Gibraltar, Jabal Tariq “the Mountain of Tariq,” named after Tariq ibn Ziyad who led the Berber invasion in 711 CE, is a small peninsular protruding from the Spanish mainland. This refers to the geological formation, “the Rock,” at the southern tip of the promontory, jutting out into the Straits of Gibraltar almost to the African coast, forming a gateway into the Mediterranean.
The limestone outcrop is honeycombed with caves, as well as the many roads and chambers which have been dug into it, both in ancient and modern times for fortifications. These caves were inhabited for over 100,000 years, by Neanderthal man, from as early as 120,000 BCE. Due to their location, these were probably the very last enclave of Neanderthals before being superseded by the later Cro Magnon man.
The fortification of the rock has been ongoing for three millennium, due to the strategic position and natural dominance over the surrounding sea and land. The seafaring Phoenicians were the first to use Gibraltar’s natural harbour as a base and rest over in their trading journeys. The Greeks, also prolific sailors, considered the Rock to be one of the famed Pillars of Herakles, beyond which lay Atlantis.
It was here that the Carthaginians, led by Hamilcar Barca, the father of the more famous son Hannibal, crossed from Africa to invade Roman Europe in the First Punic War. Taking over and improving the fortifications built by the Romans. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Gibraltar along with the rest of Iberia, fell under the rule of the Visigoths.
Two centuries later, in 711 CE, came the Muslim invasion across the narrow straits, led by the Umayyad, Tariq ibn Ziyad. The Muslims first fortification on the rock was built during the 12th century, and became part of the newly formed Moorish kingdom of Granada.