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CADIZ, ANDALUSIA

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Cádiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the province of the same name, a province which is one of eight comprised by the autonomous community of Andalusia.

Cádiz, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula and possibly of all south-western Europe, has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. It is also the site of the University of Cádiz.

Despite its unique site, Cadiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cádiz, within the remnants of the city walls, is commonly referred to as the Old City (in Spanish, Casco Antiguo). It is characterized by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El Populo, La Viña, and Santa Maria, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City's street plan consists largely of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cádiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted by numerous parks where exotic plants, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus, flourish.

The city was originally founded as Gadir by the Phoenicians, who used it in their trade with Tartessos, a city-state believed by archæologists to be somewhere near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, about thirty kilometres northwest of Cádiz.

Cádiz is the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe. Traditionally, its founding is dated to 1104 BC although no archaeological strata on the site can be dated earlier than the ninth century. One resolution for this discrepancy has been to assume that Gadir was merely a small seasonal trading post in its earliest days.

Later, the Greeks knew the city as Gadira or Gadeira. According to Greek legend, Gadir was founded by Hercules after performing his fabled tenth labor, the slaying of Geryon, a monstrous warrior-titan with three heads and three torsos joined to a single pair of legs. As late as the early third century CE, a tumulus near Cádiz was associated with Geryon's final resting-place.

One of the city's notable features during antiquity was the temple dedicated to the Phoenician god Melqart. According to the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, the temple was still standing at the beginning of the third century CE. Some historians, based in part on this source, believe that the columns of this temple were the origin of the myth of the pillars of Hercules.

Around 500 BCE, the city fell under the sway of Carthage. Cádiz became a base of operations for Hannibal's conquest of southern Iberia. However, in 206 BCE, the city fell to Roman forces under Scipio Africanus. The people of Cádiz welcomed the victors. Under the Romans, the city's Greek name was modified to Gades; it flourished as a Roman naval base. By the time of Augustus, Cádiz was home to more than five hundred equites , a concentration of notable citizens rivaled only by Padua and Rome itself. It was the principal city of a Roman colony, Augusta Urbs Julia Gaditana. However, with the decline of the Roman Empire, Gades's commercial importance began to fade.

The fifth century overthrow of Roman power in Hispania Baetica by the Visigoths saw the destruction of the original city, of which there remain few remnants today. Under Moorish rule between 711 and 1262, the city was called Qādis, from which the modern Spanish name, Cádiz, was derived. The Moors were finally ousted by Alphonso X of Castile in 1262.

In the eighteenth century, the sand bars of the river Guadalquivir forced the Spanish government to transfer the port monopolizing trade with Spanish America from upriver Seville to Cádiz with better access to the Atlantic. During this time, the city experienced a golden age during which three-quarters of all Spanish trade was with the Americas. It became one of Spain's greatest and most cosmopolitan cities and home to trading communities from many countries, among whom the richest was the Irish community. Many of today's historic buildings in the Old City date from this era.

By the end of the century, however, the city suffered another series of attacks. The British blockade and siege of Cádiz between February 1797 and April 1798 was, by most standards, a costly failure. Nelson, returning from his defeat at Santa Cruz, bombarded the city in 1800. During Napoleon's conquest of Europe, Cádiz was one of the few cities in Spain that was able to resist the French invasion.

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