It is an over-used phrase to describe a particular city as ‘steeped in history.’ But Seville is one of those places that truly deserves the accolade. Just walking around the historic old quarter gives a sense of centuries gone by, the spectacular architecture acting as signposts for the rise and fall of past civilisations.
As colourful legend would have it, Seville was founded by none other than Hercules, with the little known Tartessian civilisation being among the first indigenous peoples to be recorded living in the region. According to the fifth century B.C. historian Herodotus, the Tartessians (who were essentially agricultural and mineral traders) were discovered by a Greek explorer named Kolaios. For the Greeks, Seville was a mysterious land at the end of the route through Hercules’ columns – what we now know as the Rock of Gibraltar.
Historians generally agree that the Phoenicians arrived sometime between the ninth and twelfth century B.C. and over the years Seville’s location on the banks of the Quadalquivir river continued to make it a strategic stronghold for civilisations to come. The Romans called it Hispalis when it became the most developed region on the western side of the Roman Empire.
Under Muslim rule it was known as Ishbiliya, when Seville became the most powerful of the many Muslim states that Andalucia had been broken up into. By 1078 Seville was the base from which much of the region was controlled, the Alcazar Fortress being the jewel in the crown for rulers like Al-Mutadid (1042-69) and Al-Mutamid (1069-91).
But much conflict was to come as the Christians were on the march, culminating in victory for Ferdinand III who captured Seville after a two year siege in 1248. He then set about bringing thousands of Castilian settlers to re-populate the area.
When Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492 (having left on his voyage with the blessing of his Spanish sponsors) Seville reaped the benefits of the ensuing trade and became a rich and cosmopolitan city. At least some of Columbus’ remains are still said to reside there, though a long-running claim of authenticity with the Dominican Republic has never been fully resolved.
However, the city was decimated in 1649 when plague killed half the population. And with the advent of much larger trading ships, the Guadalquivir river’s modest size became more difficult to navigate, leading to less trade with the outside world.
But Seville’s history has come full circle, as visitors keen on discovering its past have themselves added to its success, with tourism more lucrative than ever before. The 1992 Expo World Fair and the construction of new bridges and better rail links, helped revive Seville’s fortunes to the bustling urban centre that it is today.
You’ll also discover that Sevillians are friendly and full of humour – a real testament to the enduring Spanish spirit during a sometimes turbulent past. For them, the future’s bright...
Avda Constitución – 954 221 404
Paseo de las Delicias – 954 234 465
Centro de Información de Sevila – 954 505 600
This article first appeared in the magazine Dreamlife, which has a circulation of 60,000 in the Costa del Sol. Check out the magazine here.
Subject: Spain; Seville
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