martes, 30 de octubre de 2007

Tharsis or Tartessos


Scholars have only recently begun to separate Tartessian history from myth. When the Greeks reached the Iberian peninsula a few centuries after the Phoenicians, they called the land Tartessos. (The word “Tartessos” is a Greek version of the root trt/trd, which appears in a number of indigenous names—for example, Turduli, Turdetani—of the southwest Iberian peninsula.) For the Greeks, Tartessos was the mysterious land on the other side of Hercules’s columns (the Rock of Gibraltar); it was the gateway to the terra incognita.
According to the fifth-century B.C. historian Herodotus, Tartessian civilization was discovered accidentally by a Greek named Kolaios, who became extremely rich as a result of his trade with the Tartessians (History 4.152 ff.). From Herodotus, we also learn of a legendary Tartessian king named Arganthonius (meaning “man [or flower] of silver” in Greek), who welcomed the Greek merchants with rich gifts.
A number of other ancient works also make reference to Tartessos. One of them, Ora Maritima, a tantalizing Latin account of Phoenician travelers who explored the Atlantic coast up to Ireland and Britain, was written in the late fourth century A.D. by the Roman fabulist Avienus, who apparently based his text on a sixth-century B.C. Punic periplus (travel narrative).
Recent archaeological work suggests that Tartessos included a number of small proto-urban settlements largely dependent on agricultural and mineral (particularly silver) exploitation. This is probably what attracted the Phoenicians and formed the basis of Tartessian wealth.
Exactly when the Phoenicians arrived remains in question. According to ancient sources, such as Strabo (c. 60 B.C.–21 A.D.) and Pliny (23–79 A.D.), they arrived in the late 12th century B.C. and laid the foundations of sites such as Cadiz (Gadir) and Utica. But archaeological excavations at these sites have not uncovered remains earlier than the eighth century B.C.b The first-century B.C. historian Diodorus Siculus (Diodorus of Sicily) writes that the Phoenicians arrived on the peninsula while searching for silver but only settled there much later (Library of History 5.35.1–5, 5.20.1–2).
Some scholars identify biblical Tarshish with Iberian Tartessos. The prophet Isaiah, who lived in the latter part of the eighth century B.C., may refer to the Phoenicians’ sailing to the Iberian peninsula and reaching Tartessos/Tarshish:
The Lord poised his arm over the seaAnd made kingdoms quake;It was he decreed destruction for Phoenicia’s strongholds …Howl, O ships of Tarshish,For your stronghold is destroyed.(Isaiah 23:11–15)
Although the location of biblical Tarshish is much debated, an inscription of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (680–669 B.C.) suggests that it was located on the Mediterranean coast: “All the kings from (the islands) amidst the sea—from the country Iadanana [Cyprus], as far as Tarsisi [Tarshish], bowed to my feet and I received heavy tribute (from them).”1 Many scholars have connected Tarshish to Iberian Tartessos;2 it is possible that both names, the Semitic “Tarshish/Tarsisi” and the Greek “Tartessos,” derive from the same Iberian root, trt/trd. Nonetheless, the connection between Iberian Tartessos and biblical Tarshish can only remain a matter of speculation until new evidence is found.
The core area of Tartessian civilization comprised the modern Spanish provinces of Cadiz, Seville, Huelva and the Algarve in modern Portugal. After the seventh century B.C., Tartessian influence expanded, reaching the Guadiana Valley (where Cancho Roano is located) and a considerable portion of the southeastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. However, the Tartessians never formed a united country, nor did they create independent city-states. What bound the Tartessians together as a people over this large territory were their ethnic and cultural traits—and, especially, their religious beliefs. One of the key institutions for understanding the Tartessians is the sacred sanctuary, or shared religious precinct.
Most of these sanctuaries are in the core of the Tartessian world, but there are also many in the periphery (as distant as modern Portugal). One of these peripheral sanctuaries is the extraordinary site of Cancho Roano (“Reddish Rock” in Spanish), which functioned from the end of the seventh century B.C. to the end of the fifth century B.C.

Numantia, the symbol of resistance

numantia numancia

"All glory to a brave city, a city blessed, so it seems to me, even in its misfortunes; for it loyally helped its allies and with so small a force withstood for so long a period a people which was supported by the resources of the whole world."
Florus, Epitome of Roman History (I.34.16)

Numantia (Numancia in Spanish) was a town in Hispania (modern-day Spain), which for a long time resisted conquest by Romans in what was known as the "Numantine War." The city was finally taken and destroyed by consul Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus after a long and brutal siege. This victory put most of the Iberia under Roman control (although the north of Hispania was not conquered until the end of the Astur-Cantabrian Wars over a century later). This was the first notable military endeavour by Gaius Marius.

