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?

Answers 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 truly "Madrid"?

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," which means "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 to drink.

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 Ages.

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 Segovia.


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