The origins: Prehistory and Protohistory
The founding of the city dates back to the 8th century BC, during the time of the civilization of Tartessos. Until the Roman rule around the year 200 BC, Écija was probably a little Turdetan settlement of huts located upon a slightly high area next to the Genil River, known nowadays as Cerro del Alcázar or San Gil (also called “El Picadero”).
Splendour during the Roman Age
The city entered its greatest period of glory during the Roman rule. Écija supported the Emperor Julius Caesar in the Civil War against Pompey the Great and, around year 14 BC, it was founded under the name of “Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi”. Back then, it was a big city with regular lines paved streets, drains, water supply network, forum, temples, thermal baths and an amphitheatre next to a bridge that allowed the Via Augusta1 cross over the river Genil. From then on, Écija was the capital of an extensive conventus iuridicus2, one of the four provinces in which Hispania Baetica3 was divided, which comprised 49 cities and also included a considerable part of the current provinces of Sevilla, Granada and Jaén. Its main source of wealth derived from the olives cultivation and the oil export overseas, by means of both river Genil and river Guadalquivir’s waterway and afterwards Sevilla’s sea route.
After Roman rule: Écija during Al-Andalus
The city continued to be an important cultural and religious centre after the fall of the Roman Empire. During the time of the Visigoths, Écija became the seat of a Diocese, and under Islamic rule Istiya (or Astiya) it was the province capital under the Emirate and the Caliphate. Arab chroniclers experts on this topic emphasize the fertility and richness of its lands, home to an important Berber settlement. Muslims introduced the irrigated crops and among them, the cotton, whose characteristic cultivation in Écija led to coin the nickname of Madînat al-qutn (“the city of the cotton”).
Early Middle Ages and Early Modern Period: Écija during the Crown of Castile
In May 1240, Écija was conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile and then divided between the new Castilian settlers (most of them noble people), military orders and the Church. The great landowning movement that marked the both later and modern history is largely due to this feudal distribution and its growth during the Early Modern Period.
Écija during the Baroque: “The Golden Century of Écija”
For the entire 18th century, considered as “The Golden Century of Écija”, the city flourished in terms of civil and religious building projects, due to the concentration of the landownership and both ecclesiastical and aristocratic powers. During this period there were in the city around 40 nobility titles and 13 of were Grandees4. The historic old town is home to one of the best legacies of architecture and Baroque art found in Andalusia and probably in the entire Iberian Peninsula: palaces, churches (with the towers that have made the city so famous), convents, public buildings and stately homes which, alongside with their goods and extensive documentary archives, make up an exceptional historical heritage.
In 1402, Enrique III awarded the title of “town” to Écija. Royal favours went on: Carlos I added the title of “Muy Leal” (Very Loyal) to the one of “Muy Noble” (Very Noble) held previously by the town. Felipe V awards the appointment as “Constante, leal y fidelísima” (Constant, Loyal and Very Faithful) in 1710.
In 1880 Alfonso XII awards the town Council the address of “Excelentísmo”5. Still during the 20th century, Écija recieves in 1966 a new title, equally or more deserved than the former ones: “Conjunto histórico-artístico” (Site of Historical and Artistic Interest).
1. Roman road crossing all of Hispania Province.
2. Type of territorial organization during the Ancient Rome.
3. One of the three Roman provinces of Hispania (current Iberian Peninsula).
4. Highest nobility title which can be conferred on a Spanish person.
5. “Of great excellency”.