Before their defeat, the Numantines gained a number of victories. For example, in 137 BC, 20,000 Romans surrendered to the Celtiberians of Numantia (population between 4,000-8,000).
The ruins of Numantia is near modern-day Garray in Soria. Many objects and rest of the city can be visited in the Museo Numantino of Soria an in the Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Madrid).

The Siege of Numantia was the culminating and pacifying action of the long-running Numantine War between the forces of the Roman Republic and those of the native Celtiberian population of Hispania Citerior. The Numantine War was the third of the Celtiberian Wars and it broke out in 143 BC. A decade later, in 133 BC, the Roman general and hero of the Third Punic War, Scipio Aemilianus, subjugated the chief Celtiberian city of Numantia.

Roman preparation
In late 135, the Roman Senate reappointed Scipio consul on popular demand and sent him to Hispania to finish what lesser generals had failed to complete. Scipio found morale low among the troops stationed in Iberia. The chance of plunder being low, there were few enticements to enlistment. Scipio nevertheless raised an army of 20,000 with 40,000 allied and mercenary troops, especially Numidian cavalry led by Jugurtha. The troops were trained hard by constant marching and there were several successful skirmishes before Scipio began to surround the city of Numantia itself. He planned only to starve it out and not to storm it.

Siege works
Scipio's constructed two camps separated by a wall around the city (circumvallation). He dammed the nearby swamp to create a lake between the city walls and his own. From ten feet of the ground, his archers could shoot into Numantia from seven towers interspersed along the wall. He also built an outer wall to protect his camps (eventually five in total) from any relief forces (contravallation).
Scipio also engineered the isolation of the city from the Duero. He towered the river at the points where it entered and exited the city and strung a cable across, with blades, to prevent both boats and swimmers from leaving or entering the city.
The Numantines attempted one failed sally before their greatest warrior, Rhetogenes, successfully led a small band of men down the river past the blockade. Heading first to the Aravaci, his pleas were ignored. He then went to Lutia, where he was positively received by the youth, but the elders of the tribe warned Scipio, who marched from Numantia and arrested the 400 Lutian youths and cut off their hands. After Scipio's return, Avarus, the Numantine leader, began negotiations.
The first ambassadors sent by Numantia asked for their liberty in return for complete surrender, but Scipio refused. They were killed upon return by the incredulous populace, who believed they had cut a deal with the Romans. The city refused to surrender and starvation set in. Cannibalism ensued and eventually some began to commit suicide with their whole families. The remnant population finally surrendered only after setting their city on fire. Scipio took it and had its ruins levelled. This was late in the summer of 133.
The siege of Numantia was recorded by several Roman historians that admired the sense of freedom of the ancient Iberians and acknowledged their fighting skills against the Roman legions. Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) wrote a play about the event, La Numancia, which stands today as his most well-known dramatic work.

(With information from Wikipedia)

Falcata or Iberian sword

The old historians describe the iberian soldiers as dressed in white short dresses with borders in purple and their iberian falcatas in their hand. Probably the dress was not white, but the natural color of wool, like Roman gowns, and probably the purple of the borders was not so, but a strip of scarlet color.
In fact, it is easy to think not all Spanish soldiers dressed equal, far from it, but this way of dressing was the common one aat the time Romans identified the Spaniards of the army of Aníbal. An aesthetic one that is most repeated in the iberian art.
The famous relief of Osuna, Sevilla (Spain), shows the most well-known image of the soldier with its iberian sword.
The Spanish soldiers used a great variety of armors to protect the
mselves in combat. Simplest he was the pectoral one that then also used the Roman legionaries and who consisted of a metal plate that protected the chest.
The most well-known weapon of the iberos is the famous falcata.

The falcata is a weapon of Spanish origin, in fact is a streamlined type of gladius Roman hispaniensis or gladius, that after the arrival of Romans to Spain happened to become a part of the Roman fighting equipment. The leaf of the falcata approximately measures about 45 cm. in length, that is to say, the length of the arm. In fact there were not two equal falcatas, since these valuable Roman swords made of order, reason why each one had measures according to the arm of his sir.
In all Mediterranean the quality of these arms, made with an iron mineral was admired of highest purity. Its flexibility was so that the armorers placed it on their heads doubling them until the end and the grip touched their shoulders. If the Roman sword returned to its straight position when loosen it of blow were an art work, if it were not fused to return to make it. Greek that arrived at Spain took the falcata with himself and had great acceptance, becoming the second used weapon more after the hoplita sword.

