Alicante History Facts and Timeline
(Alicante, Costa Blanca, Spain)
The Spanish city of Alicante has a history that is as colourful and conflicted as any on the Iberian Peninsula. Every major civilisation, from Greeks and Phoenicians to Romans and Moors, has ruled this port city on the Costa Blanca.
Much of this cultural diversity remains in the form of architecture and the subtle cultural influences of its residents.
The Early Centuries
As far back as 1000 BC, Phoenician and Greek merchants were setting up small ports along Spain's Mediterranean coast and introducing their culture to the tribes who lived here. In the 3rd century BC, the rival Romans and Carthaginians started their long protracted invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.
Hamilcar Barca, the famed Carthaginian general, founded a fortress called Akra Leuka (White Point) where Alicante now stands. Eventually, the Romans took control of Iberia and built their city of Lucentum on the site of Akra Leuka. Visitors can explore this first settlement today at the archaeological site of Tossal de Manises, just outside of Alicante.
The Arab Conquest
The Romans wrote the history of Alicante for some 700 years before their empire fell and the Visigoths took over. However, the Goths couldn't resist the Moors when they rolled over the southern half of Iberia in the 8th century AD. The Moors ruled until the 11th century, when the Castilian king Alfonso X took back the city in 1246, as part of the Reconquista (Reconquest).
History of the Kingdom of Valencia
Alicante soon fell under the control of James II, King of Aragon, and in 1298 became part of the Kingdom of Valencia. Alicante prospered for centuries under the rule of Valencia
, becoming a major commercial port for exports around the Mediterranean. Much of its splendid architecture was built during this golden era.
Things began to fall apart in 1609, when King Felipe III expelled most of the local Moorish population who had remained in Alicante after the Reconquista. He suspected the Moriscos of helping the Barbary pirates who were plaguing the coastal cities during this time and interfering with trade. The act backfired, however, as the city lost many of its artisans and labourers.
A Long Slow Decline
The 18th-century War of Spanish Succession also hurt Alicante. The city slipped into a period of decline that would last for decades. It survived by growing citrus fruits and almonds, making shoes and engaging in the farming of fish. Things improved remarkably during WWI, when Alicante emerged as an important port for exporting goods to the rest of Europe.
The Spanish Civil War that began in 1936 shook Alicante, since this was actually the final city loyal to the Republicans to fall to General Francisco Franco's Nationalist movement. This was a dark time in Alicante's history and the city became something of a battlefield, as Republican officials fled on boats and Italian warplanes bombed the Mercado de Abastos in the spring of 1938.
A Slow Recovery
The dictatorship of Spanish general Francisco Franco y Bahamonde often made life rough for Alicante, although by the middle of the 20th century, tourism was finally making a name for itself here. Today, this now ranks as one of Spain's fastest-growing cities, with a thriving commercial port and a solid tourism economy.
Its proximity to the beaches of the Costa Blanca, its many historic sites and its lively urban scene have all helped Alicante emerge from Spain's modern struggles and become one of the most popular cities along its eastern coast.