History of Galicia

History of Galicia


The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited for at least 500,000 years, first by Neanderthals and then by modern humans.


:"Main article Prehistoric Galicia".

Megalithic culture

Galicia, northern Portugal, Asturias, western León, and Zamora formed a single megalithic area since the Neolithic and Chalcolithic (also called Copper Age) Ages, around 4500 - 1500 B.C.E.



This was the first great culture to appear in Galicia and was characterized by its surprising capacity for construction and architecture. This was combined with deep sense of religion, based on the cult of the dead, the mediators between man and the gods.

Many historians Fact|date=February 2007 believe that Megalithic culture had two sources: an oriental source that was predominant in the Mediterranean area, and one in the Atlantic, which originated north of the Tagus River. The latter, because of its geographical proximity to Galicia, would explain the abundant traces of megalithic culture in this area. That this should be the first great culture also meant that it constituted one of the basic pillars that was to endow Galicia's cultural personality.

From this era there remain thousands of dolmens ("mámoas"), a type of tomb or sepulchre, throughout the entire territory. From its social organization it has been confirmed that it corresponded to some type of clan structure.

Bronze Age

The introduction of bronze-working techniques introduced a new cultural stage, when the new importance of metals resulted in intense mining activity. Some historians Fact|date=February 2007 attribute the boom in this sector to the extremely dry and warm climate of the time which revealed, due to erosion it caused, the mining richness of the North.

The towns of the Castilian plateau moved to Galicia, thus increasing the population, because its position near the Atlantic Ocean gave it a very humid climate.

The increase in population caused certain conflicts, but also led to increased mining and heavy production of weapons, useful objects, and ornamental objects of gold and bronze. Pieces of jewellery crafted from Galician metals circulated throughout all of the Peninsula and Europe.


Celtic Gallaecia

:"Main article Celtic Gallaecia".According to the first-century geographer Strabo, the settlers resided on the north of the river Douro were known by the name of Kallaikoi; later the name Kallaikoi was translated into Latin as Gallaeci, Callaeci or Gallaicoi.

Prior to the Roman conquest of Gallaecia, the tribe was generally called the Gallaicoi, formed as local name ("gentilice") respect to the root "gall", meaning Celt or Gaul, in general. That name was applied to all the associated tribes of this ethnic group, beginning with the classical transalpine Gauls.From a historical point of view, little can be deduced from the clues we can gather, aside from what is stated in the "Leabhar Gabhala". Archaeological testimony indicates that towards the 7th to 5th centuries B.C., cultural influences pertaining to the Hallstatt Celtic culture began to arrive in Galicia and the north of Portugal. Together with other elements identified as coming from Eastern Mediterranean as well as those surviving from the previous culture (known as the Atlantic Bronze Age, surely carried out by Brythonic Celts, Brigantini, Albions was some of their tribal names) dominant in Galicia, they all ended up in the creation of a new fusion culture made up of these portions, which is known as Cultura Castrexa, name that alludes to the main type of towns that were built, called hillforts, that the Romans named castros ("dùn", "dùin" — or "don" —; in the Gallaic language).

The knowledge that we have today about the society of the hillforts is very limited; if we followed what the Roman historians said, the Galicians were a reunion of barbarians who spent the day fighting and the night eating, drinking and dancing to the moon. But today it seems absolutely clear that the last five centuries B.C.E. they developed an aristocratic and even perhaps a feudal social model. The division of the country — into "concelhos", concept similar to the counties of the islands or Romania — seems to be based on this class of social organization. Also, the structure based on hillforts, seems to be associated to a fortified occupation of the territory, resemblance to the one of the Central European classic Celtic habitat. On the other hand, this kind of territorial occupation was likely associated to the attraction that mineral wealth provoked that was in a similar way, as a certain class of gold fever. Anyway, it is also clear that the interest of the Romans for this region was mainly related to its gold mines.

