Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
 IN the southwestern corner of Europe, with the Atlantic Ocean on the north and west, and the
Mediterranean Sea south and east, lies the Iberian Peninsula, eleven thirteenths of which
belong to the country known as Spain. The other two thirteenths pertain to Portugal, a
country politically distinct from Spain, but with similar physical features in the main.
Although we do not know when it first received its ancient name, Iberia, nor even whence
came its very first peoples, yet we know that for ages it has existed as a fair and
fertile land, capable of supporting millions of inhabitants.
 It is essentially a mountainous country, for, first of all, there are the Pyrenees, which
partly bound it on the north; the Cantabrian range, in the northwest; the Guadarrama, in
the central region; and the Sierras Morena and Nevada, in the south. Between these
mountain ranges lie great table-lands and deep valleys, the latter traversed by rivers
swift and long, but few of them navigable far from the sea.
It is, its mountainous character that has given this land, lying as it does beneath a
southern sun, a great diversity of climate; so that we may say it has at least four
climatic zones: First, the zone of the plateau, cold in winter and hot in summer, where
the soil is arid; second, that of the northwestern provinces, with a moist climate; third,
that of the eastern coast, where a balance is preserved between the two extremes of the
others; and, fourth, the subtropical zone of the south coast, which is hot as well as
Thus Spain has a more varied vegetation than any other country of Europe, for its high
plains mountainous valleys are almost Alpine in the character of their flora; its North
Atlantic region has ferns and grassy meadows, forests of oak, beech, and chestnut and the
southeast and south a flora that is
 almost African, and comprising many species that are purely tropical.
So we find that Spain, though only six hundred and fifty miles in greatest length, and
with an area of but little more than one hundred and ninety thousand square miles, can
boast forests of olives and cork oaks, hillsides covered with vineyards, valleys filled
with orange trees, almonds, pomegranates, sugar cane, and with a range of fruits extending
from the apple of the northern 'on to the date palm of the south, what was brought over
from Africa. Honeybees lay up rich stores from the thyme-covered table-lands, silkworms
flourish in the mulberry groves of the eastern provinces, and the cochineal feeds on the
cactus of the south.
Not only does the land-yield every variety of food for the sustenance of man, but, with
its thirteen hundred miles of coast line, Spain has boundless stores of fish, such as
anchovies, tunnies, and salmon in their season. And again, while almost every species of
the animal as well as the vegetable kingdom might find a congenial home here, Nature has
not been sparing of her minerals, such as copper, lead, silver, gold, coal, iron, cobalt,
These are some of the natural resources of Spain, showing, as has been said already,
 that it was bountifully endowed by the Creator with all things necessary to man's
subsistence, even though he might through ignorance prodigally waste them.
We have no authentic history of the first peoples inhabiting Iberia, but it is believed
that a remnant of their descendants yet exists in northern Spain, in the Basques, whose
speech and customs differ from those of all others on the face of the earth. The Basques
claim that they are descended from the original people, and say, moreover, that their
language was the veritable speech of Paradise. It is difficult enough to acquire, at all
events, and they have a tradition that the "Evil One" himself once spent seven years in
attempting to master it, and then gave up in despair, after having acquired but two words,
"yes" and "no," which he forgot as soon as he left the country!
But by the twilight of tradition we observe an invasion of the peninsula by the Celts, or
Kelts, a wave from the great Aryan deluge that at one time submerged all Europe, and which
overleaped the Pyrenees and swept all before it. And these Aryan Kelts, or Keltic Aryans,
became masters of Spain, not so much through conquest in war as by intermingling with the
natives; and there resulted, it is said, another and distinct people,
 or race, called the Celtiberian. Now, while the aborigines were probably swarthy and short
of stature, the incoming Kelts were tall and fair, excellent horsemen, hunters, and
tillers of the soil. As both races were war-like, their descendants became celebrated, in
after years, for their prowess, and when the Romans invaded Spain these brave Celtiberians
gave them great trouble and resisted subjection to the very last.
They were rude and uncivilized, and, if they built cities or towns, no remains of such
exist, of which we are aware. In their religion they were Nature worshippers, blindly
revering the god of day, the stars of night, and the "phenomena of dawn and sunrise."
Remains of their rude temples, it is claimed, have been found in Portugal, where dwelt
that branch of the race known as Lusitanians.