Galicia, A Geological and Historical Introduction

The first sign of any real settled existence in Northern Spain probably began around about the time circa 4000 BC. The evidence to support this claim comes from some of the striking archaeological remnants to be found right across the north of Spain known as Dolmens..

These were the large stone burial chambers that were actually quite common across much of northern Europe at the time. With regards to Spain the majority of these can be found in Galicia. There are other archaeological remnants to be found such as various standing stones and much simpler pit burial sites.

As befits an area all of Europe known as the Iberian Peninsula the inhabitants of Spain logically are referred to as Iberians by default. Little is actually known of their origins apart from the fact that they spoke languages that are not from the Indo-European group that unites the vast majority of European and Western-Asian languages under its umbrella.

With regards to Galicia the most important grouping were the Celts who descended in waves in the late second millennium B.C. They spoke an Indo-European tongue and settled mostly in the north and west of the peninsula.

Their influence is very apparent in place names, language and culture.

There are still very close parallels between European areas settled by Celts; sitting over a cider while listening to bag pipes in Asturias you might begin to ponder how old these traditions actually are? The principle architectural remnant of the Celts is the Castro, a fortified hill top or trading compound of which there are very many to be found in Asturias and Galicia.

The inhabitants of Northwest Spain have long been a very fiercely proud and independent bunch and the history of resistance down through the years and against most invading parties is long and varied.

Initially the Galicians and Basques who were very resistant to most forms of invasion had very good links with the more peaceful and trading seafarers, the Phoenicians however it was their descendents, the Carthaginians who first started to cause problems.

The Carthaginians who had invaded Spain in the third century B.C. had settled widely in southern and central Spain. While there was contact with those in the north the biggest effect upon this was when Hannibal the most famous of Carthaginian leaders decided to take on Rome.

The conflict between the Carthaginians and the Romans had long been in the offing and if the truth be known could best be described as an accident waiting to happen.

The end result of this conflict was that the Romans started to take a more serious interest in Spain viewing it potentially as the next Carthage. In an attempt (as successful as it turned out) to prevent another regional superpower, the Romans invaded Spain and under the leadership of a Augustus and Agrippa finally succeeded in establishing a secure base in Spain in the first century B.C.

While the Romans managed to establish secure fortresses in settlements throughout the rest of Spain it goes without saying that the more feisty northern Spaniards made life slightly hotter and more difficult for the Romans.

The Basques and Galicians especially were very resistant to Roman interference and after a series of “bloody noses”, the Romans decided to adopt a live and let live stance towards those in the north.

As with the rest of the Roman Empire anything that happened in Rome ultimately filtered out to the periphery of the empire. Such was the case with Christianity and as a result Christianity spread fairly rapidly right to Spain and the first major diocese was established in the Zaragossa in the first century A.D.

As with all forms of religious imperialism which effectively Christianity was, Christianity moulded itself around a lot of the existing practices and nowhere was this more evident than Northern Spain especially with the Basques and the Galicians. The Basques especially had a problem with the Virgin Mary as they already had their own earth mother figure called Mari but as was the case Christianity moulded itself around a lot of the local pagan festivals.