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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Sep 2010
    Virginia, USA

    Default Is Spain basically Vietnam?

    ...In terms of hellish, endless, resource-draining guerrilla warfare, that is.
    Napoleon Bonaparte once called the Peninsular War his "Spanish ulcer".

    [This is a cross post from the Vestigia Vetustatis sub-forum, where I posted this earlier today...]

    PROLOGUE: Yep, probably Vietnam
    The Archaic Greeks who settled the eastern shores of Spain didn't bother to quell the interior too far beyond their major poleis such as Emporion, but they probably would have run into lots of headaches doing so. Let's take a look at a long list of reasons why invading and attempting to occupy Spain is a royal pain in the rear. It's honestly comparable to the situation the ancient and medieval Chinese often faced when attempting to conquer and hold northern Vietnam from the 2nd century BC onward, plus their failed attempts to take the Kingdom of Champa in southern Vietnam, or the colonial French and Cold War era Americans who came long after them.

    For a quick summary of the Chinese domination of Vietnam, the Qin Chinese military officer Zhao Tuo established his own Kingdom of Nanyue (Nam Viet) in 214 BC over parts of southern China and northern Vietnam. China's Emperor Wu of Western Han conquered this vassal kingdom in 111 BC, but all was not well. The grueling guerrilla warfare there against the Chinese all started with the rebellion of the Trưng Sisters from 40 to 43 AD during the Eastern Han dynasty. This was followed by several rebellions over the next millennia that established native dynasties like the Early Ly (conquered by China's Sui dynasty in 602 AD) and finally the Ngo dynasty that managed to defeat the Southern Han Chinese at the Battle of Bach Dang in 938 AD. The Vietnamese won their independence! Or so they thought... The Chinese would be back for round four of their attempt to dominate Vietnam with the Ming conquest of the Ho dynasty in 1406, but true to character, the Vietnamese would use guerrilla tactics to drive out Ming dynasty Chinese troops by 1427, leading to the formation of the Later Le dynasty.

    Perhaps the Chinese learned their lesson from the previous four rounds when they decided to keep it brief in the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, taking a few cities in the north in a punitive expedition before withdrawing and declaring victory in defense of their ally Cambodia (which Vietnam was then occupying). The French were certainly determined to hold onto Vietnam despite the natives' successful use of guerrilla warfare, which the Americans would soon discover in the Vietnam War, but for the sake or brevity I'm just going to assume you know about all of that already. Now, on to the Iberian Peninsula we go!

    Okay, really starting to look like Vietnam, you guys

    * The Carthaginians expanded their control over large parts of the Iberian peninsula under Hamilcar Barca, the father of the famous Hannibal. However, Hamilcar died in 228 BC fighting the Vettoni tribes, drowning in a river perhaps after an ambush by a false friend and erstwhile ally of the Oretani tribe. That would be somewhat of a harbinger of things to come.

    * In the Second Punic War (218 - 201 BC), Carthaginian troops and authorities were chased out of Spain by victorious Romans such as Publius Cornelius Scipio, later Scipio Africanus. However, the Roman Republic would have a hell of a time trying to hold let alone conquer the rest of the peninsula. The Celtiberian Wars (181 - 151 BC) were incredibly brutal and the natives terrorized the Romans with hit-and-run tactics. Meanwhile, the Lusitanians in what is now southern Spain and Portugal were led by a famous guerrilla leader Viriathus, who defied Roman rule in Hispania Ulterior. He was only felled after being betrayed and murdered by a few so-called companions in 139 BC.

    * The Numantine War (143 - 133 BC) was again another bloody insurrection against Roman rule in Hispania Citerior, but after the people of the city of Numantia committed mass suicide to avoid slaughter or enslavement after a long siege, the peninsula was rather quiet for several decades...until the Sertorian War (80 - 72 BC). The Roman statesman Quintus Sertorius carried out a civil war against his political rival Sulla and became famous for his guerrilla tactics, relying on fellow Romans as well as Iberian natives to continue the fight. Much like Viriathus, he was largely unbeatable in the field and only taken down when assassinated by Marcus Perperna Vento, who in turn was defeated by Pompey the Great.

