The history of Spain to the Antiquity when the pre-Roman peoples of the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula made contact with the Greeks and Phoenicians and the first writing systems known as Paleohispanic scripts were developed. In , Habsburg Spain unified a number of disparate predecessor kingdoms; its modern form of a constitutional monarchy was introduced in , and the current democratic constitution dates to After the completion of the Reconquista , the Crown of Castile began to explore across the Atlantic Ocean in , expanding into the New World and marking the beginning of the Golden Age under the Spanish Empire. The kingdoms of Spain were united under Habsburg rule in , that unified the Crown of Castile , the Crown of Aragon and smaller kingdoms under the same rule.
Go to Columbus, Christopher c. Columbus and his fellow explorers make landfall on the largest of the Caribbean islands, Cuba. Columbus returns to Spain, landing at Palos with news of his great discoveries. Diego Columbus, brother of the explorer, establishes the first secure Spanish colony at Santo Domingo. The Spanish complete the conquest of Cuba and establish the town of Havana. The Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes lands on the coast of Mexico with men, 16 horses and about 20 guns.
Habsburg Spain was a superpower and the center of the first global empire in the 16th century. It had a cultural golden age in the 17th century. With the Peace of Utrecht , Spain, stripped of its territories in Italy and the Low Countries, lost most of its power, and became a second rate nation in Continental politics. However, Spain maintained its vast overseas empire until, beginning with declarations of independence in Venezuela and Paraguay , successive revolutions split away its territories on the mainland of the Americas.
An important element in the formation of Spain's empire was the dynastic union between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon , known as the Catholic Monarchs , which initiated political, religious and social cohesion but not political unification. After the Spanish victory at the War of Portuguese Succession , Philip II of Spain obtained the Portuguese crown, and Portugal and its overseas territories came under his rule with the so-called Iberian Union , considered by many historians as a Spanish conquest. Although the power of the Spanish sovereign as monarch varied from one territory to another, the monarch acted as such in a unitary manner  over all the ruler's territories through a system of councils : the unity did not mean uniformity.