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Guide to Salamanca

About Salamanca

Salamanca is a spectacular Castillian university city with an ancient history stretching back to Roman times. When the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula the area that would later become Salamanca was inhabited by the Vaccaei and Vettones, Celtic peoples. To defend the land to which they'd laid stake from the indigenous peoples the Romans constructed two fortresses, Ocelo Durii and Salmantica, the latter of which would ultimately grow in importance, turning into a key waypoint and commercial enclave. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire it was briefly occupied by the Alans (ancestors of the modern day Ossetians) before being annexed by the Visigoths. In 712, with the Muslim occupation of al-Andalus, the city was conquered by Yemeni General Musa ibn Nusair, known in Spanish folklore as Muza. Grammatica Antonio de Nebrija As the area marked the border between Caliphate-dominated al-Andalus and the northern Christian kingdoms it turned into a battleground and became severely depopulated. Following the capture of Toledo by the Christians during the Reconquista, it was flagged for repopulation by King Alfonso VI of Asturias. In 1102 his brother-in-law, Raimundo de Borgoña, headed to Salamanca accompanied by a motley army of settlers that included Franks, mountain peoples, Castilians, Portuguese, Mozarabes, Toresanos, Jews and Galicians. Each group of settlers founded their own neighbourhood and religious institutions. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Salamanca was restored. Near the cathedral some schools were opened; the nascent seed of the highly prestigious University of Salamanca. King Alfonso X, nicknamed el sabio (The Sage), declared it a University with the endorsement of Pope Alexander IV.

Salamanca University

This city has also had a profound impact on Western history. The University of Salamanca became the most renowned in the Western world and in the 16th century was at the cutting edge of Western thinking. The first scientific study of a non-Latin Western European language was the Grammatica de la lengua castellana by Antonio Nebrija in 1492, who was also the first author in the Western world to lay claim to a copyright. It is particularly famous for its philosophical innovations and for housing a vocal intellectual minority which consistently and strongly opposed the conquest of America and advocated for the equal human rights and freedoms of the peoples who already lived there, an argument unprecedented in Europe at the time. The King at the time was unpleased by these dissenting voices which seemed to imply that the Spanish Empire had no inherent right to keep the land they had found, and sought to have them silenced. Among this vocal minority we find Bartolomé de las Casas, whose many historical testimonies on the treatment of Native Americans from a critical perspective shed light onto the events of the period. Among the School of Salmanca's many revolutionary (for the time) ideas were that of the right of freedom of movement and travel for all people, goods and ideas or that morality and divinity were separate concepts.

Modern Salamanca is still famous for its university culture. It is home to some 155,000 inhabitants of which 32,000 are university students. To this day Salamanca has one of the higest proportions of foreign students in Spain and an enduring reputation for academic excellence all around the world. Salamanca was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1988.

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