    * A few decades after the dictatorship of Sulla came that of Julius Caesar, when Roman Hispania became the last of several staging grounds for a civil war against him after he crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC. Caesar dealt with Optimates in North Africa at the Battle of Thapsus in 46 BC, but he would still have to face Titus Labienus, one of his famous officers in Gaul, and Gnaeus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, who were leading the insurrection against him in Spain. At The Battle of Munda in 45 BC Caesar finally defeated their forces and returned to Rome in triumph.

    * It's important to note that the Romans didn't even control all of Spain at this point, either. It wasn't until the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD) that a large northern chunk of the Iberian peninsula was finally militarily subdued and slowly assimilated into Roman culture. This occurred only after marshaling together a conquering force of eight legions and auxiliaries in the decade-long Cantabrian Wars (29 - 19 BC), and afterwards two Roman legions had to be permanently stationed there to ensure the peace. This mountainous northern region that was home to the Celtic Cantabri and Astures tribes will become relevant later as we enter the Middle Ages.

    Okay, is Spain located somewhere in Southeast Asia, like next to Vietnam?

    * The Visigoths, foederati allies of the Romans in late antiquity, fought the Suebi for control of the Iberian peninsula. Under their king Euric the Visigoths also defeated the Romans at the Battle of Arles in 471 AD. Euric, previously considered a Roman legate, was recognized as an independent king by Western Emperor Julius Nepos in 475 AD, just a year before the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

    * In his civil war against king Agila I beginning in 549, the Visigothic usurper Athanagild invited the Eastern Romans (Byzantines) under Justinian I the Great to assist him. Unsurprisingly, Justinian's reinforcements took over much of southern Spain and planned to stay there, doing so for the next several decades but ultimately unable to maintain their toehold for very long (what a surprise). Meanwhile, in 585 the Visigoths under Athanagild's brother Liuvigild conquered the Kingdom of the Suebi in Portugal and led campaigns against the rebellious Basques up north in the Pyrenees. The Basques were a non-Indo European people who would remain a perennial problem for various generations of Spanish authorities into the modern age.

    * The Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Visigothic Kingdom of Spain in 711, introducing Arab Islamic rule for the first time and leading to things like the Mozarabic Romance language spoken by Christians under Muslim rulers. However, the Arabs/Berbers/Moors made the mistake of trying to focus on Frankish Gaul instead of dealing with the last remnants of rebellious Christian forces gathering in that rocky region of the north we talked about earlier. In 718, the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius of Asturias founded the defiant Christian Kingdom of Asturias in that precise region where Augustus had finally squashed the Cantabri and Astures centuries before. Almost from the very onset of Islamic rule, the Spanish Reconquista had begun.

    * The Franks under Charles Martel defeated the Umayyad governor of al-Andalus, al-Ghafiqi, at the Battle of Tours in 732, while his successor Pepin the Short secured Septimania and Aquitaine in southern Gaul. This allowed the Frankish ruler Charlemagne (crowned emperor of Romans by the pope in 800 AD and founder of the Carolingian Empire) to move his forces south of the Pyrenees to establish the March of Barcelona, or the Marca Hispanica, in 795. The regions of Catalonia and Aragon were subdued, with the county of Barcelona being completely taken by 801. Charlemagne also developed a political, religious, and military alliance with Alfonso II of Asturias in their attacks on the Moors of Andalusia, now under the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba established by Abd al-Rahman I in 756 after the fall of the Umayyads to the Abbasid Caliphate.

    * After Al-Hakam I scored a victory for the Emirate of Cordoba at Pancorbo in 816, defeating the pro-Frankish forces of Asturias, the wily Basque freedom fighter Íñigo Arista of Pamplona saw his chance to rise and became the first King of Pamplona, allying with the Banu Qasi dynasty of Muladi Muslim rulers along the Ebro river. They defeated the Carolingian Franks at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 824, the same place where they had once defeated Charlemagne in 778, and secured an independent Kingdom of Pamplona in the process.

