Occupying the blurred line between history and myth, little is known of Tartessus, the harbour city that once occupied the estuary of the Guadalquivir, long before the river silted up to form the salt marches of Doñana. According to Marcus Velleius Paterculus, writing in the 6th century BC six centuries after its mysterious disappearance, the city was founded 80 years after the Trojan War (1194-1184 BC).
The Phoenicians, attracted by the gold and silver mines in the mountainous region of Rio Tinto, became important trading partners with the Tartessians. With the coming of first Iron Age (around 700 BC), the Phoenicians then came to stay, establishing colonies from Cadiz (Gadir), through Malaga (Malaca), to Adra (Abdera) in the province of Almeria.
While the Phoenicians remained on the coast, the Turditanos held sway inland, dominating what is now Western Andalusia, until Amilcar disembarked in 237 BC at Cadiz to begin Carthage's imperial conquest of Spain.
As a result of the II Punic War (218-202 BC), a large portion of Southern Spain fell under Roman domination. Hispania Ulterior, as it was known at the time of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, then became the province of Hispania Baetica when Augustus re-organised the Empire's internal divisions. Trajan and Hadrian, two of Rome's most renowned emperors, were born in Italica, close to modern-day Seville.
At beginning of the 4th century, hordes of Vandals, Alans and Suevi came over the Pyrenees to sack the rich Roman cities and farms. The Romans called on their Visigoth allies (415), who, as Rome's political heirs, gradually pacified Spain.
In 711, Tariq at the head of a Muslim army defeated Rodrigo at Guadalete, thus beginning seven centuries of Moorish rule. Al-Andalus reached the height of its splendour under the Caliphs of Cordova (10th century) and Almanzor, after which began the tortuously slow Christian conquest.
By the mid-14th century, Al-Andalus had been reduced to the Nazari Kingdom of Granada, which included most of what is now Eastern Andalusia. But it was not until 1492, some 150 years later, when, much weakened through infighting and inefficient rule, the city of Granada finally fell to the Catholic Kings.
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