Table of Content | Introduction | Freedom | Faith and War | Where We Come From... | Imprint



Where We Come From...

The Last Days of Numantia in the Year 133 BC

The Celtiberian city of Numantia (near the present Soria in Castile-León) was finally captured in the year 133 BC by the troops of the victorious Roman general Scipio Aemilianus. For fourteen years the inhabitants had been able to withstand Roman attempts to take the city. When the situation became unbearable after a long siege, the Numantians, after a final unsuccessful attempt to break through Scipio’s ring of ramparts surrounding the city, decided against capitulation and for collective suicide. They set fire to their houses, stabbed or poisoned themselves, and left nothing but smoking ruins to the victors.

Two thousand years later this act of desperation was interpreted in 19th century Spain as an expression of the noble pride, intrepid courage and unconditional love of freedom of their »ancestors«. The inhabitants of Numantia were seen as the »first Spanish«, since the characteristics described were considered typical traits of the Spanish national character. As of the 1830s historians construed a connection between the heroic death of the Numantians and the Spanish struggle for independence against Napoleon - not unlike Germany, where they drew parallels between the battle against Varus at the Teutoburg Forest and the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig.

Alejo Vera y Estaca’s picture »Numantia« took first prize at the national exhibition of the fine arts in Madrid, in 1880. He not only depicted death and destruction, but also the horror of the Romans (on the right in the picture), who stand aghast, unable to comprehend the sacrifice of their enemies.


Faith and War

Don Pelayo and the Battle of Covadonga, 718

The Surrender of Granada, 1492

For 19th century Spain the supremacy of the Moors was not only a political but also a religious threat. The memory of the Muslim rule of the Moors had a special place in the historiography and national consciousness of Spain.

22.jpg (20223 Byte)The Moors invaded Spain in 711 and quickly spread their rule across the entire Iberian peninsula. Resistance began to stir in northern Spain under the leadership of the Gothic prince Pelayo. When the Muslim governor of Cordoba sent forces to the north in 718, Pelayo's troops apparently lured the Moors into an ambush and defeated them. There is no historical document to verify this incident, but it was often related and painted in the 19th century. The illustrations show Don Pelayo specifically as a Christian hero. In the painting by Luis Madrazo y Kuntz he is portrayed leaning on a cross while he speaks to his people, and a Christian church was built at the site of the victory.

The Moors stayed in Spain for more than 700 years. Their last bastion fell in 1492 when the combined armies of Castile and Aragon took Granada. The rulers, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, had united the two largest kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula through marriage in 1469. The final victory over the Moors reinstated the territorial unity of Spain. For contemporaries as well as later for historians the need was felt to pay tribute not only to the political and military successes, but also to the victory of Christianity over Islam. This is also reflected in the honorary title of »Catholic Kings« given to Ferdinand and Isabella by Pope Alexander VI.

The Spanish victory is usually depicted at the moment when Granada is handed over by the Moors. The royal couple with their entourage dominate the scene. The Moorish prince approaches to present them with the keys to the city.



The »Dos de Mayo« in Madrid, 1808

In 19th century Spain the six-year War of Independence against the superior forces of France was considered a key event in Spanish history. What was to become anchored in Spanish national consciousness as the myth of the heroic urge for freedom began on the morning of the »Dos de Mayo«, the 2nd of May 1808.

On that morning Napoleon had ordered the evacuation of the remaining relatives and entourage of the Spanish king, who had been forced to abdicate, from Madrid. But then the silent protest of the onlookers suddenly exploded into an upheaval that gripped the entire city. The fighting finally came to a head in the »Artillery Park«, the former Parque de Monteleon, where the rebels tried to procure arms. Acting against orders from the governing junta, two artillery officers, Pedro Velarde and Luis Daoiz, together with some 40 soldiers rushed to their assistance.

The uprising of the Madrid inhabitants was brutally crushed that very day. Among the victims were the two officers, whose sacrifice for freedom and national independence was celebrated in the popular painting »The Death of Daoiz and the Defence of Monteleon Park« by Manuel Castellano from 1862. In contrast to Castellano, Francisco de Goya captured his wartime experience in his engravings - but not in order to glorify the Spanish War of Independence, but to condemn the horrors and atrocities of war.


Table of Content | Introduction | Freedom | Faith and War | Where We Come From... | Imprint

HomePage Mail Imprint Guestbook