On the Iberian Peninsula
The history of Spanish follows a similar path. The Roman legions arrived on the Iberian Peninsula (now home to Spain and Portugal) around 200 B.C. The Romans were successful conquerors and colonizers of this region, which they called Hispania.
Soon, Hispania became fully incorporated into the Roman Empire. For instance, Seneca (3 B.C.-A.D. 65), who is still revered as a great philosopher and dramatist, was born in Córdoba, Spain. And the region was even home of one of Rome's emperors, Emperor Trajan (A.D. 53–117), who hailed from Italica, a city in southern Spain.
As a result of colonization, Latin spread all over the Iberian Peninsula. By the time the Roman Empire fell in the early fifth century A.D., Latin was well cemented in the region, both as a spoken language and as the language of writing and the Catholic church.
Following the Roman Empire's collapse, the region underwent a period of chaos and decline. Attacks from the north came in waves. First the Vandals and then the Visigoths arrived to pillage and conquer, and the Visigoths managed to stay.
They converted to Christianity and assimilated, but their Germanic language affected the local dialects. Certain words and pronunciation patterns not found in Latin were absorbed, while others were dropped.
For instance, Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain still retains the sound of “th,” which is found in some Germanic languages (including English), but not in other Romance languages or in Latin.
Most Latin nouns have five cases (with five different endings); their usage changes depending on how they are used in the sentence. Luckily for us, Spanish did not retain this usage and the nouns were simplified into one case. The only trace of the cases is found with pronouns.
The Islamic Conquest
Less than 300 years after arrival of the Visigoths, Spain was under attack again, this time from the south. In 711, the first group of Moors from North Africa crossed the Gibraltar strait and clashed with the Spanish. Other attacks followed, and in less than 90 years, the Moors controlled most of what is now Spain.
Al Andalus was a thriving region that boasted the best philosophers, mathematicians, doctors, and poets of its time. Although it was primarily Muslim, Christians and Jews were tolerated as well.