The Romans adapted their own grip to gladius, but pugio continued with the typical Spanish grip.
The iberos used two types of shields: the céltico, made oval, and caetra, that was round and smaller

Separate mention deserves the famous "honderos" (stone throwers) of the Balearic islands that formed one of the elite troops best known in the ancient times. They even became part of the auxiliary troops of Julius Caesar.

In the tombs, the iberian arms are doubled carefully, made unusable, since as we have seen in the falcata, they were personal arms, made for each soldier in particular and meant not to be used by any other. For that reason they were buried made unusable with his owner. The bond that tied the Spanish soldier with its arms was more important that their own life, for that reason preferred to die before surrendering and giving their arms. Like soldiers, the Spaniards were the best of the auxiliary troops.
Punic and Roman they used them widely, mainly the heavy infantry and the Balearic "honderos", whose deadly skill in the handling of their arm was very important in the ancient times. In fact, in Cannas, Anibal had to alternate Spanish and Gallic companies because it was not entrusted in these last ones and he knew that Spaniards always fulfilled the orders until the end.
Each nation had its own arms and their way to use them. In Spain, when using the short sword, the formation was in line, but offensive, since gladius is a powerful weapon that is not useful for defense. That is the reason why the remendous loss of life caused by the Spaniards in Cannas and later in many other battles to the Roman legions. Altogether, the ibera tactics were literally copied by the Romans after the I Punic War.
The Spanish infant carried the frightful soliferrum, specially designed to penetrate any kind of shield. After sending it against the enemy he pulled out of a scabbard his frightful short sword and, protected by his celtic shield attacked using the sword for "puncturing", with the arm moving perpendicular to the body. This way of fighting, with the protected affluent body, was lethal against an enemy who used his sword for "striking", since he had to discover part of his body when raising it, moment that the iberian took advantage to hit him with his falcata.

The Romans were so surprised with this way of fighting in Cannas that when they arrived at Spain they adopted the gladius, now call hispaniensis, like standard weapon. Since the Roman shield, the typical samnita shield, was better than celtic and provided greater protection, the Roman legions became authentic machines to destroy their enemies, although in front of the Spanish troops (as an example you have Numantia), with whole generations of training on them, they underwent great disasters one after another one. Why? because the legion was not the best kind of unit to use these tactics, tactics that would find its total yield in the new legions of Mario in which cohortes acted like a block, devastating the enemy lines.

lunes, 22 de octubre de 2007

El Alcazar de Segovia

The Alcazar (word from the arabic language meaning castle) of Segovia is a stone fortification, located in the old city of Segovia, Spain. Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape - like the bow of a ship. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.
The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain, started off as an Arab fort. The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands (during the time when Alfonso VI of Castile reconquered lands to the south of the river Duero down to Toledo and beyond). However, archaeological evidence suggests that the site of this Alcázar was once used in Roman times as a fortification. This theory is further substantiated by the presence of Segovia's famous Roman Aqueduct.
The shape and form of the Alcázar was not known until the reign of King Alfonso VIII (1155-1214), however early documentation mentioned a wooden stockade fence. It can be concluded that prior to Alfonso VIII's reign, it was no more than a wooden fort built over the old Roman foundations. Alfonso VIII and his wife, Eleanor of Plantagenet made this Alcázar their principal residence and much work was carried out to erect the beginnings of the stone fortification we see today.

Throne Room
The Alcázar, throughout the Middle Ages, remained one of the favourite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defence of the kingdom. It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty.
In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament. However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II which built the 'New Tower' (John II tower as it is known today).
In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella of Castile. On the 12th December news of the King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia's council. She was coronated the next day as Queen of Castile and Leon. It was also the site where she married Ferdinand of Aragon.

