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Throughout the history of Seville, many distinct cultures have left their mark on the city. First settled by the Phoenicians, the lucrative port of Seville really started to flourish under Roman rule with trading to all corners of the Roman Empire from Seville’s river banks. The domination of the Visigoths followed – another important chapter in the history of Seville, and leaving a strong cultural and architectural legacy in the city.
The next significant phase in the history of Seville came with the arrival of Muslim rule, which lasted for the next five centuries. The Muslims gave a new name to Seville – Ishbiliya – and propelled it into becoming the most important and culturally significant hub of al-Andalus, the Islamic kingdom of southern Spain. The impact of this Islamic rule on Seville’s history can still be seen today in much of the exotic architecture that still dominates – particularly the soaring Giralda at Seville’s cathedral, which was originally a soaring minaret of the huge Muslim mosque.
The Muslim control of Seville ended in the 13th century, when the conquering Spanish King, Fernando III, initiated the historic rise of Seville, transforming it into the cosmopolitan hub of Christian Spain. This marked an important turning point in the history of Seville - leading to its monopolisation of cross-seas trade and a huge period of huge economic and cultural prosperity, inhabited by great authors and artists surrounded by Seville’s new elegant palaces, churches and convents.
The history of Seville was, however, marked by an astonishing downturn in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the city’s prosperity was virtually flat lined by devastating plagues and the emergence of neighbouring Cadiz as the new “Port of the Indies”. This decline continued until the early years of the 20th century, until the historic 1929 Latin American Exposition in Seville. Fabulous buildings once again sprang up, and money poured in from tourists enjoying the tranquillity of Seville and its historic sights.
Progress in Seville was once again halted with the onset of the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing 35-year dictatorship of Franco. During this period, many of Seville’s historic buildings were torn down or left to ruin, and it was only following Franco’s death in 1975 that Seville could start to repair the damage. Now, after all these years of disparate cultural rule during its history, Seville is once again a cultural leader. Restoration projects are ensuring Seville’s historic buildings are returned to their former splendour, tourists throng the streets, and Seville is a city that once again dominates the region from a historical, cultural and financial perspective.