Gibraltar can trace its history back almost 3000 years to when the Phoenicians landed in 940BC on the small area of land on the southern edge of Europe and founded the city of Carteia.
Its strategic situation at the entrance to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic has made it a constant subject of attack and siege over the centuries.
The Moslem general Tariq made a successful landing on the Rock in 711AD as a precursor to a general conquest of Spain. At this time, Gibraltar became known as Jebel Tariq (mountain of Tariq) from which the present name derives.
By the 11th century AD, Gibraltar was part of the Arab kingdom of Sevilla. The threat of invasion from African sects led to the building of a fort in 1068, but Gibraltar was eventually overrun by the Almohads.
In 1309AD King Ferdinand IV ordered the capture of Gibraltar. The Spaniards laid siege to Gibraltar for one month before the garrison surrendered and the city’s 1500 inhabitants left for North Africa.
Few Spaniards wanted to settle in Gibraltar and, by 1333, it was under siege again, this time from Abdul Malik, son of the King of Morocco, who eventually took control of the Rock.
Gibraltar became part of the Muslim Kingdom of Granada but again changed hands in 1462 when it was taken by Castille and became part of the estates of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. It became Spanish crown property in 1501.
The 16th century saw a poorly defended Gibraltar facing raids by pirates before a period of relative quiet and peace in the 17th century.
All changed at the start of the 18th century when an Anglo-Dutch force landed close by and the English fleet laid siege to Gibraltar, taking the Rock in the name of Charles of Austria, who was pretender to the Spanish throne.
Gibraltar was declared a free port in 1704 and the first British governor was appointed in 1707. In 1713, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht.
The last and Great Siege of Gibraltar took place at the end of the 18th century when French and Spanish forces combined in a four-year onslaught, brought to an end by the Treaty of Versailles. The print, right, (Gibraltar Museum) shows a view of the Rock and Town of Gibraltar as it is attacked by sea and land by the combined forces of France and Spain under the Command of the Duc de Crillon and in the presence of the Comte d’Artois in September, 1782.
There followed a time of prosperity, and Gibraltar was declared a Crown Colony in 1830. Construction of the docks commenced in 1894, by which time Gibraltar had become the greatest fortress in the world. The first elections were held in 1922. World War II saw the civilian population evacuated to the UK, with some familes sent to Madeira and Jamaica, and 30,000 British military stationed on the Rock.
Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly in 1967 to continue their association with Britain, and Franco reacted by closing the border. The border reopened fully in 1985.
Gibraltar today attracts 10 million visitors a year. The tourism and financial services industries have helped to make Gibraltar the second most prosperous territory in the European Union.