National myths are subject to revision, sometimes remarkably quickly. Beginning in the mid-1930s, fascist Spain overturned its own foundational story extraordinarily rapidly, and against existing scholarly consensus. This revisionist project extended throughout the nation’s tumultuous mid-twentieth century.
Classical studies researchers Aarón Alzola Romero and Eduardo Sánchez-Moreno explore these topsy-turvy shifts in how Spanish scholars interpreted the Iberian Peninsula’s Iron Age (c. 800 BCE–50 CE). From the turn of the twentieth century to the mid-1930s, historians and archaeologists called the people who lived there “Iberians,” postulating a non-Indo-European culture, unlike most of the rest of Europe. The distinctiveness was a point of pride to modern Spaniards.
But, as Alzola Romero and Sánchez-Moreno argue, with the ascension of the fascists under Francisco Franco, who began his rebellion against the Spanish Republic in 1936, Spain’s official history was brought into line with myths of “Aryanism” and “pan-Celticism,” creating an Indo-European past that sat neatly alongside Nazi German mythology. Spain’s Iron Age ancestors were reimagined as a southeastern extension of a unified people who swept through Europe. The specifically racial connections to fanciful Aryans/Celts would become the new, official, point of pride.
Under Franco, write Alzola Romero and Sánchez-Moreno, a “pan-Celtic” model “was forged on multiple fronts: political, archaeological, linguistic, art historical, folkloric.” Francoist “representations of Spain’s Celtic origins” went against “much of the existing archaeological and palaeolinguistic evidence at the time,” but nevertheless became the official version of history because the fascists controlled not just the state but academic and heritage institutions as well.