When Iberia was involved in the Punic Wars between the Carthaginians and the Romans, the strategic alliance that they maintained with the Phoenicians enabled Hannibal to recruit many Gallegans. When the Romans finally undertook the conquest of Iberia, the "Gallaicoi" faced them in 137 B.C. in the battle at the river Douro that resulted in a great Roman victory against 60,000 Galicians, by who the Roman general, proconsul Decimus Iunius Brutus, turned to Rome as a hero, receiving the name of Gallaicus, according to the historian Paulus Orosius.

Roman Gallaecia

:"Main article Gallaecia".Junius Brutus' military campaigns scored further victories in the south of modern Portugal, before going on to the north. The tribe of the Gallaicoi, faced the Roman forces in 137 BCE in a battle at the river Douro, which resulted in a great Roman victory.

At the end of Brutus' campaigns, Rome controlled the territory between the Douro and Minho rivers plus probable extensions along the coast and in the interior. The Second Invasion, of 61 BCE, landed at Brigantium (A Coruña), under the command of Julius Caesar.

The evidence suggests that the resistance of the Gaedels against the Romans ended here; from now on, they would be enlisted massively as auxiliaries of the Roman legions, fulfilling destinies sometimes completely separate from Galicia, as far as Thrace and Dacia. It has been estimated Fact|date=February 2007 that of the total of Roman auxiliary troops coming from Iberia, more than a third belonged to tribes of the peninsular northwest.

The final extinction of Celtic resistance was the aim of the violent and ruthless Cantabrian Wars fought under the emperor Octavian from 26 to 19 BCE. The resistance was appalling: collective suicide rather than surrender, mothers who killed their children before committing suicide, crucified prisoners of war who sang triumphant hymns, rebellions of captives who killed their guards and returned home from Gaul.

In the 3rd century, Diocletian created an administrative division which included the "conventus" of Gallaecia, Asturica and perhaps Cluniense. This province took the name of Gallaecia since Gallaecia was the most populous and important zone within the province. In 409, as Roman control collapsed, the Suebi conquests transformed Roman Gallaecia (convents Lucense and Bracarense) into the kingdom of Gallaecia (the "Galliciense Regnum" recorded by Hydatius and Gregory of Tours).

Medieval Galicia

uebi Kingdom

:"Related articles: Suebi, Suebic Kingdom of Galicia".In the year 411, Galicia fell to the Suebi, who formed a kingdom of their own.

The number of the original Suebic invaders is estimated as fewer than 30,000 people, settled mainly in the urbanized zones of Braga (Bracara Augusta), Porto, Lugo (Lucus Augusta) and Astorga (Asturica Augusta). Bracara Augusta, the modern city of Braga, became the capital of the Suebi, as it was previously the capital of the Gallaecia Roman province. Suebic Gallaecia was larger than the modern region: it extended south to the river Douro and to Ávila in the east.

The Suebic kingdom in Gallaecia lasted from 410 to 584 and seems to have enjoyed relatively stable government for most of that time. Historians like José António Lopes Silva, the translator of Idatius' chronicles, the primary written source for the 5th century, finds that the essential temper of Galician culture was established in the blending of Ibero-Roman culture with that of the Suebi.

There were occasional clashes with the Visigoths, who arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in 416 and came to dominate most of the peninsula, but the Suebi maintained their independence until 584, when the Visigothic King Leovigild, invaded the Suebic kingdom and finally defeated it, bringing it under Visigoth control.

Richard Fletcher (Fletcher 1984) points out that in Late Antiquity Galicia was still very much a part of the Roman and Mediterranean world. He instances the Galician nun Egeria's account of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 381–4 and the journey of the young Idatius, though living "at the uttermost limit of the world", who had met Jerome in the East; his chronicle shows that he remained aware of the affairs of the eastern Mediterranean and refers to travellers from the east coming to Galicia. As bishop Idatius travelled to Gaul on an embassy to Aetius, 431–2. Miro, king of the Suevi, had diplomatic relations with fellow barbarian kings in Neustria and Burgundy, but also with the emperors in Constantinople. Martin of Braga the distinguished 6th century bishop, was a native of Pannonia. The Visigothic king Leovigild impounded the ships of Gaulish merchants in Galicia. At Lorenzana, the fine sarcophagus that received at a later date the mortal remains of count Osorio Gutiérrez,was probably an import from southern Gaul in the 7th century, Fletcher notes. And one of the coins in the Bordeaux hoard deposited about 700 was struck at a Galician mint, suggesting possible trade connections.

