History of Marbella

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According to historians, the town of Marbella was founded around 1600 BC by colonists of Roman origin who set off from the ancient mediterranean port of Tyre in the Near East. They called it 'Salduba' which means 'Salt City'. Archeological remains from that period have been found nearby, including the Villa Romana de Río Verde and the Bóvedas, in the area around San Pedro de Alcántara, along with the more recent early Christian basílica, dating from the 3rd century A.D.

Moors and Christians

Muslims arrived in this part of southern Spain in the first decade of the 6th century and they called the town 'Marbil-la'. They built a fortress here in the style of the Damascus califate and a defensive wall to protect their settlement from attack by Christian forces. The Muslim town finally fell into the hands of the Catholic Monarchs - who were carrying out the Christian reconquest of Spain - in 1485, when King Fernando received the keys directly from the defeated calif, Mohamed Abuenza. From then onwards the town has been called Marbella. The original Muslim design of the old town is still evident today.

The slow course of history

In the 16th century, following the Christian reconquest, Marbella started to grow again - but slowly - by developing the surrounding farmland for agricultural production. New houses and residential districts started to be built around the nucleus of the ruined Muslim town. But, even as late as the end of the 18th century there were only 820 buildings in total, and many of them were empty or falling down.

In 1725 the San Luis fort was constructed to protect the inhabitants of Marbella from Mediterranean pirate raids. The fort was later destroyed by the French during their retreat at the end of the Peninsular War (1808-14). All that remains of it is a tower, now to be found in the gardens belonging to the hotel El Fuerte.

In the 19th century Marbella started to grow more rapidly, expanding beyond the historic old town to areas alongside what is now the Parque Arroyo de la Represa. Public building works of the time included new bridges and roads. In this spirit of progress, modern machinery and new industries arrived. Private capital financed the creation of an iron foundry that employed over one thousand men who came from all over Andalucía to work here. People are often surprised to hear that the first blast furnaces in Spain were installed in this factory.

However, agriculture continued to be the mainstay of Marbellas economy throughout the 19th century. The Marqués de Dueros famous, experimental model farm dates from this period. It was the most important privately financed agricultural colony in Spain and was situated where Sampedrena is today.

In the middle of the 19th century Marbella received artificial light for the first time by means of a primitive reverberation system, but it had to wait until the end of the century for the arrival of electricity and light bulbs. From the early part of the 19th century a number of plans were made to build a modern fishing port, but they all came to nothing until the 1950s when the port we see today was finally completed.

Modern Marbella

The town eventually started to take its present shape after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). But, it was not until the mid 1940s that tourists started to come here in large numbers, after entrepreneurs like Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe initiated the construction of hotels and apartment complexes. Then the rich and famous flocked to the resort and praised Marbella by word of mouth all over the world. So, in the space of just 50 years, what was once a little fishing and farming village has been transformed into an international tourist hot-spot, thanks mainly to its magnificent climate and golf courses.