Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION: THE BACKGROUND OF THE LEONESE KINGDOM

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

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