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History of Almuñécar

Learn the history of Almuñécar

The Romans

After the foundation of the city and the stay of the Phoenicians in it, they came into conflict with another of the great peoples of the Mediterranean at that time, Carthage. Although the hegemony of the Carthaginians did not last long, as the Roman Empire would soon impose its status on everything in the Mare Nostrum, and therefore also on the city of Segovia. And after the Second Punic War, the city was conquered by Rome at the end of the 3rd century B.C. And around the year 49 B.C., it was renamed Firmum Iulium Sexi, for the support shown to Gaius Julius Caesar in the battle of Munda against Pompey, within the Civil War that was suffered at that time within the Roman Empire.

For this reason, Discover Almuñecar presents on this occasion the mark left by the Roman Empire in Almuñecar because, although it is clear that the culture that contributed most to the history of this city were the Muslims throughout the Middle Ages, we cannot ignore the important impact that Romanization had on the entire Iberian Peninsula and therefore also on the current Costa del Sol Tropical, and specifically in Almuñecar and La Herradura.

When the Romans arrived in Sexi at the end of the 3rd century BC, they discovered an important city on the shores of the Mare Nostrum (Mediterranean), perfectly structured and with an economy based on the production and export of salted fish; in addition to the production of the highly prized garum, Sexi at that time had its own currency. But even so, the Romans built theatres, temples dedicated to their gods and an aqueduct that is still partially preserved and used.

In addition, the Phoenician Fish Salting Factory increased its production with the arrival of this new people, as garum was highly coveted by the most demanding palates of the Roman patricians and emperors, which is why the factory and its star product enjoyed great splendour. It was also an essential flavour in the cuisine of every corner of the Empire, from Finisterre to Alexandria.

Garum or garo, a word derived from the Greek “garon”, was a fish sauce made from the fermented entrails of these animals. In Ancient Rome it was mainly used to season a large number of foods, as we have already mentioned, although it also had uses in medicine, cosmetics and even as an aphrodisiac. Garum could be compared to the way soy sauce is used today in Asian cuisine.

Nowadays, in the Parque del Majuelo we can see part of the remains of the Fish Salting Factory, which gave the city so much prestige in its day. These remains were found and unearthed during several excavations carried out during the 70s and 80s of the 20th century.

It is also worth mentioning the contribution made by Rome, the system of roads, bridges, aqueducts and even the foundations of the legal system, and of course its language, Latin, which although nowadays is a dead language, it is no less true that both Spanish, which is one of the most spoken languages in the world (and all the other languages derived from Latin) we owe to them.

Although, as we have already mentioned, the culture that has left the greatest mark on the present-day Almuñécar was the Muslims in the Middle Ages, even today we can still delight in some of the works that the Roman people left for posterity in the oldest city in the Spanish Mediterranean.

In addition to the aforementioned Torrecuevas aqueduct and the salting factory, we can enjoy the Columbariums of La Alabina and the Torre Monje, or the Cueva de los Siete Palacios, which now houses the Archaeological Museum of Almuñécar.

Don’t wait to be told, visit Almuñécar and La Herradura and discover every corner and every hidden secret with Discover Almuñécar.

The Visigoths

Although it is not the most splendid period, and the legacy of the Visigoths is not as evident as other peoples of antiquity or the Middle Ages who passed through here, we cannot leave them out, that is why Discover Almuñécar shows you the legacy of the Visigothic people in Almuñécar and La Herradura.

After the decline and subsequent fall of the Roman Empire from the 5th century A.D. onwards, different peoples from Northern Europe, especially the Germanic ones, advanced southwards. Among these peoples, the Visigoths arrived in Roman Hispania.

Specifically, around the year 456, they emerged as the dominant power and spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Although with the long list of Visigothic kings (Alaric, Ataulf, Recaredo, Chindasvinto, Recesvinto, Leovigild, and a long etcetera) they all kept the Roman legacy very much alive, adopting its institutions and culture and language in general.

It is true, however, that the economy eventually collapsed, and specifically in Almuñécar the salting industry and the production of garum suffered a rapid decline.

On the other hand, the Catholic bishops were strong rivals of the kings during the two centuries of Visigothic rule.

The only remnant left on the Costa del Sol Tropical of the Visigoths’ passage through here is La Bóveda Visigoda de Jate (The Visigothic Vault of Jate).

It is camouflaged among some farm buildings on one of the roads leading to Peña Escrita, although it is mistaken for an Arab building, but it is dated between the 6th and 8th centuries A.D., although during the Middle Ages and under Muslim rule this building served as a pharmacy.

This building has been purchased on several occasions by the Almuñécar Town Hall for restoration, as it currently has a somewhat neglected appearance, which gives it an even more mystical character. It is located in a valley next to the source of the river Jate, very close to the town of La Herradura.

It is a rectangular building with a half-barrel vault, measuring approximately twelve metres long by ten metres wide. It is surrounded by several buttresses to support its weight, all in the Byzantine style typical of the 5th to 7th centuries.

As we have already mentioned, it is believed that in Arab times it was used as a dispensary for medicines and medicinal plants. It was also used as a country house, and is currently in a state of neglect despite attempts by the Town Hall to acquire and restore it and its use is almost exclusively for livestock or as a stable.

Even so, from Discover Almuñécar we encourage you to make the excursion to the source of the river Jate and discover this Visigothic architectural marvel.

Middle Ages

Although the town has a long history that began 1,500 years before Christ, the Middle Ages were undoubtedly the period that left the greatest mark on the town, so Descubre Almuñecar presents in this post the history of Almuñecar during the Middle Ages.

