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The Roman conquest of the territory of Burgos took place slowly over the course of almost two centuries from 195 to 19 B.C. Little by little, Pre-Roman Hispanians were assimilated into the Roman model of political and territorial organization, and their cities became the centers of the different territorial districts that made up the Empire’s provincial mosaic. Of all the known Iron Age sites, Roa appears to have survived as a stop in the progressive conquest, while Clunia, capital of a large jurisdiction district or Legal Court, and Sasamón, a military camp that served as the base for the wars against the Cántabros, reached their historical zenith under the Romans.
Under Roman rule, the province of Burgos completely assimilated the political, economic, and cultural systems of its conquerors: municipal organization and the expansion of the urban network, law, currency, agricultural and artisan developments, the Latin language, building systems, public works – the most important of which included forums, theaters, baths, water supply systems and inter-urban roadways – artistic canons, religion – in short, everything that falls under the generic heading of classical culture, which nourished the inhabitants of the territory of Burgos once they had become fully Romanized. Remnants of that splendor have been conserved, below and above ground, in what were once the most important Roman cities – first Clunia, followed by Sasamón Villavieja de Muñó, Lara de los Infantes Tardajos, Poza de la Sal Roa Briviesca Monasterio de Rodilla, and Cerezo de Riotirón.
The Middle Ages
By the 4th century, this opulent, grandiose world began to show signs of weakening. First in the cities, as in the case of Clunia, and later in rural areas, where the lifestyle of the large mansions declined in the early decades of the 5th century. In 476, the Romans gave way to the Visigoths governed the entire territory of Hispania until 711 but were unable to prevent its general decline. Some material remnants of their presence of varying quality remain in our lands: ruins of fortifications – Tedeja, in Trespaderne – church foundations – Santa María de Mijangos– and above all, the head of the Santa María de Quintanilla de las Viñas church, a sublime example of the art in the dying years of the Visigoth kingdom.
The panorama did not improve with the Muslims, who dominated these lands for less than 30 years, from 714 to 742. Following this, they entrenched themselves to the south of the Central Mountain Range, while the Asturian kings on the coast and northern face of the Cantabrian mountain range temporarily held back from conquering the flatlands of the Duero and the southern valleys of the Cantabrian Range; these were left to their fate, which proved to be none other than general destruction.
With this as the panorama, when the first movements towards the recovery of sustained stable population and agriculture south of the Cantabrian Mountains were detected in the 9th century in northern Burgos, the general feeling was one of starting practically from scratch. And that is what they did. Just after the year 800, under the leadership of the warlords of the mountains, the territory of the valleys to the north of what is today the province of Burgos began to be reorganized, and would soon be given the expressive name of Castilla, from Latin Castella (=the castles).
In the year 860, the border had been extended south to the cliffs of Amaya and the hilltops of the Obarenes, where plans were made to occupy the spreading plains below. In a few decades, advancing valley by valley, the Castilian counts, always in connection, and generally in agreement with the Asturian monarchs, reached the line of the Duero in 912, strengthening their presence at Clunia, Peñaranda de Duero Roa, and Aza. During this advance, the corresponding line of fortifications was constructed in each valley to protect the rearguard of the agriculture and livestock installed in the villages sprang up as the conquest advanced.
An unexpected setback came when the Christians arrived at the Duero; the Islamic rulers in Córdoba were disquieted, and ceaselessly harassed the Duero line throughout the entire 10th century led by the caliph Adberramán III and the eminent warrior Almanzor. However, following the death of Almanzor in the early decades of the 11th century the warring impulses of Córdoba’s armies dissipated and the Christians immediately crossed the river to conquer the plateau flatlands south of the Duero. The process culminated in 1085 with the conquest of Toledo and the definitive shifting of the Christian-Muslim border to south of the Tajo.
Far from the Muslim threat, the region of Burgos began a spectacular rise in all areas of human activity: economic, demographic, social, cultural, political, and religious, which was personified by the successful escapades of Cid Campeador in the lands of Castilla, Zaragoza, and Levante in the second half of the 11th century. This century, followed in sequence by the 12th and 13th, was the first witness of this development it began with the expansion of crops and livestock and continued with the expansion of the population.
This was followed by the establishment social relations between lords and peasants that had a relatively stimulating effect on production, and was then reinforced by the importation of systems of religious life – the monastic lifestyle of the Benedictines – that had a renewing effect, and culminated with the elevation of Castilla to the category of kingdom (1037). This development was expressed in a series of wide-reaching artistic and cultural movements, such as the Romanesque in the 12th and 13th centuries – the monasteries of San Salvador de Oña, San Pedro de Arlanza, San Pedro de Cardeña, Santo Domingo de Silos--, the Cistercian (end of the 11th and start of the 13th centuries – monasteries of Las Huelgas de Burgos, Santa María de Bujedo de Juarros--) and the Gothic (13th century, Catedral de Burgos, Santa María de Sasamón, Santa María de Grijalba--).
Driven by this growth, the population consolidated itself and several especially developed cities sprang up, including the start of the city of Burgos, followed by others such as Belorado, Miranda de Ebro, Frías, Medina de Pomar, Lerma, Aranda de Duero, and Santa Gadea del Cid, which were helped by the Crown to affirm themselves as the economic leaders of the surrounding rural area. The Camino de Santiago also contributed to making the economy and culture of the Burgos area more dynamic, giving life to towns such as the aforementioned Belorado, Villafranca Montes de Oca, and Castrojeriz. At the same time, the policy of the recovery of the Castilla’s regional identity following the battle of Atapuerca (1054), the establishment of the Episcopal see of Burgos (1075) and the later reorganization of the dioceses are phenomena that converge in the internal definition of the Burgos territory and its recognition as the central core and backbone of both the kingdom and the diocese.
The 14th century was a time of crisis that saw the rupture of all the aforementioned growth parameters. Hunger, war, and disease feasted on western Europeans and the lands of Burgos were no exception. Life slowed and culture withered.