History Salamanca

Salamanca was populated by Celtiberian tribes in IV century B.C. Later, its strategic situation made it object of conquest by Hannibal and Carthaginians. Soon later it was Romanized and annexed to Lusitanian province, a time of great development because it was an important communication nod in the Silver Way, a road who crosses north-south the peninsular west. Greek historians referred to it as Helmantike, and later Salamantica but it wasn't until the XIIIth century that it became known as Salamanca. Its Christianization took place before year 600 AD by the Visigoths, and the Moors conquered the city one hundred and twenty years later. King Alfonso VI reconquered those lands definitively and in 1096 he ordered their colonization to his son-in-law, count Raymond of Burgundy. The repopulation of the territory took place by Castilian, Portuguese, Galician, Jewish, French and Mozarabic settlers.

An important date in Salamanca History was 1218, when King Alfonso IX founded the General Study, precursor of the University of Salamanca. Its development grew a large extent to the favors of Fernando Santo and Alfonso X "The Wise", who gives the name of university to the former General Study. In 1254 Pope Alexander IV called the University of Salamanca "one of the four leading lights of the world" (along with the universities of Oxford, Paris and Bologna). The visit of Christopher Columbus to Salamanca and his protection by Dominican priests, of the San Esteban convent, give him endorsements in the presence of Queen Isabel, which in the end produced the Discovery of America. Those years at the end of XVth century became the times of the catholic theology of the Counterreform, represented by the Trento Council against Protestants.

The University of Salamanca has spawned numerous famous personalities including Fray Luis de Leon, a forward-thinking Renaissance scholar of the late XVIth century. His ideas prompted his fellow professors to turn him over to the Inquisition and he was imprisoned for several years. He returned to the same classroom the same day he was released from prison and resumed his lecture with these famous words: "As we were saying yesterday”. Emperor Felipe II married with his first wife, Maria of Portugal, in Salamanca in 1543. Later Salamanca took part in the Succession War in favor of Felipe V, who later decided to build the Plaza Mayor in 1710 in gratification. The time of greater suffering for Salamanca was XIXth century, during the Peninsular War. From 1808 to 1811, Salamanca was a terrible battleground between armies that disputed the hegemony of Europe. Finally, in 1811, in the battle of Arapiles, near the city, Wellington defeated the Napoleonic army in a decisive fight. But the consequences were irreversible, as numerous art works were plundered and destructed. Salamanca presence in XXth century is mainly centered in the cultural and literary life around the University of Salamanca. The presence there of important men as Miguel de Unamuno or Gonzalo Torrente Ballester contributed to the prestige of this institution, and the city of Salamanca itself. In the dawn of XXIst century, the town was named European Capital of the Culture, which provided in 2002 a new impulse to this dynamic and cosmopolitan city.

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