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Friday, 18 July 2014

A History of Gibraltar

One of the famous locals
I've been in Gibraltar for the last two weeks so I thought I'll write about this little peninsular on the tip of Spain overlooking Morocco. As a first all the pictures shown on this post I took so sorry in advance.
The Gibraltar Rock from Spain
History pre-1309- What we now recognise as the above limestone rock formation on the peninsular came about 5 million years ago when the Strait of Gibraltar was formed when the Atlantic Ocean broke through the Strait forming the Mediterranean but the Rock itself was formed by millions of years worth of weathering and deposition of limestone. The first humans to live in Gibraltar was not our species but in fact Neanderthals with the first Neanderthal skull dating from 50,000 years ago being discovered in 1848. It is thought that the Neanderthals found in Gibraltar were one of the last remaining populaces of the species with evidence of them living in the Rock's caves until around 24,000 at the latest. Our species then occupied the strait after the Neanderthals passed away with the Almerian people living there but little is found of habitation inside the Rock after the Bronze Age when agriculture became popular. The Romans, Carthaginians, Greeks and Egyptians all regarded the Rock with some sort of symbolic importance with Egyptian scarabs and jewelry being found where they left offering to the Gods asking for safe passage and the Greeks having one of the Pillars of Heracles during his supposed tenth labour being placed at the Rock, (now enshrined by a memorial which a taxi blocked my view of). In 67 BCE Pompey put the area as his main base as he fought pirates in the Mediterranean and later became under the rule of Christian Visigoths where it had been abandoned after the Vandals sacked nearby Carteia in 409 CE. In 711 a Berber army under the control of Tariq ibn Ziyad captured Gibraltar and the Rock was named Jebel Tariq, Tariq's Mount. Here Tariq built the famous Moorish castle until he was replaced and in 1309 the First Siege of Gibraltar took place where a coalition of Aragon and Castile captured Gibraltar.
The Moorish Castle today
1309-1462- The Castilans captured Gibraltar in 1309 but merely six years later Granada, (the Islamic nation in Southern Spain), tried to retake Gibraltar which was beaten back. In 1333 the Sultans of Fez (Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman) and Granada (Muhammad IV), laid siege to Gibraltar but the King of Castile Alfonso XI failed to raise an army and the city was captured. Abu al-Hasan rebuilt the Moorish Castle which Arab chroniclers described as 'strong walls as a halo surrounds a crescent moon'. Starting from 1339 after Abu al-Hasan's death Castile tried to retake Gibraltar as apart of the Reconquista with Castile finally capturing Spain in 1462.

Spanish rule and the War of Spanish Succession- After Granada was conquered in 1492 the Spanish crown forced the Moors to either convert or leave while forcing all of Gibraltar's Jews to leave also. In 1501 the Spanish Queen Isabella issued a new set of royal arms to Gibraltar after remaking it a crown possession; the arms still being used today. Despite this as Granada no longer existed Gibraltar started going into decline as it lost its strategic value, especially after Marbella replaced it as the regions main port and Gibraltar came under siege during many wars after such as in 1607 by the Dutch but it was fortified after it was fought that England would siege the area but instead they attacked Cadiz which failed spectacularly and almost hysterically as the siege was lifted after four days when the English looted wine and got rip-roaring drunk while achieving nothing, (when empire building or boozing I can see their preference) . In 1704 the War of Spanish Succession broke out a coalition between a Dutch-English navy under the Duke of Marlborough captured Gibraltar. Under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 Gibraltar was seceded to the newly formed Britain alongside Minorca.
A picture of the Duke of Marlborough at the start of the Great Siege Tunnels
British rule- The British immediately started refortifying Gibraltar with it being Britain's only possession in the area. It went under siege when Spain declared war to retake it and in 1729 the Treaty of Seville briefly solidified Britain's rule over the area. When Spain and France entered the American War for Independence of the side of the US the Great Siege started on the 24th June 1779 and lasted until 7th February 1783. It was the longest siege ever done including the British armed forces and one of the longest in history with it only being lifted after peace was established in a treaty. Constantly it was battered by floating French batteries and Spanish cannons. During the Peninsular Campaign it was the main supply point for the British and was one of the first areas to know about the British victory in the Battle of Trafalgar before even The Times newspaper. When Franco took power in 1939 it forced the government to fortify the area in preparation for an invasion or possible alliance with the Axis powers. During the War Gibraltar was constantly bombed by Vichy French aircraft and the populace was evacuated to the UK, Jamaica, Canada and other safer British possessions. As apart of Operation Felix Hitler wanted Franco to enter the war and invade Gibraltar but Franco refused and Hitler abandoned the plan. Today there are many war memorials including the one below.
Post-war- After the war Gibraltar was rebuilt and its economy flourished. In 1967 Franco pushed for a referendum to return the place to Spain and when it was passed 12,138 voted to stay with the UK to 44 to join Spain. This caused Franco to block the border and called the city inhabitants 'pseudo-Gibraltarians'; the border being closed until his death in the seventies. Still tensions are still predominant between the Spanish and Gibraltarians. In 1988 the Provisional IRA targeted Gibraltar with a car bomb and it ended in controversy after the SAS shot all three PIRA members. As of the 1990s Gibraltar saw massive economic growth becoming a popular tourist destination with a new airport being built a million pound apartments by the sea. This even caused the city to be accepted into the UEFA league. The start of The Living Daylights was filmed on the Rock as well!

The Apes- Arguably the Rock's most famous inhabitants. Barbary Apes have lived on the Rock throughout its history, so much so that in legend it says if there are no apes left on the Rock that Gibraltar will cease to be British. This caused Churchill during the war to order the population to be replenished after their numbers grew few. Currently around 300 apes live on the Rock and are under the care of the military, (my stepdad had to look after them when he was in the Gibraltar regiment). How the apes got on the Rock in unknown with theories including the Moors introducing them or them crossing the land bridge before the formation of the Mediterranean, hence why they are also found in the Atlas Mountains.
One of the apes that I saw
 Saint Micheal's Cave- This is the largest of the 150 caves open to the public and is 300 metres ,(980ft), above sea level. It was formed by erosion of the limestone and has been found containing cave drawings of ibex from its neolithic residents. The main section is now an auditorium and often small concerts are held with it holding 100 people. Yearly the cave attracts 1,000,000 people.
A bad picture of the auditorium that I took
Thanks for reading and please comment
The flags of the EU, UK and Gibraltar

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