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SEVILLE HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY



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Because of the appeal of its province and the wide range of tourist activities available, Seville has become one of the most popular choices among visitors to Spain: a cultural melting pot, its towns and villages are like mosaics and columns on which the history of Tartessians, Iberians, Arabs and Christians is written and kept alive.

Seville is a lyrical destination, where six touristic regions bring into play a mixture of sunshine, nature, sports, poetry and flamenco, gastronomy and history. With a surface area of 14,001 km2, the province of Seville, the largest in Andalusia, is made up of 105 towns, including the capital.

The province Seville boasts a vast natural and cultural heritage: about 14 percent of its surface area is classified as natural beauty spots; it is home to 14 historical sites and over 300 monumental groupings, not to mention its wealth of handicrafts, its fiestas and popular customs. In recent years, the province of Seville has undergone major changes, the fruit of the efforts of a modern, dynamic society. The quality of its services and technological innovation have earned it a place among southern Europe’s leading tourist areas. Situated in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, it is part of the Autonomous Community of Andalusia. The capital, Seville, has a population of over 1,700,000. The province, in the heart of Vega and La Campiña, on the banks of the River Guadalquivir, is a developed area stretching over

El Aljarafe, the marshes (Marismas del Guadalquivir) and Doñana, towards the northern and southern mountain ranges (Sierra Norte and Sierra Sur). In terms of climate, the province is situated within the Mediterranean zone. The average annual temperature is between 18 and 20ºC and there is plenty of sunshine all year round (about 3,000 hours). Seville is blessed with mild winters and dry, hot summers, with warmish temperatures in spring and autumn. Rain can be expected between early autumn and the first days of spring.

After the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, the Visigoths came to settle on the Iberian Peninsula and during the reign of Leovigildo, political unity and independence were attained for the first time. In 711, the Moslems invaded almost the entire peninsula, calling it Al-Andalus, and took Seville, the largest major city, giving it the name of Isbiliya. They made it into the country’s Islamic capital, the seat of the General Government of Al-Andalus and a port and military base from which to undertake expeditions. However, in a matter of just 10 years, the Christians who had settled in the north of the peninsula started to advance, thereby commencing the period of the Reconquest. As a result, a process of miscegenation evolved and the city turned into a social, cultural and religious mosaic as Moslems, Jews and Christians lived side by side. From then on, times of war alternated with periods of peace while Seville gained further prestige with major works like the mosque, Mosque Mayor, and the Giralda.

In the thirteenth century, while Moslem Spain was beset by a period of chaos, poor administration and internal conflict, Fernando III el Santo took the opportunity to launch his reconquest of Andalusia. The year of 1248 witnessed the start of the Christianisation process, in which Seville was to play a leading role. The port, the point of convergence of goods shipped across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, would enable Castile to form part of Europe’s trade flow and, two centuries later, would be the scene of Columbus’ departure when he set off to discover America. Moving on to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Seville sank into a profound economic crisis during which the city’s growth came to a sudden halt. The crisis had several causes, including the transfer of the Indies fleet to Cádiz, the expulsion of the Moriscos Moslems converted to Christianity), the outbreak of a plague in which half the population died and the loss of territories in Europe. Later, as the nineteenth century and the Age of Romanticism dawned, the French arrived while the city, already socially depressed, was hit by another outbreak of plague. Fortunately, the tobacco industry appeared on the scene, along with a number of important reforms aimed at the economy, education and urban development.

The factory, La Cartuja, was founded; the Triana Bridge was built; gas lighting was installed in public places; and the first April Isla de la Cartuja AVE, the high-speed train Fair was held. By the middle of the century, the crisis was over and a new period of peace had begun. The twentieth century came hand in hand with an extraordinary cultural period, featuring, amongst others, the Generation of ’27 and, in 1929, the Latin American Fair. The city was replanned and revamped for the occasion. In the latter half of the century, Seville, having earned its place as a key tourist destination, undertook a gradual modernisation process, considerably enhanced by the 1992 World Fair, which was held in the Andalusian capital and gave it the cosmopolitan boost it needed.

The year of 1992 also marked the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America and the start of the Voyages of Discovery, which would become the leitmotif of the city centre. Designed to handle up to 8,000,0000 passengers a year, the airport runs regular flights to a number of Spanish and European capitals.

Seville possesses a rich history, equalled by few. Many were the civilisations to cross the river and settle in this, one of the peninsula’s most fertile regions. In the beginning, the city acted as both bridge and port. The early human settlements took root on a small plateau which had escaped the floods when the Guadalquivir River rose. When, at the time of their confrontation with the Carthaginians, the Romans invaded the peninsula, Seville was inhabited by the Turdetanos, the descendants of Tartessus. After the Battle of Ilipa, which marked the end of the war, the Romans built a settlement on the other side of the River Itálica (206 B.C.) to provide a place of rest for their legionaries. This event was the beginning of what would be the swift and intense Romanisation of the peninsula, which, in the process, took a great step forward in the economic, political and cultural fields. Seville was certainly no exception.


 


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