    * I could go into lengthy detail about the Reconquista slogging match between Asturias' Christian successors Leon and Castile against the Emirate of Cordoba, the Almoravid dynasty, the Almohad Caliphate, the Taifa kingdoms and Emirate of Granada, with complicated figures along the way like the 11th-century warrior El Cid who fought for both Muslim and Christian rulers, but I think you get the point, this post is getting way too long, and we need to cover Napoleon, goddamn it.

    * Before that, however, I will mention the Aragonese Crusade (1284 - 1285) called by Pope Martin IV against Peter III of Aragon, part of the larger War of the Sicilian Vespers. The pope guaranteed Philip III of France that his son Charles, Count of Valois, would be bestowed with the Aragonese throne, but this would not come to pass, even as Philip took Girona and Charles was crowned there without an official crown of Aragon. The French naval fleet was wrecked at the Battle of Les Formigues by the Aragonese admiral Roger of Lauria and the French army suffered dysentery, which I would love to link to invaders of Vietnam suffering from malaria, but not the same thing. The French king died of dysentery just after reentering French territory, but his withdrawing troops traveling behind him were destroyed at the Battle of the Col de Panissars. On that note, the treacherous mountain range of the Pyrenees are basically the jungles of Vietnam, aren't they? Eventually, by 1291 the pope acquiesced, relinquished claims to Aragon as a fief, and acknowledged Peter's successor Alfonso III of Aragon as rightful ruler of his kingdom in the Treaty of Tarascon.

    * Again, this post is already absurdly long, so I'm going to ignore conflicts like the War of the Spanish Succession, assume you know enough, and jump right into the Napoleonic period, which I know Oda Nobunaga (the 16th-century Japanese ghost turned Venezuelan Jew who haunts these forums) is going to criticize and I actually would like to see his input and comparison to Vietnam.

    So, should we rename Vietnam as Spain or España as Vietnam? Maybe a unified country called Vietespañam?

    * FINALLY! The part that I know all of you have been waiting for. By the love of Jesús H. Cristo de Nazaret, where do we begin with this cluster? If Vietnam is where the presidencies of Johnson and Nixon went to die, I guess the same could be said for Napoleon Bonaparte in Spain (or Russia, take your pick). More importantly, the Peninsular War (1808 - 1814) was a conflict that truly defined guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics that would be mirrored by Spanish rebels against Franco more than a century later. Woe unto the French messengers or soldiers who became captives of the ragtag bandits/militias/guerrilla fighters of Spain, because oftentimes they didn't stay captives for very long and were just tortured to death instead. The French returned the favor with their own brutal methods of suppression (encapsulated by that famous painting The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya). The French got to practice plenty of that before facing guerrillas in French Indo-China!

    * To quickly summarize the beginning of the conflict, France and Spain were allies, they invaded Portugal together in 1807, but France turned on Spain, toppled their monarchy under Ferdinand VII of Spain in 1808 and replaced it with the rule of Joseph Bonaparte ("José I of Spain"), the older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte who had already been made King of Naples and Sicily (replaced by Joachim Murat). At least half of all Spaniards did not accept his monarchy and many would die fighting to restore the Spanish monarchy, while others would be temporarily forced or persuaded to acknowledge him as their king following fleeting victories pushing French control south into Andalusia. This threatened British Gibraltar, held since the 1704 Anglo-Dutch capture on behalf of the Habsburgs during the War of the Spanish Succession and the British were already keen on defending their centuries-long ally of Portugal if not stabbing Napoleon in his Achilles heel in southwestern Europe.

    * In 1810 André Masséna, the French champion against Naples and Austria, was able to score decisive victories in Spain such as the erstwhile capture of Almeida. However, in Portugal he ran into a brick wall, or literally one of forts and trenches, with the Lines of Torres Vedras constructed outside Lisbon by the Portuguese under their British supervisor Sir Richard Fletcher, 1st Baronet. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington eventually bested this Prince of Essling, who fled with starving troops after failing to penetrate this immense barrier and lost all of his previous gains. This earned him the ire of Napoleon, who would never again allow him to take up command of French forces.

