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At the time of the general wreck of Spain by the sudden tempest of Arab invasion, many of the inhabitants took refuge in the mountains of the Asturias, burying themselves in narrow valleys difficult to access, wherever a constant stream of water afforded a green bosom of pasture-land and scanty fields for cultivation. For mutual protection they gathered together in small villages called castros, or castrellos with watch towers and fortresses on impending cliffs, in which they might shelter and defend themselves in case of sudden inroad. Thus arose the kingdom of the Asturias, subject to Pelayo and the kings his successors, who gradually extended their dominions, built towns and cities, and after a time fixed their seat of government at the city of Leon.
An important part of the region over which they bore sway was ancient Cantabria, extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Duero, and called Castile from the number of castles with which it was studded. They divided it into seigniories, over which they placed civil and military governors called counts - a title said to be derived from the Latin comes, a companion, the person enjoying it being admitted to the familiar companionship of the king, entering into his councils in time of peace, and accompanying him to the field in time of war. The title of count was therefore more dignified than that of duke in the time of the gothic kings.
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Washington Irving (1783-1859) was an American writer remembered for the stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, contained in The Sketch Book (1819-1820).
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