This article is a continuation of an academic cultural analysis regarding one of the real-life parallels to the fictional faction of the Amarr Empire. In part one, I covered how the Amarr originated from Earth and discussed multiple points of note along with their historical timeline. To read part one, please click here. This article will be discussing the Spanish Timeline and the Reconquista.
The Iberian Peninsula has had a long history strife and warfare. Similar to the Amarr Empire in the first part of this series, there is a pre-history that dates back to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The first major power on the Iberian Peninsula after the Western Roman Empire collapsed was the Kingdom of the Visigoths. The remnants of the same Germanic tribe that had sacked the capital of their Imperial opponents, the Kingdom of the Visigoths lasted from 417AD-711AD. Although originally followers of Arian Christianity, King Reccared I officially converted the Visigoth Kingdom to Roman Catholicism in 589AD.
This became an interesting historical turning point, connecting the people of Hispania to Rome and forming a strong sense of religious unity. This single act created a precedent that would alter the course of the world.
Alas, the Visigoths were eventually driven out much of their homeland during the Umayyad Caliphate’s conquest of Hispania starting in 711AD. This invasion shattered the Visigoth Kingdom, leading to multiple Christian kingdoms that not only fought against the Moors (the term for Muslims hailing from North Africa) of the Caliphate but also amongst each other. It was not uncommon for alliances and wars to get incredibly complicated, blurring the lines that divided religion from politics.
The Reconquista itself
The concept of a “Reconquista”, while officially attributed to begin with the victory at Covadongo in 722AD, was actually a term created in the 19th century. Coined by Spanish historians to describe their history, the struggle between Christians and Muslims was regardless a central part of the culture in the latter-named period. Interestingly, the first known mention of any concept regarding the Christian and Muslim religious and cultural divide comes from the 9th century in the form of the document “Chronica Prophetica“. Over time, a concept of honor and prestige had become associated with the conflict, leading to many cities to be called “Matamoros” or “Killer of Moors”, emphasizing of the deep hatred towards the expansionists from Africa, who ironically they would later emulate. Specifically when it came to justifying slavery.
The famous Spanish Inquisition played an important role in establishing Spain’s mentality regarding itself and its place in the world. Initially, in the late 1470s, Crypto-Judaism (practiced by Jews who still practiced their own faith while professing to be of another) had become a major concern. Queen Isabella had been convinced by one of her clerical aids of a plot of rebellion from the conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity) specifically in the city of Seville. With the help of a Papal bull(decree), a professional Inquisition was established to help uproot heresy. The Inquisition had a twofold agenda: to solidify the absolute monarchy’s power and to establish Catholicism as an unchallenged power on the Iberian Peninsula. However, with the establishment of an Inquisitor in Barcelona in 1478 AD despite the protests of many nobles in the country, a financial crisis started to affect the Kingdom. With the threat of the Inquisition, the Jews who left—many of which were important merchants or administrators—took their wealth with them. J. H. Elliot’s book Imperial Spain goes into far more detail in this regard.
A turning point in the Reconquista was the discovery of the “Santiago de Compostela“, or the fabled tomb of St. James, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the historical accuracy of the claims, a cult formed around the tomb, adding legitimacy to the concept of “Deus Vult“(God wills it). The idea that God was on the side of the Christian Hispanic kingdoms became especially prevalent in their worldview. This discovery turned the mostly political wars up to that point into a command from God to unite and reclaim Iberia, purging all foreign influence. Over time, multiple kingdoms established themselves in the region. Eventually, all but Portugal became united by the 15th century. The Moors were finally conquered with the fall of the Emirate of Grenada on January 2, 1492, which established King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I as the monarchs of what would become modern Spain.
Regardless of your opinion on the man, Christopher Columbus was politically influential in Spain’s rise as a world power. In the same year that Grenada’s fall marked the end of the Reconquista, Columbus’s discovery of the new world marked the beginning of Imperial Spain. His discovery also rewrote the scientific world’s understanding of the earth. While people in Columbus’s time didn’t actually ascribe to the myth of a flat earth (as the Greeks had already mathematically proven the earth was a sphere), his discovery of a new unknown continent that was populated opened up the door for untapped riches to be exploited. I will cover the political and religious impact of this in the final article.
Expansion of the Empire
With Columbus’s discovery of the “West Indies”, the Pope settled a dispute between Spain and Portugal (who had grown to be the major superpowers at the time vying for territory) by dividing up the whole world with the Treaty of Tordesillas. As a result, a number of Conquistadors were sent to claim their portion of the New World. Multiple native civilizations were conquered by these warriors, the most famous of which being Hernán Cortés and his conquering of the Aztecs by 1521AD. These expeditions were also accompanied by priests, who set about preaching as soon as they were able. While these men thought that they were on a mission for God, their use of the “Requerimiento“, proved that many of them had convinced themselves they could satiate their greed at the same time. The Requerimiento essentially gave them justification to do whatever they wished should they meet resistance. It mattered not if the Natives were able to understand the conditions in their native tongue, let alone be present to hear them read.
While it is easy to think ill of conquerors and those who think differently than you, it is important to understand the world the Spanish lived in. They felt they had the moral responsibility to spread their faith to the world, and they felt threatened on all sides. Regardless of your personal beliefs, you cannot judge the past exactly by the standards of today. I present you this neither to condemn nor unduly praise, but to rather point out interesting similarities. With a basic understanding now hopefully establish, we can tie these two civilizations together with an expanded side-by-side comparison of the historical points. I can also further elaborate on the ideologies that make them so similar, and yet distinct. Stay tuned for part three!