C. These people were a Libyan tribe from North Africa known to the Greeks, as Iberians. By around 1900 B.C. the Iberians established a system of city-states which were ruled by despotic warrior or priestly castes. The Iberian society was developing into a sophisticated society based the trade of metals and minerals that was abundant in the region. As the western most landmass in Europe, it is no surprise however that more would arrive and settle in the area. From around 1200 B.C. the Celts, in several waves came into the region as they migrated across the swath of Europe, and spread into the Peninsula. The Celts encountered the Iberians, and readily mixed with them forming a new people called the Celtiberians and forming what was known as the Tartessian civilization. They would however divide into several tribes (Cantabrians, Asturians, Lusitanians) giving their name to their respective homelands. Around the same time, Phoenician merchants attracted by the wealth of resources in the region began to establish their own settlements along the coast in order to trade with the Celtiberians who actually mined the precious metals. Their most important trading post was Gadir (Cadiz as it is now known), which is the oldest city in Western Europe even predating their more famous City of Carthage. By the 8th Century B.C. Greek merchants also began to arrive in the Iberian coast, setting up their own trading posts and founding several towns, including Emporio (Ampurias) and Rhodaes (Rosas) and Saguntum (Sagunto). The geographic gateway to the Atlantic was known as the Pillars of Hercules, and owes its namesake to the legends in Greek Mythology that sprung from the wealth to be had in the region. Both of these two great cultures had come from far off in the Eastern Mediterranean, all the way to the western most part of Europe, attesting to importance of Spain not only as a strategic area but also as a valuable resource in its own right.

Celtiberian Ruins at Tiermes
(Central Spain)
In fact, the Phoenicians established their Maritime Empire and colonies to support their sea routes to and from their trading posts in Spain with their capitol city of Tyre (around modern day Lebanon) in the Eastern Mediterranean. The conflict between the Phoenicians and the Greeks over the Spanish trading posts were always a point of contention between the two civilizations. But by around 3rd Century B.C. the Greek civilization was in decline, with the Romans as the rising power in the Northern Mediterranean. The Romans naturally took on the role of protectorate to the Greek colonies in Spain. With the lost of Tyre to the Assyrians in 680 B.C. the Carthaginians also became the inheritors of the Phoenician's maritime empire. Setting the stage for one of the greatest rivalries in history. Carthage in its struggle against Rome, lost its colonies in Sicily during the First Punic War. In order to compensate for this, the Carthaginians decided to take control of Spain, in order to use it as a staging area in their conflicts with the Romans. The Carthaginians lead by Hamilcar Barca invades Spain in 237 B.C.and founds the city of Akra Leuke (Alicante), his son-in-law Hasdrubal founds Cartago Nova (Cartagena). Then in 218 B.C. Hamilcar's son, Hannibal, takes Saguntum in what would be the starting point for the Second Punic War. While gaining initial success in their war against Rome, the Romans ingeniously attacked the Carthaginians in their homeland and in a stunning victory at Zama, forced the Carthaginians to cede all of their colonial possessions including Spain to Rome. The Romans would extend their control over the region beyond the Carthaginian colonies into the rest of Spain over the next two hundred years. By 27 B.C. the Romans finally managed to pacify the Peninsula once and for all and divide it into three provinces: Tarraconense, Baetica and Lusitania. The Romans did not only leave their imprint in the region administratively, but Spain went through a thorough process of Romanization that would last until the end of the Roman Empire half a millenium later. Every aspect of Spanish culture was effected, if not completely supplanted. Family and social life (including the love of gladiatorial games, which was eventually replaced with the festive Bull fights for which now Spain is famous for) to law, language and religion (Christianity being eventually introduced into the region) through its Romanization. The only exception was the Basque. By 74 A.D. all Spaniards were granted Roman citizenship. In 98 A.D. Spain even offered one of its own in that of Trajan who not only became the Emperor of the Roman Empire, but one of its most successful and celebrated rulers.

