The city of Jaen is one of the oldest in Spain. Its origins date back to the Chalcolithic, a fact documented through research in which villages dating from the end of the Neolithic have been found. Of these, the most prominent is the “Marroquíes Bajos” deposit, which has an area of around 40 hectares and is located on the outskirts of the city.
Through archaeology and numerous investigations, the existence of several cultural phases of the city of Jaen has been determined, such as the Copper Age, belonging to the third millennium before Christ. Several constructions have been found from that time, including homes, storage sites, and even walls, pits, and other defensive structures.
During the Copper Age, metallurgy, social complexity, territory possession, and demographic expansion began to appear in the Iberian Peninsula. This stage in Jaen brought with it the formation of an agrarian economy and the emergence of the territorial system.
From the Iberian era, the presence of the “Cerro de la Plaza de Armas de Puente Tablas” stands out. The excavations carried out in this area showed the presence of a stepped wall with towers, and it was because of this construction that it received the name of “Plaza de Armas”.
Because it was in a geographical area of strategic transhipment, the Greeks and Phoenicians populated the area of Jaen and thus formed part of its exciting history.
In 237 BC, the Carthaginian conquest of the Guadalquivir began. This led to the exploitation of the Sierra Morena mining deposits and turned Jaen into an enriched and strengthened population. Later, the city was invaded by Scipio the African, who defeated the Carthaginians, passing Jaen into Roman hands.
After this Roman period, the Visigoths settled in the area during the first part of the 6th century. Despite this situation, the city of Jaen continued to be populated mostly by Hispano-Romans.
Islamic stage and Jewish influence
Later and for five centuries, Jaen was inhabited by the Arabs. This time was of great splendour for Jaen, managing to become an imposing city. The Arabs in that period built mosques and various forts and palaces.
Jaen, during its Arab times, was a rich and abundant land, possessing important natural resources such as water sources, forests, and a large production of cereals. It was also the cradle of a thriving tapestry and household utensils industry.
The Jewish presence in Jaen dates from the year 162, although it was not until the 10th century that it reached its peak with the birth in Jaen of the Jewish courtier Hasday ibn Shaprut. This doctor and politician became a benchmark of the Jewish community in Al-Andalus.
Judaism was important during the reigns of Ferdinand III of Castile, the Saint, and Alfonso X of Castile, the Wise, although it suffered several ups and downs in its history that triggered the persecution of the Jewish people in 1391. Despite this, Judaism remained present in the territory until the 18th century.
Ferdinand III, the Saint, in 1246, reconquered Jaen for the Christians. With the mandate of King Henry II of Castile, various privileges were granted to Jaen and it became one of the 18 cities with the right to vote in the Cortes of Castile.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Jaen suffered a severe crisis as a result of epidemics, damaged crops, and tax policies. Thus, the population was gradually impoverished, causing the deterioration of almost all areas of the city.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the city was in decline and was sacked by French troops in the war of independence (1808 - 1814), which aggravated the situation. The French destroyed Saint Catherine Castle before retreating.
In 1833, the city of Jaen was named provincial capital in the territorial división, determined by Queen Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, a fact that somewhat appeased its decline. However, this trend of decline did not fully diminish until 1960, when Jaen began a period of rebirth.
The arrival of democracy upon the end of the Franco regime was the milestone that gave Jaen its exponential growth both economically and socially. Currently, the city lives off tourism and the cultivation of olive trees, which have given it the well-deserved title of the World Capital of Olive Oil.