Salamanca is a province of western Spain, in the western part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is bordered by the provinces of Zamora, Valladolid, Ávila, and Cáceres, and by Portugal.
353,110 people (2006) live in the province, of whom 45% live in the capital, Salamanca. There are 362 municipalities in the province, of which more than half are villages with under 300 people. Leonese language is still spoken in northwestern rural areas.
Salamanca is also a city in western Spain, the capital of the province of Salamanca, which belongs to the autonomous community (region) of Castile and Leon (Castilla y León). The Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
The city was founded in the pre-Ancient Rome period by the Vacceos, a Celtic tribe, as one of a pair of forts to defend their territory near the Duero river. In the third century BC, Hannibal laid siege to the city. With the fall of the Carthaginians to the Romans, the city began to take more importance as a commercial hub. At this time it was called Helmantica or Salmantica.
Salamanca surrendered to the Moors in the year 712AD. The defensive city wall was strengthened, with the Mozarabs (Christians under Muslim rulers) were relegated to living outside of it. It was, however, a time of constant fighting with the Kingdom of León, and the city was trapped on the line between Christian North and Muslim South, with the city being evacuated, as part of the depopulated no-man's land between the two sides. Christian forces, led by Ramón de Borgoa, son-in-law of Alfonso VI of León, retook the city in the twelfth century.
One of the most important moments in Salamanca's history was the year 1218, when Alfonso IX created the University of Salamanca. Soon it became one of the most significant and prestigious academic centres in Europe.
In the Peninsular War of the Napoleonic campaigns, the Battle of Salamanca, fought July 22, 1812, was a serious setback for the French, and a mighty setback for Salamanca, whose western quarter was seriously damaged. The battle which raged that day is famous as a defining moment in military history; many thousands of men were slaughtered by cannon fire in the space of only a few short hours.
Salamanca is considered one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in Europe. Through the centuries the sandstone buildings have gained an exquisite golden glow that has given Salamanca the nickname La Ciudad Dorada, the golden city. This golden glow is unique in Spain and is due to the "Villamayor Stone", a type of sandstone coming from a quarry situated in Villamayor, a village close to Salamanca.