Cordoba is steeped in over 2,000 years of history – the Romans, the Visigoths, the Jews, the Moors and then the Spanish all left their distinct imprint on Cordoba, making it one of the most mesmerizing and interesting cities in Spain.
Cordoba started as an Iberian settlement in 169 B.C., providing it with a mix of Carthaginian, Greek and Punic influences. Evidence of the Iberian presence – cups, sculptures and other everyday items can be found at the Archeological Museum.
The Roman governor Claudius Marcelus developed this into a city, most probably because of its strategic location on the Guadalquivir River. Under Pax Romana, it blossomed into a port city of great importance. Agriculture, mining and the olive trade thrived at this time. At present, vestiges of the Roman presence can be seen in structures such as the El Puente Romano, the bridge which spans the Guadalquivir River, the Roman Theater, Roman Walls, Aqueduct and other structures.
Cordoba reached the height of its glory under the rule of the Moors, who wrested Cordoba from the hands of the Romans in 711. Cordoba was proclaimed an emirate under the rule of the Damascus caliphate. In 756, Abd al-Rahman I rose to power and declared Cordoba independent of Damascus. It was in this era that Cordoba started to emerge as the biggest and greatest city in the world.
Indeed, by the 10th century, Cordoba reached its very peak. Under Cordoba’s three great rulers, Abd-ar-Rahman III, al-Hakam II and Ia-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir (also known as Almansor), Cordoba became the center of education, economy and culture. Cordoba enjoyed prominence and majesty that was unequaled in all of Europe. It was the largest city in Europe, with its population reaching one million. It was also the first city to have lighted streets and indoor plumbing. The number of lavish baths reached to the hundreds.
It was also during this time that the Jews enjoyed Cordoba’s eminence, living in Al-Andalus for almost four hundred years. The Jews established their community at the southwest of the city during the middle ages. In turn, the Jewish community gifted Cordoba and the world with Moises Maimonides and perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of the Historic Quarter of Cordoba today. Indeed, Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures peacefully coexisted during the enlightened rule of Al-Andalus.
However, the Almoravids (Berbers from North Africa) attacked and overthrew the Moors. This began the decline of Cordoba. Its once formidable political structure collapsed, making it vulnerable to outside attacks.
The Requenquista (Reconquering) campaign waged by Spain ended the era of the Moors. In 1236, Cordoba fell into the hands of the Catholic Kings, particularly Ferdinand III. Ferdinand III entered the city and gained control of it. He ordered the construction of the cathedral at the very center of the Mezquita. In different parts of the city, there was a flurry of construction activities – most of the cathedrals and monasteries built during this time still stand today.
Cordoba’s illustrious, although tumultuous, past greatly shaped its history. It is what makes it the fascinating city that it is today. Its former glory can be seen virtually anywhere! And even today, Cordoba’s contribution to science, the arts and culture remains very much alive. The spirit of the Cordobans attest to this. The Cordobans are living reflections of its history – fiery, enlightened and filled with hope and greatness.