If you have ever heard someone refer to a situation or person as "solid as a rock", then you should know that it speaks of strength and impregnability associated with the Rock of Gibraltar. The Rock of Gibraltar is renowned as the strongest rock in the world and stands as one of the most important landmarks located in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. With an interesting history that dates back to the time of the Legendary Hercules, to a modern-day interest for tourists and geologists, the Rock of Gibraltar is truly worth a visit.
The Rock of Gibraltar is a promontory or peninsula which extends outwards from the southwestern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The name itself is derived from the Moorish name for the peninsula, Jabel-al-Tariq, and is a bowdlerised transliteration of this phrase into English. Prior to this in the western tradition, the monument was known as the Pillar of Hercules by the Greeks. A strikingly unusual geographical formation rises to nearly 1,400 feet in a steep incline from below. Because of how it rises so steeply right on a promontory which juts out into the Mediterranean Sea at the entryway between that body of water and the wider Atlantic Ocean, the Rock is a key strategic point in controlling the narrow Straits of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean so to speak.
After they conquered most of Iberia speedily in the early eight century, the Moors and Berbers built a castle here, some portions of which remain. The peninsula and, with it, the Rock was captured by the Kingdom of Castile in 1462 as part of the Spanish Reconquista (Reconquest) of Spain from the Moorish kingdoms. The manner in which the Rock came to be a British possession is owing to the dynastic politics of early modern Europe. In November 1700, the Spanish king, Charles II, died without an heir. The Spanish throne now descended to the Bourbon royal family, which also ruled France. However, countries such as Britain, Austria, and the Dutch Republic were unwilling to allow France to unite the Spanish Empire to that of France. As a result, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out in 1701 and lasted through to 1713. In the course of this a joint Anglo-Dutch expeditionary force occupied Gibraltar in 1704. In the Peace of Utrecht of 1713 it was agreed that a member of the Bourbon family would be allowed to rule Spain, as long as the same person did not rule France. Britain and Austria also received extensive amounts of Spanish territory in Europe in compensation for allowing this. Britain’s compensation included the Rock of Gibraltar. It has remained in British hands ever since.
Britain managed to retain control of Gibraltar in the three centuries since, although it was besieged by France and Spain between 1779 and 1783 as part of the American War of Independence. This led to the digging out of numerous passageways and tunnels within the Rock which are a tourist highlight today. Today the site is a major tourist attraction, both for its geographical features and as a nature reserve, as it is home to approximately 230 Barbary macaques, a monkey which are the only wild apes found anywhere in Europe. Continued British ownership has proved surprisingly uncontentious, although General Francisco Franco did consider reclaiming it as one of the possible benefits of bringing Spain into the Second World War as he deliberated on whether to join the conflict in 1940 and 1941. Gibraltar also voted overwhelmingly against Brexit in 2016. It is a major tourist attraction in southern Iberia and attracts over ten million tourists per year, the result of its proximity to the main beach resorts around Malaga.