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Spain is a Western European country. The country consists of Peninsular Spain which is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, two archipelagos, one in each sea, and two autonomous cities in North Africa.

The Spanish mainland is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south and east, by the Cantabric Sea that includes the Bay of Biscay to the north, and by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal to the west. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands off the African coast. It shares land borders with Portugal, France, Andorra, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, and Morocco. It is the largest of the three sovereign states that make up the Iberian Peninsula -- the others being Portugal and Andorra. With an area of 504,030 km?, Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe (behind France).

Spain is a constitutional monarchy organised as a parliamentary democracy, and has been a member of the European Union since 1986. It is a developed country with the ninth largest economy in the world and fifth largest in the EU, based on nominal GDP(Gross World Product).

History. Under the Roman empire Hispania flourished and became one of the empire's most important regions. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule. Later, nearly the entire peninsula came under Muslim rulers. Through a long process Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, which was finally extinguished in 1492. That year Columbus reached the Americas, the beginnings of the first global empire. Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe in the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries but continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. In the middle decades of the 20th century it came under a dictatorship, under which it went through many years of stagnation and then a spectacular economic revival. In 1986 it joined the European Union and has experienced an economic and cultural renaissance.

Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula from the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE. New archeological research at Atapuerca indicates that the Iberian Peninsula was peopled more than a million years ago.. Furthermore, archeological evidence in places like Los Millare in Almeria and in El Argar in Murcia suggest that developed cultures existed in the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula during the late Neolithic and the Bronze Age;these cultures may result from migrations from northern Africa.

The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive, culture was present, known as Celtiberian. Different names of places witness their geographical distribution. Celts founded military forts (from the Celt "briga" = fortress) that later evolved into cities such as Coimbra, Braga, and Segovia. The Iberians gave their name to Spain's longest river Ebro (or "Iberian river") and to cities such as Ilici (present-day Elche) and Ilerda (Lerida). In addition, Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountains, although some geographical names attest their presence as far south as Aranjuez, a name that originates in the Basque words aran zuri ("valley of thorns") and contemporary Basque aranzazu (thorn, thistle). Other ethnic groups existed along the southern coastal areas of present day Andalusia. Among these southern groups there grew the earliest urban culture in the Iberian Peninsula, that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BC) near the location of present-day Cadiz. The flourishing trade in gold and silver between the people of Tartessos and Phoenicians and Greeks is documented in the history of Strabo and in the biblical book of king Solomon. Between about 500 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks founded trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast. These colonies include present-day cities like Empuries (from the Greek word 'emporion') , Malaga (from the Phoenician word 'malaka' for salt, as fish was salted in the harbour) , and the city of Alicante, originally named in Greek Akra Leuka (ie, white bay). Phoenicians from the African city of Carthage (Carthaginians) briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans. Cartaginians created important cities in the Mediterranean litoral, including 'Cartago nova' or 'New Carthage' (present-day Cartagena) and a city in the northeast founded by Hannibal's father Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar named the city Barcino, after his family

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