Visigothic Kingdom

With the Catholicization of the Visigothic kings, the Catholic bishops increased in power, until, at the synod held at Toledo in 633, they took upon themselves the nobles' right to select a king from among the royal family.

Rodrigo,the last elected king, was betrayed by Julian, count of Ceuta, who called for the Umayyad Muslims (or Moors) to enter Hispania. During the battle of Guadalete in 711, king Rodrigo lost his life. His left wing turned against him, as it was led by bishop Oppas, a collaborator with the Moors and a member of a rival royal faction. By the end of the battle the whole kingdom fell, and the throne was left empty, for the Moors did not allow the Oppas’ faction to regain it. One of the few survivors was Pelayo, a noble in charge of the royal guard ("Comes Spatharius").

The kingdom of Asturias and Moorish Iberia

:"Main articles: Kingdom of Asturias, Al-Andalus."This marked the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Hispania in which most of peninsula came under Islamic rule by 718. The Moorish advance was aided by the native population. This rapid conquest can be understood as a continuation of the civil wars that had afflicted the peninsula for centuries, as well as the Moors following the Islamic command to gain converts by force.

Pelayo is credited with beginning the Christian "Reconquista" of Iberia in 718, when he defeated the Umayyads in the Battle of Covadonga, and established the Kingdom of Asturias in the northern part of the peninsula.

The north of Iberia (the former duchy of Gallaecia) even if conquered, were not the most ideal place for the Moors, who just sent a military force and collected taxes, and as with the Romans, not bothering the Astures and Cantabri. But by the late 710’s Al-Andalus suffered of revolts. The Berbers did not like the lands they were given and were repressed by the emiral forces in several battles until the rebellion stopped, but then the Berbers turned against the Astures, claiming higher taxes and setting punishment patrols against their villages. This forced the Astures to start a guerrilla war. During the Moorish invasion of Spain, the Moors briefly occupied Galicia until they were driven out in 739 by Alfonso I of Asturias. The kingdom was known as Kingdom of Asturias until 924, when it became the Kingdom of León.


During the ninth and tenth centuries, the counts of Galicia owed fluctuating obedience to their nominal sovereign, and Normans/Vikings occasionally raided the coasts. The Towers of Catoira [http://www.catoira.net See "Catoira History" "(in Spanish)"] (Pontevedra) were built as a system of fortifications to stop Viking raids of Santiago de Compostela.

Constant rivalry between the Kingdom of León and the Kingdom of Castile opened rifts that could be exploited by outsiders, and Sancho III "the Great" of Navarre (1004–1035) absorbed Castile in the 1020s, and added León in the last year of his life, leaving Galicia to temporary independence. In the division of lands which followed his death, his son Fernando succeeded to the county of Castile. Two years later, in 1037, he conquered León and Galicia. In 1065, Ferdinand I of Castile and León divided his kingdom among his sons. Galicia was allotted to Garcia II of Galicia.

Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal

The Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal was formed in 1065 after the County of Portugal declared independence following the death of Ferdinand I of León of Castile-Leon. The Count of Portugal, Nuno Mendes, took advantage of the internal tension caused by the civil war between Ferdinand's sons to finally break off and declare himself an independent ruler. However, in 1071 king Garcia II defeated and killed him at the battle of Pedroso, and annexed his territory, adding the title of "King of Portugal" to his previous ones. In 1072, King Garcia II himself was defeated by his brother Sancho II of Castile and fled. In that same year, after Sancho's murder Alfonso VI became king of Castile and León; he imprisoned Garcia for life, proclaiming himself "King of Galicia and Portugal" as well, thus reuniting his father's realm. From that time Galicia remained part of the kingdom of Castile and León, although under differing degrees of self-government.

