Before shaping and molding the History of
Madrid in the succeeding pages, it would be well to touch on the riddle of the
origins of this city, using questions which could be valid to ask of any city:
Has it always existed?
Since when is it a city?
How and why did it arise?
Or, is its existence lost in the penumbra of time?
cannot be the same for every city.
From beginnings of the 20th century, some
patient, erudite and self-sacrificing historians, even professional historians
of Madrid, have been nurturing a sturdy belief that Madrid appeared at an exact
point in time, through a certain personage, and with a clear mission to fulfill.
The timing was the 9th century, the
personage was the Emir Mohammed I of Córdoba, and the purpose was the
defense of Toledo against possible Christian attacks, all more than sufficient
reasons to support hallowed pillars of history for a city!
However, it is one thing to say that Madrid
is an urban, historic fact, with its chronological limits, and it is quite
another to cite the "place," the zone or
area that is "Madrid."
All this digression comes to the point we
make that, a place intrinsically Madrid, has not been in urban terms
"Madrid" until very recent times, or if
we say it in another way, as this: the original nucleus of Madrid never was
Madrid, but was only the stream-bed and banks of the river Manzanares.
Nevertheless, who will doubt this being
The urban development of the barrios that
today line both banks of the river is very recent. But archaeology has shown us
that in that very place was a beginning which centuries later would be the city
of Madrid, and how, on those shores, there still dwells today a remote,
primordial spirit, the roots of long memories of a city and place that before
attaining the name of Madrid, was in reality Madrid itself.
Many cities have taken their name from a
river, a lake, a mountain or from some other incident, physical or natural, and
for Madrid this developed in a rather eloquent way.
The name "Madrid,"
"rich in abundance of waters" was
created by a reality external to the inhabitants of the place, and alien to the
man who would someday be called the "man of Madrid."
For, after the founding of a Madrid, it was
not men who brought that rich, abundant substance called water, even though he
would later use it, channel it, and manipulate it. The water of Madrid existed
before any city was an urban reality.
Instead of taking its name from the hills,
the castle or from the wooded ravines that surrounded the fortress, Madrid took
its name from what was consubstantial to the bowels of its earth over which men
built walls, houses and towers: "water, rich
subterranean water, beneath this city."
Long before men decided to live in groups in
cities, in which an urban phenomenon would exist, in what centuries and
centuries later would be the great city of Madrid, the land-area of Madrid was
already inhabited, well populated. They were people of Madrid without realizing
it, inhabitants of a Madrid that existed only in the imagination of the future!
Those inhabitants were prehistoric hunters
of the Paleolithic period, of more than two-hundred thousand years ago, who
lived all through the Valley of the Manzanares; men who marauded over the
countryside and the many gullies and streams, which flowed on to join the then
deeper waters of the Manzanares.
The primitive valley of the Manzanares was
the fit and proper place for the nomads of Prehistory to give chase to enormous
animals, like elephants, mammoths, wild horses and bulls, great stags and
including hippopotamus and rhinoceros, which came down to the bed of the river
These men of that far-away Madrid developed
a variety of stone implements, made up of axes, scrapers, and sharp weapons,
useful objects and tools which they used in their rudimentary life, and which
the fates preserved under the sands of the stream-beds and banks at the edges of
the river, in zones which the urban growth of modern Madrid has converted into
residential areas and rapid transit routes.
Human depredations and great climatic
changes altered the factors of ecological equilibrium which characterized the
valley of the Manzanares during all the long Paleolithic period.
Paleolithic nomadism gave place to sedentary
occupations, which became more or less stable. During the Neolithic period, some
four thousand years ago, the valley declined in intensity of population, but
even so, it continued to offer shelter to various human groups.
Nothing in the form of urban nuclei are to
be expected in these eras, but remains of small places of group living, as well
as burial sites, have been found at the Hill of las Vistillas, Villaverde, the
Andalucía road and right bank of the Manzanares itself, which testify to
a human cultural presence through the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron
Until now in the lengthy prehistoric night,
the Valley of the Manzanares and all its lateral and contiguous zones of
geographic influence have offered a continuity of population, and it is very
possible during the last millennium B.C. and during centuries of Roman cultural
and political occupation, that continuity was maintained.
There is record of Roman villas on the Casa
de Campo, Villaverde and Carabanchel, with rich mosaics; they were country
villas, like small agricultural explotations, located near the principal Roman
roads which cut through all central areas of the peninsula, like the routes that
unite Segovia and Titulcia, the latter with Alcalá, or the latter with
Copyright © 2002 by
JLL & FWF.
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