Alicante History & People


Like many cities of southern Spain, Alicante boasts a diverse and incredibly long history- historians say over 3000 years! Over this rather lengthy stretch of time, Alicante has played host to a continuous string of civilizations who one-by-one, through adding their own personal touches to the seaside city, molded Alicante into the urban treasure it is today.

The first notch on the extensive timeline otherwise known as Alicante's history belongs to the Iberian civilization who first spotted the site, saw its potential and subsequently set down roots in the area surrounding Benacantil. The rocky mountain and it's surroundings, upon which Alicante's imposing castle sits, underwent quite a slew of name changes over the year; the Greeks called it Akra Leuka and the Romans bestowed upon it the name Lucentum- City of Light- before it finally came to be known as Alicante.

castillo de santa barbara

Recognizing the benefits of Alicante's proximity to the sea, its strategically high position and its natural protection of hills and mountains, the Moors were the next to step into Alicante's history and lay claim. A huge chunk of the present day city's development- including the sprawling landmark Castillo de Santa Barbara- unfolded during these centuries of Arabic rule. Plus, the Moors gave Alicante its first taste of life as a genuine port city.

During the 11th century and right on into the 12th century, Spain's two major kingdoms, Castilla and Aragón, constantly fought over possession of the city- the Castilian crown eventually walked away with Alicante under its belt with the Almizra Treaty in 1244. The 14th and 15th centuries saw Alicante's incorporation into the smaller Castilian kingdom of Valencia, after which it gained official city status. Alicante continued to flourish as a trading port and a major hub of maritime commerce throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and its exponentially growing economy attracted so many people from near and far that the population doubled in less than 100 years.

Alicante's history of good luck met its rival with a streak of equally bad luck. War after war seemed to plague the small city, starting at the end of the 17th century when French troops attacked for seven straight days. Barely given the chance to recover, Alicante suffered more bombardment- this time at the hands of English troops- during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) when the death of Spain's heirless king sparked a ruthless competition throughout Europe as powers vied for the vacant Spanish throne. After the dispute finally reached its end, the 18th century proved to be a relatively peaceful epoch of Alicante's history, as the ever-developing port city picked up where it had left off and eventually even became one if the few ports to obstain a license to conduct commerce with America.

Expansion and improvement marked the majority of the 19th century. The institution of a railway system that linked Alicante with central Spain secured its role as a leading Spanish port while drastic urban reforms gave the city a fresh new cosmopolitan edge. During the War of Independence (1804-1814), Alicante, one of the few cities that Napoleon never managed to completely dominate, stepped up by becoming the provisional capital of the Valencia kingdom when Valencia itself succumbed to the invading power. History would very nearly repeat itself in the 20th century's Spanish Civil War, when Alicante was one of the last cities to buckle under the pressure of the future dictator Francisco Franco's rebelling Nationalist troops.

Today, Alicante continues to play a major role as the core of the Costa Blanca, the capital of the Alicante province and the second major city of the Autonomous Community of Valencia.