A Brief History of Valencia
Valencia was ruled by the Moors from 714 AD on as part of the Al-Andaluz caliphate regulated from Sevilla. The city itself was established by the Romans in 138 BC with the name Valentia after they had successfully run the Carthiginians out, though the city had known Celtiberians and Phoenician and Greek traders long before. The Romans established an irrigation and agricultural system, which the Moors would later perfect and thus ensure the area’s fertility and productivity to the present day.
In the sixth century the Visigoths overran the city, but proved less adept at maintaining the its agricultural infrastructure and deferred to the Moors, who were briefly relieved of their Valencian property in 1094 by the Christians, led by the famed El Cid. Afew years later El Cid died and not long after the Moors retook the city and held it until 1238 when an Aragonese-Catalan force under King Jaime I reconquered the city, leaving the language of Catalan behind in the process.
Valencia has often sided with the Catalans to the north, as it did during the Spanish Civil War in aligning with the leftist Republicans against Franco’s forces. Valencia, in fact, was the last of the major Spanish cities to fall to the Nationalists. While Valencia doesn’t share the same extreme view of cultural separatism as the Catalans, it often finds itself lingering in the shadows of its larger neighbor. One might wonder if this unbridled competition has led to the architectural Renaissance in Valencia as of late. In the 1990s, the magnificent Palau de la Music was built on the banks of the Turía River and, most recently, the sprawling Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a high-tech and high-concept space-age compound for scientific and entertainment activities. Some might call it an identity crisis, but the locals are quick to put down such a notion. Though the official language is Castilian Spanish, most of the people in the city speak a derivative of Catalan known as Valenciano when conversing with friends and family. Street signs, likewise, are in Valenciano, but you’ll have an easier time getting around in Valencia than in Cataluña and find the locals much more helpful (and definitely easier to understand).
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