Spain, which is presently a state that includes the Balearic and Canary Islands and is in southwestern Europe, was originally settled by the Iberians. In the first millennium BC, the Celts, who were from central Europe, invaded and began to mingle with the native Iberians. Later, Greeks and Carthaginians colonized the coasts; however, they were replaced by the Romans by the 3rd century BC.
Although it took numerous years for the Roman Empire to conquer all of the Iberian Peninsula, the Romans gained control of Spain after the Second Punic War, which was fought from 219 to 201 BC. The Celts and Iberians had formed a mixed culture in the central peninsula called the Celtiberians. These people interacted with the Romans and adapted Roman law, agriculture, architecture and engineering. Roman soldiers were pensioned in Spain and they intermarried with the local population to form a Hispano-Roman culture. Hispania, as the Romans called Spain, was a major source of manpower for the Roman army. In return, the Romans provided Spain with internal structure and stability and protected the Spanish from other external threats. Most importantly, the Romans introduced Christianity into Spain. By the 4th century, Spanish bishops began to play an important role in the development of the Church.
In 376, the Visigoths were pushed from their settlements between the Danube and Dneister rivers by the Huns. After they sacked and devastated Rome, the Visigoths migrated over the Pyrenees and conquered the Spanish peninsula. During the Visigothic period, Spanish Christianity developed and became strong enough to withstand the following centuries of Arab domination. The Visigoths were replaced by Arab Moors as the rulers of Spain after the Moor invasion of Spain in 711. The Muslim Empire in Spain became known as Al-Andalus.
Over the centuries, the Christian states in northern Spain grew and slowly began to re-conquer their former territories in the south of the country. By the 13th century, the only kingdom that the Muslim Empire controlled was Grenada. In 1492, the Spanish re-conquest of the peninsula was completed when the Arabs lost Granada to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
The Spanish Re-conquest of the peninsula freed the monarchs to look to the rest of the world and begin to build an empire of their own. In the same year that the re-conquest ended, Christopher Columbus discovered America in his attempt to find an ocean passage to the Orient. Adventurers and profiteers came to this new land in search of the riches it might yield. The Americas proved very profitable for the Spanish. Instead of the spices of the Orient, they had found silver and gold. As time passed and settlements were established in the New World, families came to Latin America to create new homes for themselves.