The arrival of the Muslims in the year 711 to the Iberian Peninsula is a key event in the history of the whole of Spain, and specifically in Almuñécar in the summer of 755 AD, the Umayyad prince Abderramán I landed on its shores from the Syrian capital (Damascus), who has a large monument and a square dedicated to him next to the Peñones del Santo, We recommend a visit to the castle of San Miguel, which is perfectly preserved, and from there we have unbeatable views of the entire coast of Granada and also houses a museum inside.

Abderramán I, after disembarking in Almuñécar, founded the Independent Emirate of Córdoba the following year, being one of the most important figures of the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula.

It was also at this time that the town of Sexitana changed its name to take its present name of Almuñécar, derived from the Arabic of course, حصن المنكّر (ḥiṣn al-Munakkar), which means “fortress flanked or surrounded (by mountains)”.

During the eight centuries of Muslim domination of Almuñécar, until 1489, when the Catholic Monarchs reconquered the town, the oldest town in the Spanish Mediterranean belonged to the cora of Elvira, making it the strongest point on the coast. From the 11th century onwards, the city of Almuñécar is already spoken of as an important strategic military and economic centre, as the city produced bananas, sultanas, sugar cane and cereals, thanks to its privileged subtropical microclimate, as well as all kinds of fruit, and also as an exceptional fishing port at that time. As a result, the town offered all kinds of services, and had a main mosque, markets, neighbourhoods outside the walls, suburbs and an important fishing port.

Later, Almuñécar was consolidated as the most important city on the coast of the Kingdom of Granada, when Al-Andalus (known as Al-Andalus, all the territory of the Iberian Peninsula dominated by the Muslims) was divided into the Kingdoms of Taifas, becoming part of what would later become the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula, the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada.

The entire old quarter of Almuñécar is also of Muslim heritage, which maintains its urban layout with narrow cross streets in an intricate network, cobbled floors and whitewashed houses of one or two floors, giving it a characteristic, typical Andalusian appearance. It has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, around the fortress of San Miguel. In this neighbourhood visitors will be able to delight themselves with patios full of flowers and unforgettable corners.

Also from medieval times we can find several watchtowers that have served throughout history to create a communication network between fortresses and to repel attacks by Barbary pirates.

But all this is not all, because on several occasions in recent years in various excavations for both public and private works, have been appearing more archaeological remains, both medieval and from other eras as happened in April of 2021 when some archaeological remains of the fifteenth century were discovered while conditioning a commercial premises of the Torres Jewellers in the Plaza de la Constitución in the town of Sexitana.
For all these reasons, and many more surprises that you will discover when you come, Descubre Almuñécar advises you to make a leisurely visit to Almuñécar and La Herradura, to immerse yourself in the medieval history of the city and feel like a real emir in the 21st century.

The Modern Age of Almuñécar, 16th century

Almuñécar was reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1489, just over two years before the final fall of the city of Granada, capital of the Kingdom of the same name, which was the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula. This marked the end of the most splendid period of the city’s history.

That is why today Descubre Almuñécar presents to its readers and visitors to Almuñécar and La Herradura, the Christian Almuñécar of the 16th century.

Because during this century, the town of Almuñécar and La Herradura left the Middle Ages behind to immerse itself fully in the Modern Age, as Almuñécar and La Herradura continued to be a strong and strategic point from which the new Christian-Castilian administration projected its action over the rest of the former Kingdom of Granada.

The entry into Granada by the Catholic Monarchs was finally a peaceful event, after more than ten years of siege, because the last Muslim king, Boabdlil surrendered the city without bloodshed.

This brought a few years of peace to the whole of the former Nasrid kingdom, but the peace was short-lived because in 1568 in the Alpujarra region, very close to the coast of Granada and Almuñécar and La Herradura, the so-called Moorish rebellion took place against the Pragmatic Sanction of 1567, which led to the uprising of the entire Muslim population that still lived in the current province of Granada and part of Malaga and Almeria.

This was put down militarily by Don Juan de Austria after several years of fighting and military skirmishes.
The immediate consequence was the expulsion and deportation of the entire Moorish community that still remained in the area, which led to a demographic vacuum that took many years to recover.

But the triumph of the Christians also marked the beginning of the Spanish State and of many voyages, discoveries and a new air of modernity in the art and economy of the city of Sexta.

Almuñécar’s economy was based mainly on agriculture, especially the cultivation of sugar cane, and progressively throughout the 16th century it moved towards the tertiary sector with maritime trade.

Furthermore, its monumental legacy will be enhanced with the beginning of the new Christian government with the construction of one of its current symbols, the Church of the Incarnation. Important Renaissance architects and artists arrived in the city throughout the 16th century, who actively contributed to its construction.

This Christian temple was designed by Juan de Herrera and built by Ambrosio de Vico with a slender tower finished with a spire by Diego de Siloé. After its construction was completed in 1600, it is the first proto-baroque architectural work in Spain.

In Almuñécar we also find another important monument and symbol of the oldest city in the Spanish Mediterranean, the Pilar de la Calle Real, which is a sculptural ensemble built on an ancient Roman canal.

Subsequently, under the reign of Charles I, the old Arab castle was remodelled and placed under the patronage of the archangel St. Michael, which is its current name, and also underwent major construction work, as, at the behest of this king, a series of towers were erected and a moat was dug around it.

It is also worth mentioning that in the bay of La Herradura, in the middle of the 16th century, the tragic shipwreck of the Spanish Armada took place, specifically on the 19th October 1562, when 28 ships under the command of Don Juan de Mendoza, carrying provisions and many families of soldiers stationed in Oran, were caught in a strong storm that caused the galleys to crash against the surrounding reefs and gorges, causing them to sink and the death of some five thousand people.

A monument was erected in his memory, which can be found today at the entrance to La Herradura on the Paseo Andrés Segovia.