Alcazar of Segovia
The next major renovation at the Alcázar was conducted by King Phillip II after his marriage to Anna of Austria. He added the sharp slate spires to reflect the castles of central Europe. In 1587, architect Francisco de Morar completed the main garden and the School of Honor areas of the castle.
The royal court eventually moved to Madrid and the Alcázar then served as a state prison for almost two centuries before King Carlos III founded the Royal Artillery School in 1762. It served this function for almost a hundred years until March 6th 1862 where a fire badly damaged the roofs and framework.
It was only in 1882 that the building was slowly restored to its original state. In 1896, King Alfonso XIII ordered the Alcázar to be handed over to the Ministry of War as a military college.
Today, the Alcázar remains one of the most popular historical sights in Spain and is one of the three major attractions in Segovia. Notable rooms are the Hall of Ajimeces which houses many works of art, the Hall of the Throne and the Hall of Kings with a frieze representing all Spanish Kings and Queens starting from Pelagius of Asturias down to Juana la Loca.

This castle is supposed to have been the inspiration for the one in Disney world.

sábado, 13 de octubre de 2007

Columbus Day

Last weekend I was very surprised while reading the comic strips in the Philadelphia National Inquirer, in one of them a girl had to receive congratulations because she was Italian and that day was Columbus day. There are many reasons to be surprised. The one I am not going to talk about is the most evident one, the different theories about his origin (you can see this in Wikipedia ).

Cristobal Colon, in spanish, Columbus in english, sailed with three spanish ships Santa Maria, Pinta y Nina, with spanish sailors and paid with spanish money. Sailing from a Spanish port and coming back to Spain again. Besides, Spain already existed when he began his trip, while Italy would begin to exist around 400 years after his travels. It would be the same to say the Hadrian´s Wall was a spanish one because the emperor was born in nowadays Spain. ('s_Wall)

So, please, remember if you want to say USA was the first country in reaching the moon and not Germany (Wernher Von Braun was the brain behind all the development), you must say Spain was the first one in reaching, reporting and repeating the travels to America.

Happy Colon day!!!!

viernes, 5 de octubre de 2007

La Torre de Hercules

The Tower of Hercules (Torre de Hércules), is an ancient Roman lighthouse located on a peninsula about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the center of the city of A Coruña, Galicia, in present-day northwestern Spain. The lighthouse is almost 1900 years old, standing 185 feet (57 meters) high, overlooking the North Atlantic coast of Spain. It is the oldest active Roman lighthouse in the world.
Through the millennia many mythical stories of its origin have been told. According to a myth that blends Celtic and Greco-Roman elements, the hero Hercules slew the giant tyrant Geryon after three days and three nights of continuous battle. Hercules then—in a Celtic gesture— buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the site. The city, Brigantia to the Romans, came to be called “Crunya”. The lighthouse atop a skull and crossbones representing the buried head of Hercules’ slain enemy appears in the coat-of-arms of A Coruña.
According to Gaelic legend embodied in the 11th-century compilation Lebor Gabala Erren— the "Book of Invasions"— King Breogán, the founding father of the Galician Celtic nation, constructed here a massive tower of such a grand height that his sons could see a distant green shore from its top. The glimpse of that distant green land lured them to sail north to Ireland. A colossal statue of Breogán has been erected near the Tower. Breogan's name in Old Celtic was Breganos Maccos Bratus, King of Gallaecia. Actually his name is Breoghan macBratha in Gaelic. I only felt it was necessary to give this comment.
Nice article, take care. Vincent F. Pintado, Author of the Old Celtic Dictionary.
The tower remains a sentinel from days long past. It is known to have existed by the 2nd century, built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, perhaps on foundations and just possibly following a design that was Phoenician in origin. At its base is preserved the cornerstone with the inscription MARTI AUG.SACR C.SEVIVS LUPUS ARCHTECTUS AEMINIENSIS LVSITANVS.EX.VO, permitting the original lighthouse tower to be ascribed to the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus, from Aeminia (an ancient Roman town near present-day Coimbra,Portugal) in the former province of Lusitania, as an ex voto dedicated to Mars_(god. The tower has been in constant use since the 2nd century. Originally it was constructed with an ascending ramp encircling its sides, for oxen to bring cartloads of wood to keep the light fueled at night.
The earliest surviving mention of the lighthouse at Brigantium is by Paulus Orosius in Historiae adversum Paganos written ca 415 – 417:
“Secundus angulus circium intendit, ubi Brigantia Gallaeciae civitas sita altissimum farum et inter pauca memorandi operis ad speculam Britanniae erigit”
("At the second angle of the circuit [circumnavigating Hispania], where the Gallaecian city of Brigantia is sited, a very tall lighthouse is erected among a few commemorative works, for looking towards Britannia.")

