History of Salamanca
The First Settlements
The first settlements in the province of Salamanca are estimated to date back to pre-historical times (1000-2000 b.c.) according to different archeologically findings in the area. Later the province was inhibited by Greeks and Carthaginians who also were the first to build a small village where the town of Salamanca is located today. The name of the town is supposed to have its origin from a famous Greek historian Salamntica who lived in the town.
When the Romans occupied the Iberian Peninsula (from 218 b.c.) the province of Salamanca was developed as an agricultural area. The Town became an important stop on the 'silver route' (Ruta de Plata), which ran from Mrida to Astorga. From the Roman period are still remaining the Roman bridge and part of the town wall.
In the 5th century when the Roman Empire started to fall the area around Salamanca was left over to different Iberian clans and was not like other parts of Spain under Visigoths domination.
During the Moorish period Salamanca didn't play an important role. Officially the town gave itself up to the Arabs in the year 712 but its position between the lines of the Arabs in the South and the Spanish kingdoms in the North made it an area with constant wars.
The Christian Period
In the beginning of the 12th century Ramn de Borgoa, son-in-law of Alfonso VI, with help from various groups (Portuguese and different Spanish clans) won back Salamanca. In a long period thereafter Salamanca was inhabited by different population groups, which all lived in there own community around their churches.
The next important event in the history of Salamanca occurred in 1218 when Alfonso IX declared Salamanca a university town. The University at that time consisted of four large academies and 30 smaller colleges and had a reputation throughout Europe as one of the most prestigious universities.
In the next centuries Salamanca grew in size and apart from small incidences with fights between rival groups at the end of the 15th century the town experienced a peaceful period.
Like in many other parts of Spain the 'Golden Age', in the beginning of the 16th century, was a period with expansions and splendour in Salamanca. This period was mainly financed by the gold coming in from the new continent and splendid buildings such as the 'Palacio de Monterrey' and the 'Casa de las Muertes' were constructed.
Not until 1808 when Napoleon enters Spanish territory the history of Salamanca experiences important changes. Although the French invasion only lasted for 4 years much of the towns cultural and artistic heritage was destructed and the university was almost closed down.
20th Century and Today
In the beginning of the 20th century Salamanca started to grow in size and the town was expanded outside the old town walls. In this period the infrastructure was improved as well to facilitate the communications with the south and with inhabitants living outside the town walls. Among the constructions made are the Enrique Estevans bridge and a number of roads.
Throughout the 30's Spain was dominated by political instability, which culminated with the Spanish civil war from 1936-39. The result of the civil war was that dictator General Franco took over the power of Spain and stayed in control to his dead in 1975.
In the end of the 70's started the big University boom in Salamanca. Whereas going to a university beforehand only had been for the upper class, it started to become available for the whole population. Although many new buildings were constructed to house the new students the traditional Salamanca architectural style was kept intact.
Today Salamanca, apart from being a tourist attraction and a university town, is also modern city. The nomination as European Cultural Capital for 2002 is a good example of Salamanca as a mixture between an old historical city and a modern town being able to attract and organize international events.