Late Antique Cordova


Low Roman Empire

At the end of the second century, the circus was abandoned but the main changes on the appearance of the Colonia Patricia began in the middle of the third century when the city recovered the name of Corduba.

The topographic transformations that characterized the late imperial Cordova affected the preexisting urbanism, especially the city walls, road and hydraulic infrastructure, public and semi-public buildings, or the domestic architecture. Other relevant innovations were the appearance of a Christian architecture, besides important changes in the handcrafted and production activities or in the funerary world.

It is difficult to determine the exact historical evolution of Corduba, since there are no historical references. Despite this obstacle, the available archaeological, epigraphic and literary sources have allowed us to know some historical landmarks that, directly or indirectly, influenced the topography of the city.

This is the case of a possible earthquake occurred in the 50s and 60s of the third century. It could influence the fate of some preexisting constructions. It is a controversial approach such as the hypotheses that defend the passage of the Emperor Maximian by Cordova between 296-297, or the possibility that the city became, between the end of the III century and beginnings of the IV, the capital of the newly created diocesis Hispaniarum.

Fewer doubts exist about other historical events such as the martyrdom of the Christians Acisclo, Zoilo and the so-called Three Crowns (Fausto, Genaro and Marcial), in the years 303-304. The bishop Osius from Cordova escaped that persecution. Osius, bishop of Cordova, narrowly escaped martyrdom in that persecution. Later, he became the adviser of the emperor Constantino.

On the second half of century IV-beginnings of the V, when Hispalis became the new capital of Baetica, the political-religious pre-eminence of Cordova started to diminish. This province ceased to be under the control of Rome after the entry into the Iberian Peninsula of Suebi, Vandals and Alans in 409. The end of the imperial control over the Bética was the beginning of a period in which the cities of the southern peninsular (Cordova included) achieved remarkable political and economic independence for several decades.


Visigoth Period

From the first decades of the fifth century AD, Cordova became an autonomous urban nucleus that maintained its status until the end of the sixth century. Such independence was interrupted in 550, when the Visigotic king Agila besieged the city. This unsuccessful assault triggered the revolt against Agila of a noble by the name of Athanagild, who took as a base the city of Hispalis in 551 and requested aid to the byzantine emperor Justinian. The alliance did not last long, giving way to a conflict in which Cordova, like other cities, tried to maintain its autonomy against any form of central power. Cordoban rebellion achieved its objectives until 572, when the Visigotic king Liuvigild seized the city after a night attack. This control did not last long, since Hermenegild revolted in 579 against his father with the help of the Byzantines and he was proclaimed king in Hispalis. This revolt was backed by Cordova, where Hermenegild took refuge after losing the control of Seville, being the city again conquered by the Visigotic king Liuvigildin 584.

During the Visigothic domination of the city (late sixth century – early eighth century), we have certain historic landmarks such as the installation of a mint for the mintage of Visigoth coins, the presence of a Jewish community, the growing political importance of Cordova since the mid-seventh century, or the intervention of Bishop Agapio II in the city. According to the Inventio et translatio S. Zoilii Cordubensis, the bishop transformed a small basilica consecrated to San Felix in a church dedicated to San Zoilo.

If we focus on the topography of Corduba in the sixth and seven centuries, the archaeological record reveals a changing urbanism, as witnessed in the walls, the road and hydraulic infrastructure, the public and semipublic civil architecture, the domestic architecture and the funerary world. However, the main change was the presence of a Christian community fully consolidated, which will has its reflection in a Christian architecture still poorly known today, but reflejected in diverse churches and basilicas.

This image did not remain unchanged for a long time, since the beginning of the Islamic presence in 711. It was the beginning of a series of urban transformations that gave rise to a new model of city.