Roman Amphitheater in Spain

Mosque of Cordoba

However, as the Roman Empire declined, Barbarian incursions became more and more prevailent. The Franks and Suevi invaded the country in 264 A.D. and even managed to temporarily occupy Tarragona. By the 5th Century A.D. a host of Germanic barbarians from the Alans to the Vandals (who gave their name to the Andalusian region of Spain) were running rampant all over the Roman Empire. In 411 A.D., the Visigoths (who were in fact already Romanized and considered themselves the heirs of the Roman Empire), signed an alliance with Rome, which enabled them free passage into Spain and the right to establish military colonies within Spanish territory in exchange for defending it against further barbarian incursions. They would eventually take over Spanish society, forming a warrior elite and overlords ruling the overwhelming majority of the native Hispano-Romans that was formed from the centuries of fusion between the Celtiberians and Romans. As the influence of Rome waned, the Visigoths essentually had their own Kingdom and established Toledo as capital in 484 A.D. By 568 A.D., the Visigoth king Leovigild expels the imperial civil servants and attempts to unify the Peninsula from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar, which formed natural barriers from which Spain would hold as its borders to this day. They were more or less successful in their unification efforts, except in the north, where the Basques, Cantabrians and Asturians managed to hold out against them. Trade connection with the Byzantine Empire allowed Spain to maintain its urban culture and its commercial and cultural connections within the Mediterranean domain, against the tide of fragmentation and chaos of Dark Age Europe.

By the 7th century, however, the Visigothic Kingdom was only nominally united. Their system of elected Kings, created rival factions which encouraged foreign intervention by the Greeks, the Franks, and, finally, the Muslims in internal disputes and in royal elections. In 711 A.D. at the invitation of one of the Visigoth clans to assist them in a rebellion against the ruling monarch, King Roderick. A Muslim army under Jabal Tariq ibn Ziyad (whose name Gibraltar was derived from) crossed into Spain and killed the King. Tariq returned to Morocco, but the next year Musa ibn Nusair, invaded with a force of 20,000 men. They quickly swept through Spain, aided by the vast Roman road system. The relatively small force was able to defeat the entire Visogothic Kingdom relatively easily due to the political disarray of the nobility. Little resistance was likewise put forth by the vast native populace that felt little loyalty to their Visigothic overlords. The Muslim forces spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula and eventually crossed the Pyrenees into the domain of the Franks (in modern day France). However, they were defeated at Poitiers in 732 A.D. by Charles Martel which finally held their advance from proceeding any further. But in Spain, the Muslims were there to stay. They established their capital at Cordoba, ushering in the period Moorish Spain that would last for centuries. The Moors were in fact Arabs, who had swept across North Africa from their Middle Eastern homeland, and the Berbers, who inhabited Morocco and had been conquered by the Arabs and converted to Islam. Like them, they would seek to convert the Iberian Peninsula to Islam. for the most part they were successful, but like with the previous conquest of Spain by the Visigoths, there were a number of holdouts in the North that was able to resist the new invaders. Initially, Spain under the Muslims offered relative amounts of religious freedom and civil rights to the unconverted Christians, and significant Jewish population. However by the 9th Century A.D. the Arab speaking Christians began to openly criticize their Muslim rulers and blaspheme against Islam, causing increasing violence and political crack downs against the non-Muslim population as a reaction. As a result, more and more of the Christian population started also to flee into the Christian Kingdoms in the North. However, The height of Muslim civilization in Spain was attained by the Caliphate of Cordoba that lasted from 929 A.D. to 1031 A.D. They declared their independence from the Caliph of Baghdad and positioned themselves at the center of a far-flung trade network that stretched from England to India. A hybrid of Persian, Byzantine and Syrian cultures flourished in a magnificent city filled with beautiful parks, baths, mosques, and public buildings. A vast library was also assembled during the time of Al-Hakam II's rule (961 A.D. to 976 A.D.). His scholars would translate many works of Greek philosophy and science into Arabic. The Spanish Muslims also made many important discoveries in mathematics, science and philosophy in their own right, adding to the knowledge of mankind. It was they who could take credit for preserving this knowledge for later use by Western Europeans which was crucial for the European Renaissance.

While the Reconquest of Spain by the Christians symbolically began even before the Muslims established themselves, with the defeat of a Muslim force at Covadonga by King Pelayo of Leon in 718 A.D. The Christian resistance was never a concerted effort or had much follow through, until the middle of the 13th Century A.D. Beginning in the 11th Century A.D., like the Visigoths before them, increasing disunity in Islamic Spain would eventually turn the tide on the Muslims. Creating both opportunities for the Christians in the North to take a foothold further and further south, while other rival Muslim Invaders from North Africa weakened the Spanish Caliphate from the other direction. Cordoba itself was defeated in 1216 A.D. by Ferdinand III of Castile (known and named after its lands that are dotted with Castles, the Alcazar of Segovia originally built in the 11th Century A.D. ranks as its most famous, although its foundations were laid as early as Roman times). The final blow came with the marriage between Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 A.D., uniting the two most powerful Spanish Christian Kingdoms. They would take the last Muslim hold out of Granada in 1492 A.D. after a long 10 year siege. They would be known as the Catholic Monarchs, in part because of their equality as dual Monarchs, but also because of their fanatical push for Christian fundamentalism and uniformity. They would establish the Inquisition that became known in history for its unspeakable horrors inflicted upon the population to create a thoroughly Christian Spain. Ironically, Tomas de Torquemada a descendant of Jewish converts to Christianity would become known in history as the most effective and notorious of the Inquisition's prosecutors. Thousands of Jews and Moors who didn't want to convert to Christianity were expelled or killed by the bloody pogrom.

