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The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (Complete)

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
For several hundred years after the great Saracen invasion in the beginning of the eighth century, Spain was broken up into a number of small but independent states, divided in their interests, and often in deadly hostility with one another. It was inhabited by races, the most dissimilar in their origin, religion, and government, the least important of which has exerted a sensible influence on the character and institutions of its present inhabitants. At the close of the fifteenth century, these various races were blended into one great nation, under one common rule. Its territorial limits were widely extended by discovery and conquest. Its domestic institutions, and even its literature, were moulded into the form, which, to a considerable extent, they have maintained to the present day. It is the object of the present narrative to exhibit the period in which these momentous results were effected,—the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the number of states, into which the country had been divided, was reduced to four; Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and the Moorish kingdom of Granada. The last, comprised within nearly the same limits as the modern province of that name, was all that remained to the Moslems of their once vast possessions in the Peninsula. Its concentrated population gave it a degree of strength altogether disproportioned to the extent of its territory; and the profuse magnificence of its court, which rivalled that of the ancient caliphs, was supported by the labors of a sober, industrious people, under whom agriculture and several of the mechanic arts had reached a degree of excellence, probably unequalled in any other part of Europe during the Middle Ages. The little kingdom of Navarre, embosomed within the Pyrenees, had often attracted the avarice of neighboring and more powerful states. But, since their selfish schemes operated as a mutual check upon each other, Navarre still continued to maintain her independence, when all the smaller states in the Peninsula had been absorbed in the gradually increasing dominion of Castile and Aragon. This latter kingdom comprehended the province of that name, together with Catalonia and Valencia. Under its auspicious climate and free political institutions, its inhabitants displayed an uncommon share of intellectual and moral energy. Its long line of coast opened the way to an extensive and flourishing commerce; and its enterprising navy indemnified the nation for the scantiness of its territory at home, by the important foreign conquests of Sardinia, Sicily, Naples, and the Balearic Isles. The remaining provinces of Leon, Biscay, the Asturias, Galicia, Old and New Castile, Estremadura, Murcia, and Andalusia, fell to the crown of Castile, which, thus extending its sway over an unbroken line of country from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, seemed by the magnitude, of its territory, as well as by its antiquity, (for it was there that the old Gothic monarchy may be said to have first revived after the great Saracen invasion,) to be entitled to a pre-eminence over the other states of the Peninsula. This claim, indeed, appears to have been recognized at an early period of her history. Aragon did homage to Castile for her territory on the western bank of the Ebro, until the twelfth century, as did Navarre, Portugal, and, at a later period, the Moorish kingdom of Granada. And, when at length the various states of Spain were consolidated into one monarchy, the capital of Castile became the capital of the new empire, and her language the language of the court and of literature.