The history of Spain is as rich, colorful, and diverse as any country in the world. The history of Spanish people is a mixture of the Roman, Moslem, Greek, Phoenician, and North African people that have, at one time or another throughout history, called the Iberian Peninsula home. With access to both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, present-day Spain (which shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal) was a vital trading link and entry point into both northern Africa and Southern Europe. The history of Spain has been influenced tremendously by this cross current of ethnicities and religions.
A prime example of how the mixing of races and ideas has influenced the culture of Spain is the history of bullfighting in Spain. The Greeks and Phoenicians first brought bullfighting to the Iberian Peninsula; eventually the contests became fully developed and woven into the history of Spain. The history of bullfighting in Spain is a reflection of the different peoples who inhabited the Iberian Peninsula. When the Moors from North Africa overran Andalusia around AD 711 they changed the rough form of bullfighting practiced by the Visigoths into a ritualistic event practiced on feast days. It was the Moors that first mounted trained horses (a tradition still practiced in modern bullfights) to confront and kill the bulls.
As the history of bullfighting in Spain progressed, men on foot aided the horsemen by positioning the bulls with skilled cape. These men grew more popular and garnered more attention from spectators and the modern bullfight or corrida began to take form. From the Ventas Plaza in Madrid, the largest bullfighting arena in the country, to a dusty swath of farm land in the most remote village, the culture of Spain today is linked to the modern bullfight.
The culture and history of Spain has been influenced not only by those whom conquered and fought for control of the Iberian Peninsula, but by the artists who flourished during the golden age (El Greco, Diego Velasquez) as well as the more recent of the twentieth-century masters (Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro).
In addition to the visual arts, the culture and history of Spain has many musical notes as well. In 1790, when a sixth string was added to the Moorish lute, the modern-day guitar was born. The present-day culture of Spain is also deeply rooted in the art of the dance. Gitanos, or gypsies, of the Andalucia region were the first to dance the passionate flamenco.
The modern culture of Spain draws heavily on its historical past, and from the biggest arenas and dance halls to the smallest farm yards and bars, the bullfight and the flamenco are still practiced with as much passion and immediacy as they were three hundred years ago.