However, the rule of Isabella and Ferdinand, also ushered in what would be known as the Golden Age for Spain. It began with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 A.D. This brought the exploration of the New World to the fore. It was further accentuated when Ferdinand Magellan's expedition completed the circumnavigation of the globe in 1522 A.D. Then with the subjugation of two of the greatest civilizations in the Americas, the Aztec (in 1519 A.D. by Hernando Cortez) and the Inca (in 1533 A.D. by Francisco Pizzaro), the Spanish would acquire tons of gold and silver from the new continent. Both of these Native American Empires were brought to an abrupt end by a mere few hundred Conquistadors (soldiers of Fortune). The Spanish were armed with weapons that were far more advanced then those possessed by the Natives, but also brought with them European diseases like smallpox which did even more damage then their weapons ever could. They were also motivated by religious zeal and greed shaped by the events in their homeland. In the exploration and exploitation of the New World, Spain found an outlet for the crusading energies that the war against the Muslims had brought out.

Hernando Cortez

Charles V
During the next century, Spain became the richest and most powerful nation in Europe. By marriage and inheritance, the Spanish Crown eventually also became the heir to the Habsburg dynasty. Charles V was selected Holy Roman emperor and ruled over Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. His son Philip II would also for a brief period (1554 A.D. to 1558 A.D.), through marriage to Mary Tudor, King of England. At its height, Spain would reach the apogee of its power as a conqueror with South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, western North America, Florida, the Philippines and other areas of Africa and Asia under colonial Spanish Rule.

Spanish music, art, literature, dress, and manners from Spain's Golden Age were admired and imitated throughout Europe. They not only set a standard by which the rest of Europe measured its culture but also of its military power. Spain became the military and diplomatic standard-bearer of Christendom. The Spanish fleet's victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1572 A.D. was celebrated throughout the Christian World even among Spain's rivals. They also represented the military might behind the forces of Catholicism, against the tide of Protestantism that began in Germany.

Spain monopolized trade with its new colonies and became one of the most powerful nations on earth. However, this protectionism, often very one sided in draining the fortunes from the New World for the benefit of Spain only, hindered development of the colonies and led to a series of expensive wars with England, France and the Netherlands. It became a victim of its own wealth, the flood of gold and silver produced incredible inflation throughout Europe, and in particularly Spain itself. This combined with conspicuous consumption at home, made Spanish goods became too expensive to compete in the international market. In fact, Spain suffered from huge trade deficits even in food production despite Spain being largely agrarian. Also in colonizing the world, it saw its net population drop by more then 10% during the 17th Century. Rival European nations and rebellions within the Spanish Empire, continuously drained the Spanish fortunes through unsustainable military spending and prevented any development of the domestic economy or production capabilities at home. In preparing for an invasion of England, the Spanish Armada (fleet) was defeated in 1588 A.D. at the hand's of the English. While the Spanish was able to recover from this lost and continued to be an effective naval power, the fortunes spend and lost punctuated this period. Spanish prosperity was only a veneer that only could be sustained so long as the gold flowed in from their colonial possessions.

By the 17th Century, the inner rot that was eating away at Spain was all too apparent. Gold and silver production from the New World was also beginning to decline. The Spanish government was principally operating by offering titles and patronage to pay for its expenses. With the aid of the English, Portugal reasserted its independence in 1640 A.D. and the northern Netherlands in 1654 A.D. The weakened Spanish crown became such a temptation for France that the province of Catalonia was virtually annexed by the French, and Louis XIV instigated the War of Devolution in 1667 A.D. to acquire the Spanish Netherlands. When the Spanish King Charles II, died without an heir, the Spanish crown even past into the hands of the French Bourbons, the grandson of Louis XIV of France, Philip of Anjou. He also being the nephew of Charles II of Spain, was the next in line to the throne, due to the convoluted rules of succession and inbred royalties of Europe of the time. His accension was however contested by the Austrian branch of the Habsburg dynasty. England and the Netherlands was worried about the French domination of continental Europe and sided with the Austrians, in what would become known as the War of the Spanish Succession (from 1702 A.D. to 1714 A.D.). It was not only a war of European powers, but also a civil war within Spain itself as the Catalonians were against the Castilians that had welcomed the French dynasty. The war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht, under the terms that Spain and France would never be united under the same crown. While the Spanish Netherlands (which became Belgium) and Italy would revert to the Austrian Habsburgs. England would gain Gibraltar and trade concessions in Spanish America. Catalonia was devastated as the aristocracy and local governments were abolished under the centralized government of Philip V.

