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Origins of the Kingdom

Prehistory

Confirmation of the first settlements in Navarre is provided by the Lower Palaeolithic remains (600,000 BC to 40.000 BC) found in Coscobillo, Urbasa, Estella, Lezáun, Lumbier and Viana. Later on, Neolithic culture converts the hunters into farmers and shepherds, and the Bronze Age means dolmens and flint workings spring up all over the pasturelands; at this time, megalithic constructions appear throughout the land, from Viana, Cirauqui and Artajona, to the mountain ranges of Urbasa and Aralar, reaching as far as the towering Pyrenean peaks.

The Iron Age teaches the primitive Basque inhabitants new techniques and ways of life brought by the Celts and Celtiberians from Central Europe.

Romanisation

Rome’s presence is weak in the saltus vasconum or northern and forested area –the Mountains–, where the autochthonous Basque language prevails, and cultural exchange is minimal; on the other hand, as of the 2nd century AD, Roman influence becomes more consolidated in the ager vasconum, the middle area, which is more accessible and has greater natural resources. Within the saltus, in 75 AD, Pompey occupies Iruña, the main Basque city, where he founds the Roman city named after him, Pamplona.

With the decline of the Roman Empire, the Basque tribes recover their influence over the Roman ager, extending it furthermore to include neighbouring areas. At the same time, they defend themselves against military incursions by the Visigoth monarchs, who seek to consolidate their political influence in the north of the peninsula. These same Basques also oppose the presence of the Franks, who threaten their independence from the northern slopes of the Pyrenees. The Battle of Roncevaux against Charlemagne in 778 stalls the plans of the powerful Frankish monarch in this part of the Pyrenees.

The first Navarre dynasty

A new threat emerges with the arrival of the Moors, who manage to occupy the Ebro basin in 714. Nevertheless, the Moorish presence is weak, as it will fail to take hold either politically or socially. There soon arises a Christian core in opposition to the Moors, which by the 9th century will end up politically transforming the autochthonous dynasty of the Íñigos into the first Navarre dynasty.

It will be succeeded by the Jimenos, politically more consolidated. Sancho Garcés (905-925), the dynasty’s first monarch, embraces a committed policy of territorial expansion against the Moors, whereby he forms alliances with the other Christian kingdoms. Despite the advances made by Sancho Garcés, who occupies the district of Estella, fords the Ebro and reaches Nájera and Calahorra (914), the Moorish presence will remain in the Ribera for a further century, as Tudela will remain under Moorish control until the year 1119.

Government of Navarre

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