Scala/Art Resource, NY

And Spain go under and the shore / Of Africa the gilded sand. After passing through the hands of the Iberians, the Celts, the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans, the region we now call Spain was conquered by Muslims from North Africa in the eighth-century A.D. Under the rule of this latest wave of invaders (commonly referred to as the Moors), the country enjoyed a golden age of tolerance and prosperity. One of the crowning achievements of Moorish art and architecture was the Great Mosque at Cordoba (left) built around 960 A.D. Unfortunately, Spain’s cultural renaissance began to unravel when Christian Europeans launched a series of crusades, begining in 1096 A.D., to “liberate” the country from Muslim rule. The last Moorish stronghold, at Granada, fell in 1492.