The African Plate collided tightly with Europe some 55 million years ago. The Mediterranean became a lake, which in the course of time, dried up until 5 million years ago when the Atlantic broke through the Strait of Gibraltar and flooded it again, isolating the Rock of Jurassic limestone.
The Phoenicians follow other navigators from the eastern Mediterranean in visiting the Strait and found the city Carteia at the head of the Bay of Gibraltar. The Rock becomes a place of worship where sailors sacrifice to the gods before entering the Atlantic.
It happened in the month of April in the year 711 AD. Following the death of the prophet Mohammed a wave of Islamic conquest overran North Africa from Arabia. By 710 AD it had reached the shores of the Strait and Europe was poised for the Islamic conquest. There are various versions of the events but one thing is clear - the Visigoths who had deposed the Romans and ruled Spain were weak and divided. The Visigothic Count Julian who ruled over Ceuta in North Africa was surrounded and he had a score to settle with his compatriots on the other side of the Strait. In order to divert the Muslims, he offered to assist them in the conquest of Spain.
The assault was down to a Berber chief, Tarik-ibn-Ziyad, the Governor of Tangier. He sailed across the Strait by night, from Ceuta not Tangier so as not to arouse suspicion and used Visgothic ships. His first attempt on Algeciras failed but he was successful in landing undetected on Gibraltar.
Following the Moslem General Tarik successful landing on the Rock, he assembles his forces before defeating the Gothic King Roderick, and entering into the conquest of Spain. Gibraltar becomes known as Jebal Tarik (Mountain of Tarik) from which it takes its present name.
By the 11th Century AD Gibraltar is part of the Arab kingdom of Seville except for a short period when it comes under Berber rule from Malaga. The mounting threat of invasion by North Africa sects forces the Arab Governor of Algeciras to order in 1068 the building of a fort in Gibraltar. Spain is eventually overrun by another North African sect, the Almohads, and it was their leader, Abd-ad-Mummin, who commanded the building of the first city in Gibraltar - the Medina al-Fath, the City of Victory. It was by all accounts, an impressive city and its foundations were laid on the 19th May 1160 AD. On completion of the works Al - Mummin personally crossed the Strait to inspect the works and stayed in Gibraltar for two months, inviting all his subordinate kings to see his works. It is said that Al - Mummin was especially impressed by a large windmill that had been built on top of the hill (Windmill Hill).
Skirmishing and fighting continued between 1160 and 1300, among Muslims or between Muslims and Christians. 1252 left only two Islamic kingdoms in Spain, in Murcia and Granada. By the year 1309, King Ferdinand IV had laid siege on Algeciras and, learning of Arab weaknesses on the Rock sent Alonso Perez de Guzman to capture it. Thus Gibraltar endured its first siege. The Spaniards took the Upper Rock from where they bombarded the town using cannons. The garrison surrendered after one month. Gibraltar then had 1500 inhabitants and they were allowed to leave for North Africa.
The Spaniards set to repair the fortifications and shipyard but few people wanted to settle in Gibraltar, which was considered to be a high-risk town. This forced Ferdinand to offer freedom from justice to anyone who lived in Gibraltar for one year and one day. By 1333 Gibraltar was once more in Muslim hands as Abdul Malik, son of the King of Morocco, laid siege. The garrison surrendered after four and a half months of siege.
Gibraltar becomes part of the Muslim Kingdom of Granada.
Gibraltar is recaptured by Castille and became part of the estates of the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
The Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquer Granada, the last vestige of the Muslim domination of Spain. The Jews are expelled from Spain and many pass through Gibraltar on their way into exile in North Africa.
It was Queen Isabella who, tired of the petty squabbling among her nobility, issued a decree on the 2nd December 1501 AD, making Gibraltar, Spanish crown property.
Queen Isabella grants Gibraltar a coat of arms consisting of a castle, which symbolises its importance as a fortress, and a key that highlights its reputation as the key to Spain, which it has held since the time of Moslem conquest.
By the middle of the sixteenth century a new kind of conflict had arisen as Corsairs from the coast of Barbary, under their infamous leader Barbarossa, hounded the zone. In the summer of 1540 a large fleet of pirates assembled and raided the poorly defended Gibraltar. Years later, after mounting pressure from the inhabitants of Gibraltar, the Emperor Charles V ordered the Italian engineer Calvi to build a protective wall. This wall was extended to reach the top of the Rock in the reign of Philip II some years later.
The Moriscos (the descendants of the Moslem inhabitants in Spain) are expelled and many pass through Gibraltar on their way into exile in North Africa.