Spain during the age of Enlightenment continued to decline, under Charles III's (1759 A.D. to 1788 A.D.) rather ham-handed rule. While efficiency in the government body was greatly improved and noticeable economic recovery was evident. It failed to make any reforms that made any real positive impact for Spain as a whole, it not only degenerated into an anti-religious pogrom that re-invoke the Inquisition to discipline anti-regal clerics. It also gutted higher education in Spain, with the expulsion of the Jesuit order who were highly critical of the Spanish Crown. A middle class failed to materialize like in other European nations under the Enlightenment, and land use was did not expand to increase the nation's production potential.

Alcazar of Segovia

When the French revolution deposed the Bourbons, it was a natural reaction in Spain, along with the British that they would declare war on France. The war effort was led by Manuel de Godoy, who was the Chief minister of Spain and virtual dictator, over the ineffectual Spanish crown. However, the Spanish forces suffered repeated defeats at the hands of the capable hand of Napoleon's leadership. Godoy instead switched sides, personally being promised half of Portugal if he would ally with the French against the English. Louisiana which had been Spanish since 1763 A.D. was restored to France, and Spain had to contribute to France both militarily and financially. So before long a popular uprising in Spain would force the abdication of King Charles IV in favor of his son Ferdinand VII, and the with him the dismissal of Godoy. However, Napoleon immediately forced the son to abdicate and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte to the Spanish throne. A large French army was moved in to support the new government, and to stage an invasion of Portugal. The Spanish would rise up in a wave of patriotism to conducted a guerilla war (which means "little war") to describe the hit and run strategy based on constant harassment against the French occupational force of over 250,000 Napoleon's best men. The English would also contribute an expeditionary force to support the Spanish in 1808 A.D. and followed with a larger force led by Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) to hold Cadiz. This force would eventual launch an offensive against the French in 1813 A.D. The Napoleonic Wars however is remembered as the War of Independence by the Spanish. During this time, the Inquisition was also abolished and the establishment of a liberal constitution was instituted in 1812 A.D. Indeed, the political label "liberal" was also of Spanish origin.

When Ferdinand was restored to the monarchy, his rule however would be a disaster for Spain. Not only did he revoke the constitution, and reinstate the Inquisition. Spain's colonial possessions in the New World fought for and won their independence. The next century would see Spain struggle between republicanism and absolute monarchy, as the two factions staged a series of revolts and military coups to seize control of the country. The chaos was given a period of respite when the British educated Alfonso XII ascended to the throne. He satisfied both the conservative monarchists, and the liberals for the King's personal outlook and his willingness to institute a constitutional Monarchy. However, in 1898 A.D. the Spanish American War erupted with Spain being defeated by the U.S.A. resulting in the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, Spain's last overseas possessions. It was this war that would mark the end of the Spanish Empire.

It was inevitable that the country was once again thrusted into turmoil, as civil war erupted in Spain in 1936 A.D. The Nationalists forces (that was an alliance of right-wing factions including the army, the Church, and Fascists) with the aid of the Nazi regime in Germany led by Franco ended up victorious over the Republication forces. Franco instituted a dictatorship in Spain that would last for 35 years. Spain under his rule stayed neutral from the Second World War but was clearly in the Nazi's pocket. After the war, Spain was subject to stifling economic sanctions, and politically isolated. When Franco died in 1975 A.D. Juan Carlos (the great-grandson of Alfonso XII) was restored to the Spanish throne, and with him democracy. Spain's economy quickly took off, and in 1986 A.D. joined the European Union. However, Spain's peace is still occasionally interrupted by the Basques who still seek independence and sometimes by violent means. Despite this constant threat, Spain successfully hosted the 1992 Olympic Games in the city of Barcelona, whose landscape showcased the work one of the World's most incredible and imaginative Architects, Antonio Gaudy. His designs are characterized by a warped fusion of Nature and Gothic themes and is embodied by the Cathedral Sagada Familia. It remains as yet unfinished almost 80 years after his death in 1926 A.D. as testament to his unique and unfathomable style.

