During the time of the Roman Empire, the territory of the province was inhabited by the Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe who peopled the southern slopes of the Pyrenees. The Vascones managed to maintain their separate Basque language and traditions even under the Roman rule.
The area was never fully subjugated either by the Visigoths or by the Arabs. In 778, the Basques defeated a Frankish army in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. Two generations later, in 824, the chieftain Iñigo Arista was chosen King of Pamplona, laying a foundation for the later Kingdom of Navarre. That kingdom reached its zenith during the reign of Sancho III of Navarre and covered the area of the present-day Navarre, Basque country, and La Rioja, together with parts of modern Cantabria, Castile and León, and Aragon.
After Sancho III died, the Kingdom of Navarre was divided between his sons and never fully recovered its importance. The army of Navarre fought beside other Christian Spanish kingdoms in the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, after which the Muslim conquests on the Iberian Peninsula were slowly reduced to a small territory in the south.
In 1515, the bulk of Navarre below the Pyrenees—Upper Navarre—was at last absorbed into a re-united Kingdom of the Spains but retained some rights specific to it. The small portion of Navarre lying north of the Pyrenees—Lower Navarre—later came under French rule when its Huguenot sovereign became King Henri IV of France; with the declaration of the French Republic and execution of Louis XVI, the last King of France and Navarre, the kingdom was merged into a unitary French state.
Situated in the northeast of the Iberian peninsula, Navarre is bordered by France to the north, Aragón to the east, La Rioja to the southwest, and the Basque Country to the west. The territory includes an enclave, Petilla de Aragón, which is completely surrounded by Aragón.
The community is governed as an autonomous region with its own parliament (Parlamento de Navarra) and government (Gobierno de Navarra). As in other autonomous regions in Spain, health, employment, education, and social services, together with housing, urban development, and environment protection policies are under the responsibility of its own institutions. Unlike other regions (and like the Basque Country), it has almost full responsibility for collecting and administering taxes which must follow the overall guidelines established by the Spanish government but may have some minor differences.
It is made up of 272 municipalities and has a total population of 601,874 (2006), of which approximately one-third live in the capital, Pamplona (195,769 pop.), and one-half in the capital’s metropolitan area (315,988 pop.). There are no other large municipalities in the region. The next largest are Tudela (32,802), Barañáin (22,401), Burlada (18,388), Estella - Lizarra (13,892), Zizur Mayor (13,197), Tafalla (11,040), Villava/Atarrabia (10,295), and Ansoáin (9,952).
Despite its relatively small size, Navarre features stark contrasts in geography, from the Pyrenees mountain range that dominates the territory to the plains of the Ebro river valley in the south.
Navarre is a mixture of its ancient tradition and Mediterranean influences coming from the Ebro. The Ebro valley is amenable to wheat, vegetables, wine, and even olive trees as in Aragon and La Rioja. It was a part of the Roman Empire, and in the Middle Ages it became the taifa kingdom of Tudela. During the Reconquista, the Northerners extended southwards. In the Middle Ages, Pamplona was a crossroads for Gascons from beyond the Pyrenees and Romance speakers
Spanish is the official language in Navarre, together with Basque that is also an official language but only in the basque speaking area The north-western part of the community is largely Basque-speaking while the southern part is almost completely Spanish-speaking. The capital Pamplona is in the mixed region. Navarre is divided into three parts linguistically: regions where Basque is widespread (the Basque-speaking area), regions where Basque is present (the mixed region), and regions where Basque is absent (the Spanish-speaking area).
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