History of Alicante, Costa Blanca, Spain

Map of Alicante, Costa Blanca, Spain

The first settlements in this area appear to have been on the slopes of Mount Benacantil, where the Castle of Santa Bárbara is today. Some 3000 years ago Iberians fortified the hilltop. By around 1000 BC Greek & Phoenician traders had started visiting the area. By 600 BC the armies of Carthage & Rome began to penetrate the peninsula fought each other for dominance. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar (father of the Hannibal) founded the fortified settlement of Akra Leuke, on the site of modern Alicante. But soon the Romans beat the Carhaginians and they ruled the area for some 700 years. The Romans built a city they called Lucentum, and this was the foundation of modern Alicante.

By 500 AD Roman had disappeared as a power and briefly came under the control of the Goths. The Goths were displaced by the Moors from North Africa, who brought their own art and architecture, and their own foods like oranges, palms & rice. The Moors built the present-day city of Alicante and its castle.

The Moors ruled southern Spain until 1100 AD (the start of the re-conquest). Alicante finally fell to King Alfonso X for the Castilian crown in 1246. 1308 Jaime II incorporated Alicante in the Kingdom of Valencia. In 1490 Ferdinand the Catholic granted Alicante its City Charter, and 100 years later it was to become the port for Castile, which enabled the area to flourish economically, and its population to grow. The 1500's brought prosperity to the region through the export of wine, oranges & olive oil.

In 1691, under the reign of Charles II, the French fleet bombarded the city for seven days. Then during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-14). It sided with the Bourbons and castle of Santa Bárbara was destroyed by English troops.

During the War of Independence (1804-14), known as the Peninsular War, it became the provisional capital of the Kingdom of Valencia when Valencia was occupied by General Suchet.

The arrival of the railway in 1858 was a great help to boosting its trading position. All was well until in 1936, General Francisco Franco led an uprising against the government. In the bloody Civil War that followed over the next three years Franco's army won. But Valencia and Alicante had fought against Franco up to the end, and paid a price under Franco's dictatorship from 1940-1975. After Franco's death in Valencia Province was granted a degree of autonomy which has transformed Valencia into the land it is today, with Alicante getting much of its income from the tourist industry.

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