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The land of Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years with the first tribes travelling from Central Europe around 5000 to 3000 B.C. Some of the tribes in Alicante settled around the slopes of mount Benacantil on which today stands the castle of Santa Bárbara. The highlight of this mountain was that it was close to the sea, but yet offered security from invaders due to its height. According to some historians, the Iberians (native Spanish) secured the hilltop by fortifying it. Some group of people settled in the Benalúa area, where later on the Roman city of Lucentum was built which is the predecessor of the city of Alicante. Some settlements have also been found in Albufereta and in the Serra Grossa.
By around 1000 BC Greeks & Phoenicians had started visiting the eastern coast of Spain for the purpose of trade, and played a major part in the introduction of iron, the alphabet, & the pottery wheel. By 600 BC the armies of Carthage & Rome began to penetrate the peninsula & fight for dominance. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar (father of the legendary Hannibal) founded the fortified settlement of Akra Leuke, on the site of the modern city of Alicante. The Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, but in the end were no match for the Romans. They proved to be the primary force & ruled here for over 700 years. By 500 AD Rome was in decline & Alicante was more or less under the control of the Goths.
The Moors (Arabs) who ruled southern Spain until 1100 AD built the present day city, under the protection of the castle. In 1246 Alfonso the 10th captured the city for the Castilian crown. Later on in 1308, Jaime II incorporated Alicante in the Kingdom of Valencia. Alicante was granted its own city charter under the reign of Ferdinand the Catholic in 1490. 100 years later it became a natural port of Castile, thus initiating the development of its sea trade. Due to peace and prosperity Alicante flourished and attained the rank of Spain's third largest trading port, exporting wine, oranges & olive oil.
Like other cities and ports, invaders have also attacked Alicante and all the invasions have been made through sea. During the reign of Charles II in 1691, the French Armada attacked Alicante for seven consecutive days. Thus the war came to be known as the War of Spanish Succession (1701-14). During the war, Alicante sided with the Bourbons and therefore suffered an attack from the English troops, resulting in the destruction of the castle of Santa Bárbara. It became the provisional capital of the Kingdom of Valencia during the War of Independence (1804-14), which is also known as the Peninsular War. Major General Suchet occupied Valencia at that time.
It was only during the 19th century that Alicante started to prosper and expand. With the arrival of railway in 1858, it got linked to other major cities that were located in the centre of the peninsula. Due to this the city got a cosmopolitan make over and became one of Valencia’s major port welcoming maritime traffic.
The Spanish revolution started around the first quarter of 20th century. King Alfonso XIII had to give up the throne, due to failed military dictatorship and civil unrest. In 1931, Spanish Republic was declared. A left-wing coalition of communists and socialists won the subsequent elections by a narrow margin, but subsequently lost the next one in 1933 to the conservatives and liberals. They could not accept their defeat easily leading to a revolution led by the Republican Army. Communism in Spain came in to existence due to an uprising by General Sanjurjo and General Mola in 1936, who were supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. After the accidental death of both Mola and Sanjurjo and three years of war, Franco's armies were victorious. Alicante was one of the last cities loyal to the legitimate government.
The next 20 years proved to be unpleasant for Alicante under Franco's police state. Due to severe frosts in 1941 and 1946 local orange farmers suffered huge losses. After Franco died in 1975, King Juan Carlos I succeeded him leading Spain to democracy. Valencia at last was permitted autonomy after a gap of four centuries.
Today, the province of Alicante is the second largest region in the Valencian Autonomous Community. The port itself has been re-established since the industrial decline in the 1980s and has therefore become a more popular entry point into Alicante.
The city’s Airport, located at El Altet, is one of the most active airports in Spain, generating as much demand as the big city airports such as Barcelona and Madrid. The airport is in expansion, and offers flights to all major cities in Spain, as well as many European cities.