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The History of Granada, Part 1

Granada is one of Spain’s oldest cities and has a mixed and at times troubled past. Situated in Andalusia, it sits proudly at the foot of the great Sierra Nevada mountains which are the highest peaks in the whole of Spain. Like all great cities, it is flanked by water, and in Granada’s case it is not just one river but four! The Genil, Darro, Beiro and Monachil all meet at this great city before they wind their way down to the coast and plains of Andalusia.

Perhaps most people would associate Granada with the Moors and the exotic eastern culture, showcased by the many architectural examples in the city. But Granada has a long story to tell of its past life, often being formed by bloody conflict when East fought West for the right to own this most strategic of places.

How it all Started

Recorded history of Granada dates back to around 1500 BC where artifacts of small Iberian tribes have been found on the same site as the city now stands. The Phoenicians who mainly were coastal living people had one or two tribes living in and around Granada in 1000 BC. But when the Carthaginians beat back the Phoenicians in a conflict, they took control over the whole coast and inner part of Andalusia in 550 BC. They bought with them commerce and the first semblance of what is now called Granada was established with Elybirge.

For three centuries the Carthaginians prospered, and a city famous for trade was gradually taking shape, but that was soon to change. The Roman Empire invaded the whole of the Iberian Peninsula and conquered it, the town at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains was now called Ilberis. Iiberis was not a major player in any great respects of the Roman Empire and when it started to fall in the 5th Century, they abandoned it to the Visigoths.

Unlike the Romans, the Visigoths saw the potential of the settlement and the town started to grow considerably. It was this period that religion really started to play an important role in the history of the city. Christianity started to become popular in Spain and Granada now had an important military purpose for its strategic position.

The Moorish Years

The first invasion by the Moors was in the 7th Century and they routed the Visigoths from the city, it was the Moorish Caliphate who took Granada in 713 and named it Ilbira, and for the next three centuries trade and the population of the city grew and prospered. Things started to change again in 1010 when a bitter feud between different Arab clans almost razed the city to the ground. It took three years to resolve the conflict and the triumphant Ziries clan took control of the whole of the city. The clan, happy with their victory, promptly declared their independence from Morocco and formed a kingdom of their own called Grnata. We pause our history of Granada with the Ziries and their new kingdom Grnata, and in part two we delve into even more of the rich history of Granada.