Cadiz (, , ; , or ; Phoenician: גדר Gader; Arabic: قَادِس و Qādis) is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of Cádiz province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia.
Cadiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in all southwestern Europe, has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. The city is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. It is also the site of the University of Cadiz.
Despite its unique site — on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea — Cadiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cadiz, within the remnants of the city walls, is commonly referred to as the Old Town (in Spanish, Casco Antiguo). It is characterised by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El Pópulo, La Viña, and Santa María, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City's street plan consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cadiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted with numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World.
The city was originally founded as Gadir (Phoenician גדר "walled city") by the Phoenicians from Tyre, who used it in their trade with Tartessos, a city-state believed by archaeologists to be somewhere near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, about thirty kilometres northwest of Cadiz. (Its exact location has never been firmly established.)
Cadiz 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 9th century BC. 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 labour, the slaying of Geryon, a monstrous warrior-titan with three heads and three torsos joined to a single pair of legs. As early as the 3rd century, a tumulus (a large earthen mound) 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. (Melqart was associated with Hercules by the Greeks.) According to the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, the temple was still standing during the 1st century. 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.
The overthrow of Roman power in Hispania Baetica by the Visigoths in 410 saw the destruction of the original city, of which there remain few remnants today. The city was later reconquered by Justinian in 550 as a part of the Byzantine province of Spania. It would remain Byzantine until Leovigild's reconquest in 572, and returned to the Visigothic Kingdom.
Under Moorish rule between 711 and 1262, the city was called Qādis (Arabic قادس), from which the modern Spanish name, Cádiz, was derived. The Moors were finally ousted by Alphonso X of Castile in 1262.
During the Age of Exploration, the city experienced a renaissance. Christopher Columbus sailed from Cádiz on his second and fourth voyages, (see Voyages of Christopher Columbus) and the city later became the home port of the Spanish treasure fleet. Consequently, the city became a major target of Spain's enemies. The 16th century also saw a series of failed raids by Barbary corsairs. The greater part of the old town was consumed in the conflagration of 1569. In April 1587 a raid by the Englishman Sir Francis Drake occupied the harbour for three days, capturing six ships and destroying 31 others as well as a large quantity of stores (an event popularly known as 'The Singeing of the King of Spain's Beard'). The attack delayed the sailing of the Spanish Armada by a year.
In the 18th century, the sand bars of the river Guadalquivir forced the Spanish government to transfer the port monopolising trade with Spanish America from upriver Seville to Cadiz 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.