Zaragoza, also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It is situated on the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gállego, near the centre of the region, in a valley with a variety of landscapes, ranging from desert (Los Monegros) to thick forest, meadows and mountains.
On 1 September 2010 the population of the city of Zaragoza was 701,090, within its administrative limits on a land area of 1,062.64 km² (410.29 sq mi), ranking fifth in Spain. It is the 35th most populous municipality in the European Union. The population of the metropolitan area was estimated in 2006 at 783,763 inhabitants. The municipality is home to more than 50 percent of the Aragonese population. The city lies at an elevation of 199 metres.
The city is famous for its folklore, a renowned local gastronomy, and landmarks such as the Basílica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the Aljafería Palace. Together with La Seo and the Aljafería, several other buildings form part of the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fiestas del Pilar are among the most celebrated festivals in Spain.
The Sedetani, a tribe of ancient Iberians, populated a village called Salduie, Salduba in Roman sources. Later on, Augustus founded there a city called Caesaraugusta to settle army veterans from the Cantabrian wars. The foundation date of Caesaraugusta has not been set with total precision, though it is known to lie between 25 BC and 12 BC. The city did not suffer any decline during the last centuries of the Roman empire and was captured peacefully by the Goths in the 5th century.
In 714 the Berbers and Arabs took control of the city, renaming it Saraqusta (سرقسطة), a corruption of the original Roman name. It later became part of the Emirate of Cordoba. It grew to become the biggest Muslim controlled city of Northern Spain and as the main city of the Emirate's Upper March, Zaragoza was a hotbed of political intrigue. In 777 Charlemagne was invited by Husayn, the Wali (governor) of Zaragoza, to take the submission of the city but having marched an army to the city gates he found Husayn to have had a change of heart and was forced to give up after a month-long siege of the city, facing Basque attacks on his rear guard on his withdrawal. Four years later Emir Abd ar-Rahman I sent an army to reestablish firm control over the city. Husayn's family rebelled again in 788, and the head of the Banu Qasi was killed trying to put down the insurrection. Subsequent rebellions were launched there by Matruh al-Arabi (789), Bahlul Ibn Marzuq (798) and Amrus ibn Yusuf (802), who reached an accord with the Emir and retained control of the city. In 852, control of the city was awarded to Musa ibn Musa of the Banu Qasi, but following a defeat at Christian hands in 861 he was deprived of the city by the Emir, only for it to be retaken by his son Isma'il a decade later. Muhammad ibn Lubb ibn Qasi rebelled against the Emir in 884, and according to chronicler Ibn Hayyan he sold Zaragoza to Raymond of Pallars, but it was immediately retaken by the Emir and in 886 was given to the Banu Tujibi. In spite of a 17-year siege by the Banu Qasi, the Banu Tujibi continued to hold the city, growing in power and autonomy, until in 1018 they broke from Cordoban control and founded an independent Taifa state.
Taifa of Zaragoza
From 1018 to 1118 Zaragoza was one of the taifa kingdoms, independent Muslim states which emerged in the eleventh century following the destruction of the Cordoban Caliphate. During the first three decades of this period, 1018–1038, the city was ruled by the Banu Tujibi. In 1038 they were replaced by the Banu Hud, who had to deal with a complicated alliance with El Cid of Valencia and his Castilian masters against the Almoravids, who managed to bring the Taifas Emirates under their control. After the death of El Cid his kingdom was overrun by the Almoravids, who, by 1100, had managed to cross the Ebro into Barbastro, which brought Aragon into direct contact with them. The Banu Hud stubbornly resisted the Almoravids and ruled until they were eventually defeated by them in May 1110.
The last sultan of the Banu Hud, Abd-al-Malik Imad ad-Dawla, the last king of Zaragoza, forced to abandon his capital, allied himself with the Christian Aragonese under Alfonso the Battler and from that time the Muslims of Zaragoza became military regulars within the Aragonese forces.
In 1118 the Aragonese conquered the city from the Almoravids and made it the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon. After Alfonso's death without heirs in 1134, Zaragoza was swiftly occupied by Alfonso VII of León and Castile, who vacated it in 1137 only on condition it be held by Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona as a fief of Castile.
Zaragoza was the scene of two controversial martyrdoms related with the Spanish Inquisition: those of Saint Dominguito del Val, a choirboy in the basilica, and Pedro de Arbués, head official of the inquisition. While the reality of the existence of Saint Dominguito del Val is questioned, his "murder" at the hands of "jealous Jews" was used as an excuse to murder or convert the Jewish population of Zaragoza.
Zaragoza suffered two famous sieges during the Peninsular War against the Napoleonic army: a first from June to August 1808; and a second from December 1808 to February 1809 (see Agustina de Aragón, Siege of Saragossa (1809)), surrendering only after some 50,000 defenders had died.
Despite a decline in the outlying rural economy, Zaragoza has continued to grow. During the second half of the 20th century, its population boomed as a number of factories opened in the region. In 1979 the Hotel Corona de Aragón fire killed at least 80. The armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization ETA from northern Spain has been blamed, but officially the fire is still regarded as accidental. ETA carried out the 1987 Zaragoza Barracks bombing in the city which killed eleven people, including a number of children, leading to 250,000 people taking part in demonstrations in the city.