The name Asturias is derived from an Iberian people that lived there before the Roman conquest (2d cent. BC). When the Moors overran the peninsula, Christian nobles fled into the Asturian mountains. They created the first Christian kingdom of Spain (see Pelayo) and defended themselves at the battle of Covadonga. From Asturias came the Christian reconquest of Spain, as the successors of King Alfonso I extended their control over Asturias, Galicia, León, and parts of Castile, Navarre, and Bizkaia (Vizcaya). Astorga was one of the chief cities of the Asturian kingdom in the 9th cent.
In the 10th cent. the capital was moved from Oviedo to León, and the kingdom of Asturias became the kingdom of Asturias and León, which three centuries later was united with the kingdom of Castile. In 1388, John I of León and Castile made his son prince of the Asturias—the title borne from that time on by the heir to the throne. The Asturians are noted for their stubborn courage and independence—traits shown in the warfare against Napoleon, in various uprisings against the Spanish government, in the civil war of 1936–39, and in the general strike of 1962.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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