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Elche History, Spain

The third most populous city in the in the Valencian Autonomous Community in Spain, Elche or Elx (in Catalan) is the capital city of the region of Baix Vinalopo in the province of Alicante near the Mediterranean Sea. Alongside its colorful historical past, this City of Palms is where Spain’s shoe-making industry thrives, becoming a major player in the footwear manufacturing industry not only in Spain but also in Europe. Take time out to have a glimpse of the humble beginnings of Elche History.

Elche History - Ancient Times

Archaeological remains found in La Alcudia, considered as the site of the ancient Elche, prove that civilization in the city flourished as early as the Neolithic period, roughly as old as 5000 BC. This early community developed and became known as Helike to the Iberians in the 5th century.

Later on, the Carthaginians attacked and destroyed the town. When the Romans came, Elche was given the name Ilici, became a colonia, and enjoyed an age of prosperity. After being under the Byzantine for a short time, the Goths captured the region and founded an Episcopal seat. As a symbol of its newly found glory as an Episcopalian seat at that time, Elche was also popularly known as Basilica de Ilici.

Elche History - Under the Arab rule

Elche was moved to its current location when the Arabs took over the place in the late Middle Ages. Back then, the area was called Vila Murada. The Arabs were the ones who changed the name of place to Elx, thus the modern name Elche.

Under the Arabs, agriculture in the area became fully developed. This is primarily due to the introduction of irrigation, through perfected methods which originated from the ‘oasis culture’ in the Middle East and North Africa. At this time, the Arabs surrounded the newly founded city with palm trees. This palm tree forest (which was believed to be planted by the Phoenicians) is the only one of its kind in Europe.

Elche History - Under the Christians

During the Reconquista in the 13th century, James II of Aragon was successful in ousting the Arabs in the walled section of the Vila Murada. The surviving Arabs were forced to leave the town and settle south in outskirts of the Vila Murada, which they called Raval de Sant Joan. Due to the Arabs’ efficient system of irrigation, Elche maintained its status as a leading agricultural area until the 19th century.

Elche History - Modern Times

By the break of the 19th century, came Elche’s luck in the sandal-making industry, the foundation of city’s footwear industry. With the introduction of the railway, the industry boomed further more, making Elche grow not only economically but also culturally. Today, hundreds of companies related to the footwear production are currently established in Elche.

Elche History continues to be an inspiration to other areas in Spain. It was able to progress economically making it gain the stature it has now. More facts about the country may be explored through Murcia History and Madrid History.
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