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J F M A M J J A S O N D
Pyrenees, Spanish Pirineos, French Pyrénées, Catalan Pireneus, mountain chain of southwestern Europe that consists of flat-topped massifs and folded linear ranges. It stretches from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the east to the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Pyrenees form a high wall between France and Spain that has played a significant role in the history of both countries and of Europe as a whole. The range is some 270 miles (430 kilometres) long; it is barely six miles wide at its eastern end, but at its centre it reaches some 80 miles in width. At its western end it blends imperceptibly into the Cantabrian Mountains along the northern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Except in a few places, where Spanish territory juts northward or French southward, the crest of the chain marks the boundary between the two countries, though the tiny autonomous principality of Andorra lies among its peaks. The highest point is Aneto Peak, at 11,169 feet (3,404 metres), in the Maladeta (Spanish: “Accursed”) massif of the Central Pyrenees.
The Pyrenees long have been a formidable land barrier between Spain and Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe; as a consequence, these two countries traditionally have developed stronger associations with Africa than with the rest of Europe, and they have become tied to the sea. From Carlit Peak (9,584 feet) near the eastern limit of the Pyrenees to the peaks of Orhy and Anie, a succession of mountains rise nearly 9,800 feet; at only a few places, all well to the west, can the chain be crossed through passes lower than 6,500 feet. In both the lower eastern and northwestern sectors, rivers dissect the landscape into numerous small basins. The range is flanked on both sides by broad depressions—the Aquitaine and Languedoc to the north and the Ebro to the south—both receiving waters from the major rivers flowing out of the mountains, the Garonne of France and the major tributaries of the Ebro of Spain.