The Tower of Hercules, in the coat of arms of A Coruña
In 1788 the original tower was provided with a new outer shell by order of king Carlos IV, the work of the naval engineer Eustaquio Giannini (1750–1814). The work was finished in 1791, giving the tower the crisp classicizing outward aspect we see today. Within, the much-repaired Roman and medieval masonry may be inspected. The Tower of Hercules is a National Monument of Spain.
The Romans who settled this region of Spain believed it to be the end of the earth, as described in "Finisterra". This region is notorious for shipwrecks, earning the name "Costa da Morte".

(With information from Wikipedia)

martes, 2 de octubre de 2007

The Altamira Caves

The Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic Art

The cave is 270 meters long, and consists of a series of twisting passages and chambers. The main passage varies from two to six meters high. The cave was formed through collapses following early karstic phenomena in the calcerous rock of Mount Vispieres.
Archaeological excavations in the cave floor found rich deposits of Upper Solutrean (c. 18,500 years ago) and Lower Magdalenean (between c. 16,500 and 14,000 years ago) artifacts. The cave was occupied only by wild animals in the long period between these two occupations. The site was well positioned to take advantage of the rich wildlife that grazed in the valleys of the surrounding mountains as well as permitting the occupants to supplement their diet with food from nearby coastal areas. Around 13,000 years ago a rockfall sealed the cave's entrance preserving its contents until its eventual discovery which was caused by a nearby tree falling and disturbing the fallen rocks.
Human occupation was limited to the cave mouth although paintings were created throughout the length of the cave. The artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite to create the images, often scratching or diluting these dyes to produce variances in intensity and creating an impression of chiaroscuro. They also exploited the natural contours in the cave walls to give a three-dimensional effect to their subjects. The Polychrome Ceiling is the most impressive feature showing a herd of bison in different poses, two horses, a large doe and a possible wild boar.
This art is dated to the Magdelenean occupation and as well as animal subjects also included abstract shapes. Solutrean images include images of horses, goats and handprints created from the artist placing his hand on the cave wall in spraying paint over it leaving a negative image of his palm. Numerous other caves in northern Spain contain Palaeolithic art but none is as advanced or well-populated as Altamira.During the 1960s and 1970s, the paintings were being damaged by the damp breath of large numbers of visitors. Altamira was completely closed to the public in 1977, and reopened to limited access in 1982. Very few visitors are allowed in per day, resulting in a three-year waiting list. A replica cave and museum were built nearby and completed in 2001 by Manuel Franquelo and Sven Nebel, reproducing the cave and its art. The replica allows a more comfortable view of the polychrome paintings of the main hall of the cave, as well as a selection of minor works. It also includes some sculptures of human faces that are not visitable in the real cave.[1]
There are other replicas in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain (Madrid), in the Deutsche Museum in Munich (completed 1964), and in Japan (completed 1993).

Several painters were influenced by the Altamira cave paintings. After a visit, Picasso famously exclaimed "after Altamira, all is decadence".
Some of the polychrome paintings at Altamira Cave are well known in Spanish popular culture. The logo used by the autonomous government of Cantabria to promote tourism to the region is based on one of the bisons in this cave. Bisonte (Spanish for 'Bison'), a Spanish brand of cigarettes of the 20th century, also used a Paleolithic style bison figure along with its logo.
The Spanish comic character and series Altamiro de la Cueva, created in 1965, are a clear consequence of the fame of Altamira Cave. The comic series depicts the adventures of a group of prehistoric cavemen, shown as modern people, but dressed in pieces of fur, a bit like the Flintstones.
The rock band Steely Dan wrote the song "The Caves of Altamira" for their 1976 album, The Royal Scam

(With information from Wikipedia)

Dr. Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Santiago Ramon y Cajal was born at Petilla Spain in 1852. He studied medicine in the University of Saragossa and became Professor of Anatomy at Valencia, later histology in normal and pathologic histology at Barcelona and then to Madrid as Professor of normal histology and pathological anatomy. He and Camillo Golgi received the Nobel Prize in 1906 for introduction of the silver-chromate stain. Later he set out carefully to explore the finer aspects of the brain. With his reduced silver nitrate technique he demonstrated neurons and their connections so easily. His introduction of his gold chloride- mercury bichloride technique to demonstrate astrocytes was a monumental contribution as was his work on degeneration and regeneration of the nervous system later. He will be remembered as a world famous neuropathologist

Coat of arms of Fernando and Isabel (The Catholic Kings)

For many people, this coat of arms is only the one used by Francisco Franco, but it really was the first coat of arms of Spain, the one used by Fernando and Isabel, who joined the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and conquered Granada, the las moorish territory in the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.