No one knows exactly which year Seville was founded, but it is believed to be around 2700 years ago. According to legend, the city was founded by the greek-roman half god Hercules. The history books tell a different story: Seville was already a relatively developed city when the Romans arrived to the Iberian peninsula.
Julius Caesar spent a large part of his life in Seville and he was the one who had the walls built to protect the city from intruders. Two of the most important Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian were both born in Seville, or more exactly in Italica: a small city close to Seville where the wealthiest Roman families lived during that time. It is still possible to visit Italica and even today there are remains of houses, mosaics och an impressive amphitheatre.
Later on the German Visigoths came to Spain and so also to Seville. However, the Arabic invasion was already approaching and the Moorish takeover soon took place. Seville was a muslim city from the year 712 to 1248, that is for more than 500 years – a very long and important period. Many of the most important buildings that can be seen today were built by the muslims. For example the Golden Tower (a fortress by the river to protect the city harbour and its treasures) and the Giralda Tower, the tower of the cathedral and which was used as a minaret for the mosque that formed the basis of the now Catholic cathedral.
In 1248 Seville was conquered by Ferdinand III (also called the Saint), the king of Castile and Léon. In many ways Spain resembles Great Britain in the way that for a long time it was a united kingdom. Spain can not be considered a political unity, at least not during the period when it was governed by the Catholic kings when queen Isabella I and Ferdinand V had united the four kingdoms that had existed up until then: Castile and Léon, Aragón and Navarra. Seville was from 1248, and almost 200 years onwards, the capital of Castile and León.
The most prosperous period arrived, without a doubt, after the discovery of America. The Guadalquivir river, which flows into the Atlantic ocean, is navigable about 75 kilometres inland all the way to Seville. Due to this, the Catholic kings named Seville the country’s only inland port. All the ships that travelled to or from India or the Americas had Seville as their base. Among others Columbus’ own ship. In this way Seville became the largest and wealthiest cities in Europe of the time. It was also during this era that they decided to build the world famous cathedral (the third largest Christian temple in the world, after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St Paul’s Cathedral in London) as well as numerous palaces and churches in both Baroque and Renaissance style. It was also during this period that Miguel de Cervantes (the author of Don Quixote), and the most important Baroque artists such as Velazques, Murillo and Zuraban, lived and worked in Seville.
Although the river had been a given factor for all the riches it also came to be its downfall. In the 18th century the Guadalquivir river started filling up with slurry and the larger ships were unable to reach the harbour. The then current Spanish king decided to move the main port from Seville to Cádiz, and with this came a great loss for the power of Seville. The great “recovery” did not take place until the 20th century with the two large international exhibitions: the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 and the Universal Exhibiton of Seville (Expo ’92) in 1992.