Sagrada Familia

Overall Strategy for Players Using Spain

Spanish Armada
Spain begins the game with the map fully explored and with and with an extra scout or two. This will be instrumental in allowing the Spanish player to plan out their nation's expansion paths, as well as its attack and defensive perimeters way ahead of others. This will help the Spanish to place their cities optimally to take advantage of key and rare resources. This foreknowledge will also help in placing static defenses and military forces in key locations to conduct the nations attack and defensive actions.

The land is also filled with ruins where a one-time bonus of free resources can be gained by passing one of your units over them, the Spanish also gains extra resources above those gained by other civilizations. With an extra scout that also has extra line of sight, the Spanish player will be able to collect some huge bonuses early in the game. This advantage should capitalized upon since the Spanish doesn't receive any other economic bonuses. The gains from the ruins are directly in proportion the science level attained, so it would serve the Spanish player well to research science as their first and maybe even second research buy. Since ruins don't tend to stay around long after the game is in full swing, when one's science research is beyond the first few levels. However, one must be careful of being attacked early so don't overdue the science at the expense of a military. The Spanish has its unique unit line that starts in the Classical Age and lasts all the way to the Enlightenment Age that covers the Heavy Infantry line. These units are cheaper and faster to build which will be useful to compensate for a slightly later military research buy. As heavy infantry they will be good to ward off cavalry rushes. But one would be well advised to advance to the classical Age quickly, in order to take advantage of these unique units and forgo the bonuses from ruins gained by better science research when facing a rushing civilization.

The Spanish shine at sea, in the early ages however. Gaining a free heavy warship for every dock built. The free ships only lasts until the industrial age, so it is important to build as many docks as you can before this time to cash in on the free units. Early control of the seas will allow the Spanish player free access to the resources at sea, and likely help it retain control of it through out the rest of the game. Docks are available after the first level of commerce. So as soon as one hits classical age, one should research commerce and go heavy on wood on sea maps to create as many docks as possible to prevent an invasion, and to keep the enemy pinned down on their own islands. This will also make it next to impossible for anyone else to land a sizable invasion force on sea maps, if one follows this advice, since transports are easily sunk by armed naval vessels. Then when the Spanish economy is humming probably around the Gunpowder Age, but hopefully by the Medieval Age, the Spanish can send an invasion force of Tercios (and carried to completion with Royal Tercios) with impunity, supported with a mass of warships to cover the enemy coastline.

In the late game, hopefully the sea will belong to the Spanish player. But they should be careful not to allow the enemy players to even build a dock if the game goes past the industrial age, since submarines will quickly lay waste to the heavy warship line. Switching to destroyers, and filling the pop cap with more ships maybe very taxing for the Spanish and take away from creating an effective land invasion force. The Spanish scouts receive free upgrades and use their abilities faster. So if the game lasts to the late ages, one extremely effective strategy is to build a lot of scouts that should now be commandos to flood the opponent's cities to reduce them and blow up buildings. Fast moving units rather is better then relying on slow moving and more expensive siege units. Then send in a flood of other infantry fodder to hold the new cities. The Spanish however, seems better suited on sea maps then land maps where they can use their free ship advantage, and have time to take advantage of the science bonuses with exploring ruins. The map advantage also seems to have greater advantage at sea to allow the Spanish player to cease Islands that contain important resources before other players. The end of their free ship bonus after the industrial age and a lack of any other significant bonuses after this period, mean that even on sea maps, the Spanish player should strive to finish off their opponents before the Industrial Age.

Spain as modelled in Rise of Nations

Unique units

  • Heavy Infantry Line
Scutari (Classical Age)
Less expensive, faster trained.

Royal Scutari (Medieval Age)

Tercio (Gunpowder Age)

Royal Tercio (Enlightenment Age)

Unique powers (Power of Discovery)

  • Begins game with map explored
  • Starts with extra scout unit, two in revealed map games
  • Scout units upgrades for free, and use their special abilities faster
  • Receives a free Heavy warship until the Industrial age whenever a dock is built
  • Gains 30+(26*science level) resources instead of 20 from Ruins

Written By: One Dead Angel


Si, Spain, All About Spain, Moorish Spain,, Aspiring Spaniard's Guide.