In 1095, Portugal separated almost definitely from the Kingdom of Galicia, both under the rule of the Kingdom of León, just like Castile (Burgos). Its territories consisting largely of mountain, moorland and forest, were bounded on the north by the Minho, on the south by the Mondego.

antiago and Galicia

The translation of Saint James relics to Galicia in the northwest of Iberia was affected, in legend, by a series of miraculous happenings: decapitated in Jerusalem with a sword by Herod Agrippa himself, his body was taken up by angels, and sailed in a rudderless, unattended boat to Iria Flavia in Spain, where a massive rock closed around his relics at Compostela. The "Historia Compostellana" provides a summary of the legend of St. James as it was believed at Compostela in the 12th century. Two propositions are central to it: first, that St. James preached the gospel in Spain as well as in the Holy Land; second, that after his martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa I his disciples carried his body by sea to Spain, where they landed at Padrón on the coast of Galicia, and took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela.

An even later tradition states that he miraculously appeared to fight for the Christian army during the battle of Clavijo during the Reconquista, and was henceforth called "Matamoros" (Moor-slayer). "Santiago y cierra España" ("St James and strike for Spain") has been the traditional battle cry of Spanish armies.

:"St. James the Moorslayer, one of the most valiant saints and knights the world ever had … has been given by God to Spain for its patron and protection."
— Cervantes, "Don Quixote".

The possibility that a cult of James was instituted to supplant the Galician cult of Priscillian (executed in 385) who was widely venerated across the north of Spain as a martyr to the bishops rather than as a heretic should not be overlooked.

Modern Age

Contemporary Galicia

Galician nationalist and federalist movements arose in the nineteenth century, and after the Second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931, Galicia became an autonomous region following a referendum.

Socialists and anarchists attempted a coup d'état on 6 October 1934 in Asturias and Catalonia. That day Catalan politician Lluís Companys i Jover proclaimed Catalonia a free and independent republic. Miners in Asturias revolted, occupying Oviedo, leading to the death of about 40 people. The attempt of rebels to seize the government offices in Madrid was defeated and it's been thought that the most severe fighting occurred in Catalonia and Galicia. By the middle of October, however, the revolt had been completely suppressed by General Francisco Franco. This uprising and its suppression divided the nation.

During the 1936–75 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, a Galician from Ferrol, Galicia's autonomy statute was annulled (as were those of Catalonia and the Basque provinces). The Franco regime also suppressed any official promotion of the Galician language (although its everyday use was never proscribed). During the last decade of Franco's rule, there was a renewal of nationalist sentiment in Galicia.

Following the transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975, Galicia regained its status as an autonomous region within Spain. Varying degrees of nationalist or separatist sentiment are evident at the political level. The only nationalist party of any electoral significance, the "Bloque Nacionalista Galego" or BNG, advocates greater autonomy from the Spanish state, and the preservation of Galician heritage and culture. Other factions advocate total independence from Spain, while some smaller groupings aspire to integrate with Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking world. However, the nationalist parties have hitherto obtained only minority electoral support at election time.

From 1990 to 2005, the region's government and parliament, the Xunta de Galicia was presided over by the "Partido Popular" ('People's Party', Spain's main national conservative party) under Manuel Fraga, a former minister and ambassador under the Franco regime. However, in the 2005 Galician elections, the People's Party lost its overall majority, while just remaining the largest party in the parliament.

In the event, power passed to a coalition between the "Partido Socialista de Galicia" (PSdeG) ('Galician Socialist Party'), a regional sister-party of Spain's main socialist party, the "Partido Socialista Obrero Español" ('Spanish Socialist Workers Party') and the BNG. As the senior partner in the new coalition, the PSdeG nominated its leader, Emilio Perez Touriño, to serve as Galicia's new president.

ee also

* Timeline of Galician History
* Suebi


*R. A. Fletcher, 1984. "Saint James's Catapult: The Life and Times of Diego Gelmírez of Santiago de Compostela" (Oxford University Press). Chapter 1 "Galicia" offers a brief synopsis of sub-Roman Galicia to the 11th century. ( [http://libro.uca.edu/sjc/sjc1.htm on-line text] )

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