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History

History (2)

The city was founded by Tartessian traders, who are said to be the descendents of the Tartessos (the name comes from the original name of the Guadalquivir River, Tarsis), the first village where people gathered to live together on a small island set at the mouth of the Guadalquivir in the 8th century BC. 

However, with the arrival of the Carthaginians, a tremendous battle began between these two groups that ended with the Tartessians’ surrender. 

Roman troops arrived in the area in 206 BC under the leadership of General Scipio Africanus, destroying the Carthaginians who inhabited and defended the region. The Roman people remained in the area for 700 years, dividing the territory up into provinces. Lusitania, with its capital in Cordoba, corresponds to the current Andalusian territory and was one of the richest Roman provinces. 

In 49 BC, Híspalis, which was the name given to Seville, had a wall and a forum and was considered a replica of Rome. In fact, it was one of the most important cities in Hispania (Spain), and as the Empire fell, it was the eleventh city of the world. Moreover, two of the most important Roman emperors, Adrian and Trajan, were born in Lusitania. Seville was also a Roman port, a fact that endowed the city with a great deal of trade.

After the Roman Empire, the region was overrun by the Visigoths, who upheld Roman values until the Arabs arrived in 712, when Seville was conquered by Musa ibn Nusayr. They called this territory Al Andalus, today Andalusia, and re-christened the town as Isbiliya. Although the residents pronounced it ‘Sibilia’, from which the current name is derived. Around the year 1030, with the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba, the Taifa Kingdoms began to emerge. Isbiliya enjoyed a flourishing period under the reign of Al Mutamid, a cultured king, lover of the arts and humanities, and very good ruler. 

Years later, trying to halt the expansion of Alfonso VI, King of Castile and Leon and son-in-law of Al Mutamid, having married his daughter, Zaida, the Muslim kings of Badajoz, Granada and Isbiliya decided to ask for foreign help from the Almoravids of North Africa. But they revolted against the Taifa Kingdoms and ended up invading the region, and in 1091 took over Isbiliya, exiling Al Mutamid, who spent the rest of his days in Tangiers. 

This started a period of decline, mainly due to the extreme religious and social restrictions, leading to disillusionment of the people and giving rise to independence movements, while at the same time leading to an exodus of Mudejars to other regions. This situation encouraged the Almohades to move into Cádiz in 1146 and establish their capital in Seville. Power in the hands of the Almohades reestablished the city’s former political and economic glory.

It was during this time that Seville’s cultural wealth grew in leaps and bounds, with the La Giralda, the Alcázar and San Marcos being built.

Periodic rises in the Guadalquivir River and frequent Castilian incursions, including the stunning victory of Navas de Tolosa in 1212, among other victories, caused the Almohade Empire to suffer considerably. And, by 1220, the city was in total decline. This was the time that the Christians took advantage and reclaimed the city, a feat achieved by Ferdinand III of Castile, after 15 months of resistance, on 23 November 1248.

Although the Muslims were forced to abandon the city, they returned a short time later when they learned that Alfonso X, the Wise, son and successor of Ferdinand III, demonstrated greater tolerance. He also allowed Jewish settlements. A fierce protector of the arts and sciences, a writer and lover of the city of Seville, he spearheaded a flourishing cultural birth for the city, uniting these three great cultures: Arabic, Jewish and Christian.

The fifteenth century culminated in the Christian conquest, and Seville became the seat of the Holy Inquisition.

Not long afterwards, the discovery of the New World in 1492 was significant for the city, as from that point on, it became the European point of departure for the Americas. In 1503, the Catholic Monarchs erected the Casa de Contratación, responsible for organising the flotillas and colonisation expeditions. Fleets from the West Indies arrived bearing astonishing fortunes and treasures for the city, making it one of the richest trading ports in Europe. In the 16th century, Seville was undoubtedly the commercial and financial hub of Europe. The city expanded rapidly, and this was an important time when many buildings were built and others remodelled: the Casa de Pilatos, the Archivo de Indias, work continues on the Cathedral...

However, at that time, King Carlos I was named Emperor of the Holy Germanic Roman Empire, and although Spain had become the most powerful region in Europe, the constant Imperial wars put an end to the wealth that had been pouring in through theSeville port. 

The economic crisis that gripped Europe, along with floods and epidemics, also had a negative impact on the city of Seville. Added to that, in 1680 the Guadalquivir silted up and trade moved to the neighbouring city of Cádiz in 1717, which led to the city’s subsequent decline, but the same could not be said of the of the city’s cultural and artistic scene. Owing to the large numbers of churches and convents that that dominate the landscape in Seville, a city rich with convents, Holy Week is born in the seventeenth century.

The French invasion also had an effect on Seville, on 1 February 1810. Not a single shot was fired, as the city’s surrender was negotiated to prevent any blood from being spilled. Anti-Napoleonic sentiment was pervasive, and the struggle against the invader was taken up throughout Spain by all social classes.

Despite initial favourable acceptance of the French, local authorities soon grew disillusioned. Constant petitions for special taxes to cover the costs of the imperial army, forced recruiting into citizen militias, and a complete deterioration of local industry, trade and agricultural production, led the city, along with Cádiz, Gibraltar and Portugal, the Hispanic-Anglo-Portuguese allies, not only to resist, but also to recover their positions, and successfully repel the French who, on 27 August 1812, withdrew from Andalusia, looting and destroying everything as they retreated.

A few years later, in 1821, a tragic yellow-fever outbreak gripped the entire city and within four months had wiped out a third of the population.

The early part of the 20th century was marked by the World’s Fair in 1929, with magnificent constructions, such as the Plaza de España and Parque de María Luisa. Local infrastructure began to be remodelled in order to modernise and improve communications, with a network of tramways, dredging of the river channel, and construction of an airport, among others. 

After the dark period of the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, the city continued to expand and modernise in the 1960s, becoming a powerful industrial centre. And with the 1992 World’s Fair as motivation, Seville was reborn, building new bridges, including the Alamillo de Santiago Calatrava and Barqueta bridges, and new avenues and improved travel between Madrid and Seville, with a high-speed train.

In the 21st century Seville has continued to grow, with the Metrocentro, the Puerto de las Delicias, the aquarium, the completion of the rail system... and so on, Seville has lots of history to come. 

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