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The origins of Cordoba are lost in the mists of time. Its position by the river and the fertile farming land of the Campiña made it a perfect place for the first prehistoric settlements. However, it was not until the late Bronze Age (8th/9th century B.C.) when the first proper settlement was established. After the arrival of the Phoenicians and Greeks on the peninsula, the city became known as an important mining and commercial center, since the River Guadalquivir was then navigable as far as Cordoba. This facilitated the spread of artistic and commercial products and made for easier communication with the main cities of the period.

Roman Cordoba

Half way through the 2nd century B.C., a general called Claudius Marcellus founded the city of Corduba as the capital of the Roman province Hispania Ulterior. Cordoba thrived under Roman rule, and a great number of monumental buildings as well as public works were built; the city must have seen great commercial and cultural activity too, as evidenced by the two forums, one colonial and one provincial, which existed here. Great public buildings were raised, like the recently-discovered amphitheatre, as well as huge temples, like the one situated in calle Claudio Marcelo, and the streets were lined with elegant sculptures.

Muslim Cordoba

In the 8th century, a contingent of Arabic troops landed on the Mediterranean coast, and easily took over the weakened Visigoth kingdom that Cordoba had become. Cordoba was captured by Mugit, a deputy of Tariq, and Moslems settled in Cordoba side by side with their Christian counterparts. They lived in harmony, as is proved by the fact that the Moslems actually paid the Visigoths for the rights to move the musalla (the primitive prayer area outside the city walls) to the Visigoth basilica of San Vicente, thus forming the beginnings of the Great Mosque which still survives to this day.

In the year 756 Cordoba was proclaimed capital of the independent Emirate of Al-Andalus. Abd al-Rahman I carried out the first major enlargement of the Great Mosque of Cordoba and rebuilt the city walls and the Alcazar (castle). In the year 929 Cordoba was proclaimed Capital of the independent Caliphate thus creating a schism with Damascus, and converting Cordoba into the religious, political and administrative center of the entire Islamic kingdom in the west. One of the Caliph`s first acts was to build the dazzling, but short-lived, royal residence of Medina Azahara outside the city walls, an endless source of legends due partly to the extravagantly expensive building materials used. The Caliphate finally collapsed in 1013, and the city became one of the interim Taifa kingdoms.

Christian Cordoba

In June 1236, the troops of Fernando III "the Saint" arrived at the city gates. Cordoba was then resettled with Christians, mainly in the former Moslem quarters, especially the area of the Axerquia. Fernando III had 14 new churches built, seven in the Medina (town center, now called the Villa) and seven in the Axerquia, all of which were known as Fernandine Churches in the king`s honor.

The 14th century brought hard times for the population of Cordoba. Between 1366 and 1369 the civil war took place between the followers of Pedro I "the Cruel" and those of his bastard brother Enrique de Trastamara. In 1349, the Black Death hit Cordoba hard and returned fifteen years later. The massive death rate, as well as chronic shortages of food and money, plunged the city into a severe economic and social crisis.
A century later, after the Christian Monarchs mustered their troops in Cordoba before making the final move against the kingdom of Granada, there was at least a small ray of hope that the city would get back on its feet. Christopher Columbus was received by the monarchs here and he showed them his plan to travel to "the Indies". However, after capturing Granada, the last Moslem stronghold in Spain, Isabel and Fernando ordered the expulsion of the Jewish population from all the Christian territories, which put the final nail in the coffin of the troubled Cordoban economy.