    * Masséna's reputation would hardly be the last one to die a horrible death in the Peninsular War, as various Spanish generals were humiliated by the French and their government in exile, the Cortes of Cádiz, remained under siege while the French held Madrid. However, the French failure to take Portugal or to dislodge the British meant a stalemate would last for years on the Iberian peninsula, with the French never quite being able to secure all of Spain. To make matters worse for Napoleon during his disastrous retreat from Russia in 1812, Wellington's forces, including British and British-trained Portuguese regulars, pushed deep into Spain, retaking Salamanca and Madrid. French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan was decisively defeated by Wellington and his British, Portuguese, and Spanish troops at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813.

    * Remember those Pyrenees we talked about? Well goddamn it, much like the army of the French king Philip III during the Aragonese Crusade centuries before, in the early winter of 1814 Napoleon's Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult had to fight his way through a hail of bullets and harassment by the Brits/Portuguese/Spanish as he tried to withdraw back to France via this most treacherous of mountain ranges. Broken, tattered, lacking resources, suffering from exhaustion and starvation, the French troops finally made it back home. The French are gluttons for punishment, though, so they'd search for more of that in Vietnam more than a century later, followed by the Americans who were convinced that they would always be the punishers, not the punishees.

    Just when you thought I was done, huh? The colonists in French Indo-China/Vietnam could relate to this one.

    * Remember Ferdinand VII of Spain above, the guy who got rekt and toppled by Napoleon? Well, he was restored to power as an absolute monarch, pleasing his right wing royalists by renouncing the liberal constitution of 1812 that angered the leftists, but was forced in 1820 by a revolt led by Rafael del Riego to accept the liberal constitution. This was again reversed in 1823 thanks to the intervention of the Congress of Vienna, allowing him to clamp down on the free press and liberal elements until his death in 1833, after which another civil war broke out, the First Carlist War (1833 - 1840). In that conflict, Infante Carlos, Count of Molina ("Carlos V"), the contender for continuing absolute monarchy, was pitted against Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, the regent over the young Isabella II of Spain, who the Carlists didn't like because she had a vagina.

    * Just to make things even screwier, in comes Portugal, France, and the UK to sway the conflict in favor of the liberal side led by the regent Maria, not just sending her supplies but actually dispatching volunteers and then regular troops to confront the Carlist forces in Spain. Apparently the Carlists were a bitter bunch who just didn't take no for an answer, as evidenced by the sad, meager Second Carlist War (1846–1849) limited to Catalonia that attempted to put Infante Carlos, Count of Montemolin ("Carlos VI") on the throne and the far more serious Third Carlist War (1872–1876).

    * While Amadeo I of Spain was still on the throne following the abdication of Isabella II in 1868, the Spanish elections of 1872 led to violence against Carlist candidates, leading Carlos, Duke of Madrid ("Carlos VII") to declare his rival kingship and start of a new civil war in favor of Legitimism and Catholicism as usual. Naturally, the Basque country that we mentioned earlier served as the breeding grounds for this uprising and rival state to form (of course). In the ensuing chaos, Amadeo I abdicated and in 1873 the First Spanish Republic was formed. However, a year later the Republic was overthrown as Alfonso XII was placed on the throne in a Bourbon monarchical restoration. By 1876 his rival "Carlos VII" was driven into exile in France and the Basque charters (fueros) were abolished, which the Basques obviously did not like.

    * Oh boy, talk about a bunch of horrific precedents for Francisco Franco Bahamonde. Franco would rule Spain as its caudillo dictator from 1936 to 1975, during and after the brutal Spanish Civil War that lasted into 1939. The latter conflict pitted the Republicans (and communists) supported by the Soviet Union against the Nationalists of Franco supported by Nazi Germany and Portugal's dictator Salazar, ending the Second Spanish Republic and leading to the personal rule of Franco. I guess by that point guerrilla warfare was just imprinted into the Spanish (and Portuguese) DNA, or perhaps it was always that way, going back to the Celtiberians and Lusitanians. Persecutions and extrajudicial killings were carried out by both sides, but of course the greatest purge came from Franco after he took control. The remaining Spanish leftists were driven into exile in France, conveniently steamrolled by Nazi Germany a year later! Some people just can't catch a break.

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