The first human settlement in what is now Valencia existed in the 4th century BC but its official founding was in 138 BC by the Romans. It was named Valentia. This makes Valencia one of the oldest cities in Spain.
With a traditionally Latin urban layout, the city was the setting of continuous wars between the Roman factions until the situation stabilized around the first century. A period of prosperity lasted until the arrival of decadence that devastated the empire around the fourth century, when barbarian hordes began to invade the provinces.
The Middle Ages
In the sixth century, the city was left in the hands of the Visigoths, who expelled the Byzantines and remained in control of the city until the Muslim invasion in 711. The Muslims took over Valencia and began a new period of splendour with urban transformation.
In a short time, the flourishing of the city prompted an urban reorganization, which increased during the reign of the taifas during the 11th century. The city was fortified, making it impenetrable until the arrival of the Cid Campeador, who briefly retook Valencia in 1094. However, after his death, in 1102, the city again fell into Muslim hands.
From that moment, a fight arose between the Almoravids and the Almohads for control of Valencia. This situation lasted for almost a century until James I definitively reconquered the city in 1238, then maintained tolerance between Muslims, Jews and Catholics.
A century later, Valencia was devastated by the Black Death pandemic in 1348 and by a series of devastating wars that severely affected the city socioeconomically. This created tremendous tensions between the different religious communities, which were barely supporting each other.
The Golden Age
The 15th century is considered Valencia’s heyday, a period of socioeconomic and cultural prosperity during antiquity. Its demography increased, making it the most populous city in the Crown of Aragon.
Along with the population increase, there was industrialization in the form of high-quality textiles, with silk being the main export. This made Valencia a textile emporium throughout Europe.
Just as its textile development was a catalyst for entrepreneurship and wealth, its infrastructure experienced an unparalleled boost with the creation of large-scale artistic and cultural works such as museums, galleries, palaces and theatres.
The decline of influence and total decay
After the discovery of America, the Atlantic Ocean became the most important navigation route of all, to the detriment of the Mediterranean.
Although the Crown of Aragon was related to that of Castile, the navigation and marketing of America remained exclusively in Castilian hands, to the detriment of Catalans and Valencians.
This led to a great loss of socioeconomic influence.
This loss caused a serious economic crisis and marked the beginning of a very turbulent period for Valencia, which was involved in wars and conflicts that worsened its situation.
Everything got worse after the decision, in 1609, to expel from the city the Moors and Jews, who had great weight and influence in the economy and industry. This led to the total ruin of Valencia.
This series of calamities and bad decisions worsened over 100 years with the War of Succession, which lasted almost a decade and ended in 1709 with the political autonomy of Valencia remaining under the total control of Castile.
With the arrival of the 19th century, the situation in Valencia worsened even more after the invasion of Napoleonic troops in 1809. This caused serious damage to the city's infrastructure and created a disastrous economic situation and tremendous political instability until the expulsion of the French.
The Civil War, recovery and the future
During the early 1840s, the city began to recover some of the brilliance of yesteryear by modernizing through the installation of public services and the inauguration of large infrastructure works thanks to the 19th century “Ensanche”, which expanded the limits of the cities and demolished the old ones.
With the arrival of the 20th century, Valencia stood out as one of the main cities in Spain thanks to its industrial boost, the incorporation of the railway and roads for vehicles and the construction of large commercial markets.
However, the economic depression of 1929 and the subsequent economic instability were felt strongly in Spain, including in Valencia.
After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Valencia became the Republican capital and staged terrible combats that largely devastated the city.
It was necessary to wait until the arrival of the so-called Spanish Economic Miracle for Valencia to recover its brilliance and splendour at the end of the 1960s.
The situation improved even more after the arrival of democracy, surpassing the coup attempt by the Francoists in 1981.
During the next forty years of democracy, Valencia positioned itself as a pole of enormously important industrial, tourist, artistic and gastronomic development with great challenges and ambitious plans for the 21st century.