Wednesday, February 08, 2006


1.Pre-Roman Peoples: Asturians, Vettons and Vaccei.

There were three main peoples settled in the lands where the Kingdom of Leon will appear one thousand years later.

  • The Asturians, who belonged to the North´s Peoples with the Galaecians and the Cantabrians. They occupied the most part of the actual Provinces of Asturias, Leon and Zamora. They had very primitive economic structures, and were collectivists. The Asturians were a matriarchy in several ways, and today there are still remains of this in the rural areas. Edward Gibbon said: “Of the native barbarians, the Celtiberians were the most powerful, as the Cantabrians and Asturians proved the most obstinate. Confident in the strength of their mountains, they were the last who submitted to the arms of Rome, and the first who threw off the yoke of the Arabs”. The Asturians were seated to both sides of the Cantabric Mountain Chain up to the River Duero, and they received their name from the River Astura (currently River Esla, in the Provinces of Leon and Zamora). In the Middle Ages, this name of the river became “Estula”, then “Estola”, and, finally, “Esla”. Ironically, nowadays only the North part of this Asturian land receives the name of “Asturias”. The Asturians were divided by the Cantabric Mountain Chain in Transmontane Asturians (actual Province of Asturias) and Augustan Asturians (actual Province of Leon, and the North half of Zamora).
  • The Vettons, related with the Lusitanians and Vaccei, had a very primitive pastoral structure. During the celtiberization process they began to build fortified towns endowed with moats, walls and towers called “castros, and they began to cremate their deads. One of the artistic manifestations of the vettones are the “verracos”, sculptures of bulls and pigs, and even in some occasions, boars, that were spread by all their territory. Their borders are bad known, but a part of the Vettons lived in the actual Province of Salamanca. Their main settlements in the future Kingdom of Leon were Helmantica (today the city of Salamanca), Bletisa (Ledesma), and Mirobriga (Ciudad Rodrigo). It´s thought that they had contacs with the Phoenicians.

  • To the East, the Vaccei occupied the central part of the North Plateau (the "Tierra de Campos", that means "Land of Fields"). Although strongly “celtiberized”, they maintained an agrarian economy of communal type, corresponding to an archaic although more evolved Indo-European basis than the most western socioeconomic structures. In the actual Province of Leon, there was a settlement of Vaccei called Viminatium ("Terradillos" at present); and in Zamora they lived in Oceloduri (close to the city of Zamora), and Intercatia (Villanueva del Campo). Their houses were rounded. It seems that this people were attacked periodically by the Asturians, who hadn't a good agriculture and suffered hunger periods. It's said that the Vaccei subjugated to the Vettons: so, Helmantica (Salamanca at the present time) sometimes is mentioned like Vetton and sometimes like Vaccei. Only a portion of the land of this Pre-Roman people will be a part of the main Kingdom of Leon.
There were more peoples in small places of the future Kingdom of Leon, as the Cantabrians (in the North-East corner of the Province of Leon), and the Lusitanians (South-West corner of Salamanca), but we will focus on the Asturians, because their land will be the first resistence center against the Arabs, and will give rise to the Kingdom of Asturias, and then to the Kingdom of Leon.

Pre-Roman Peoples in the North West of the Iberian Peninsula. The borders are very doubtful in most cases.The red arrows represent the attacks from one people to another. The white shape is the shape of the actual Kingdom of Leon. Author: R.Chao 2006


"Leon" can mean four different things, and it could be misleading:
  1. Leon city: it was the Kingdom´s capital
  2. Province of Leon: it was created in the year 1833.
  3. Kingdom of Leon (then "Region of Leon"); at the beginning it was made up by the actual provinces of Asturias, Leon, Zamora and Salamanca, but Asturias was segregated in the 15th century.
  4. Crown of Leon. In Spanish, a "Crown" is a group of kingdoms. The Leonese Crown was compounded of the whole Kingdom of Leon, plus Extremadura (Caceres, Badajoz and Huelva), Castile, Toledo and Galicia. Twice Castile won its independence (1065-1072, and 1157-1230), and the second time it created its own Crown with Toledo.
Don´t worry: I will always try to use the word "Leon" in an adecuate context.


The three actual Provinces that make up the Leonese Kingdom. Nowadays, they are included in the Castile and Leon Autonomous Community, and, for the first time in Spanish History, they haven´t administrative representation .

Location of the Kingdom of Leon inside the Iberian Peninsula

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Welcome. This blog is intended to spread in English the history of the Kingdom of Leon, that was without a doubt the most important Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula in the High Middle Ages (11th, 12th and 13th centuries) until the year 1230. The Spanish word "Leon" means "lion" in English; the kingdom had this name because it was the name of its capital city. Leon was founded by the Romans with the name of the legion that settled down there; the Legio VII Gemina. Advancing the time, the word "Legio" resulted in "Leo", and from "Legionis civitas" it passed to be called "Leonis civitas": there are early examples of this transformation in the 10th century. The Leonese kings adopted the lion as the symbol of their realm because this confussion between the words "legio" and "leo" ("lion" in Latin).
But I will give you many more details in the next articles I will write in this blog. So you always will be welcome here. Enjoy the history of the Kingdom of Leon (the Lion´s Kingdom, as Narnia)