The oldest population of what is now Zaragoza dates back to the third century BC. Later, it was refounded by the Romans in approximately 25 BC, when a traditional Latin grid was established in its streets.
This city remained standing for the next 400 years until the Suevi in 452 and then the Visigoths in 466 incorporated it into the kingdom of Toulouse.
After that, the city was harassed by Franks and other barbarians until the Saracens finally captured it in the year 714. It then became an integral part of the caliphate.
Impressive cultural wealth
From then on, Zaragoza experienced cultural and socioeconomic splendour thanks to its great tolerance wherein Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together. It reached its zenith in the 11th century, as the limits of the city expanded with impressive palaces and temples to later fortify it against the advance of Christian troops.
Finally, an alliance between the Franks, the Aragonese and the Occitans, with the troops of Alfonso I, nicknamed the Battler, reconquered Zaragoza in 1118, making it the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon.
Under the command of the Kingdom of Aragon, religious tolerance remained very fragile due to the different interests and economic influences between the different clans. This began a complex process of power struggles with the rival kingdoms of the Aragonese that lasted throughout the following centuries.
Despite the city’s loss of influence after the union with the Kingdom of Castile, the cultural flourishing of Zaragoza was maintained with the founding of the university and different colleges and academies, despite the final expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and the Moors in 1609.
The turbulent period and development
Zaragoza's situation became complicated again after the manifest support for the Kingdom of Aragon during the War of Succession, which ended in 1707 with the definitive loss of its autonomy and the important political influence that it experienced in the 13th century.
This situation worsened in 1808 after the invasion of Napoleonic troops who entrenched the city. However, Zaragoza resisted the attacks of the invaders.
Throughout Europe, Zaragoza's courage became a symbol against Bonaparte's megalomaniacal plans, but it financially ruined the city, which was left devastated with immense human losses that were further aggravated by an unexpected epidemic of typhus.
In the middle of the 19th century, the situation improved for Zaragoza with the arrival of the railway and its residential and industrial expansion. This made it necessary to demolish the old medieval walls so that the geographical limits of the city could expand like never before, despite one of the worst cholera epidemics recorded in Europe.
By 1898, Zaragoza had industrialized through a prosperous sugar business thanks to beets and an absolute expansion of trade.
This economic impulse resulted in great architectural works and the modernization of the city with large avenues and impressive buildings, museums and government palaces. However, this came at the cost of the destruction of the immense cultural and patrimonial heritage of Muslim Spain.
The 20th century and the future
During the first decades of the 20th century, Zaragoza enjoyed immense economic, industrial and banking power. The city accumulated large capital that resulted in a wealthy bourgeois class, which took advantage of the demographic boom when the rural sectors moved to the city.
However, the serious impact of the depression of 1929 and the political conflict aggravated the socioeconomic situation of Zaragoza, which only worsened with the arrival of the second republic in 1931.
Everything worsened with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, which turned Zaragoza into a battlefield at the beginning of the conflict, after a failed counteroffensive by Republican troops.
After the triumph of the Francoist rebels, the city underwent a drastic change that included ambitious urban plans and the growth of its urban area, surpassing the natural barrier of the Ebro.
After the so-called Spanish Economic Miracle, in the 70s, Zaragoza became the fifth most populous city in Spain due to constant rural migration. This momentum only increased dramatically after the advent of democracy and Spain's entry into the European Union.
This new push translated into greater industrialization, the creation of a thriving commercial and tourist engine and Zaragoza becoming a destination for academics interested in its rich cultural and heritage past, despite its being, together with Granada, the Spanish city where the greatest destruction of historical and cultural heritage occurred.
During the next thirty years of democracy, Zaragoza maintained its momentum but the economic crash of 2008 affected its industry and the booming real estate sector, thereby slowing down development.
In the 21st century, Zaragoza faces great challenges, including strong industrial competition with other emerging European and Asian cities as well as consolidating its leadership in areas such as tourism and services.