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The Romans founded the colony of Caesaraugusta (from which ‘Zaragoza’ is derived) in 14 BC. As many as 25,000 people migrated to the prosperous Roman city whose river traffic brought the known world to the inland banks of Río Ebro. In Muslim times Zaragoza was capital of the Upper March, one of Al-Andalus’ frontier territories. In 1118 it fell to Alfonso I ‘El Batallador’ (Battler), ruler of the expanding Christian kingdom of Aragón, and immediately became its capital.

Centuries later Zaragoza put up unusually stiff resistance to the Napoleonic siege, although it capitulated in 1809. Industrial growth late in the 19th century made it a centre of militant trade unionism, but in 1936, when the civil war began, the Republicans had no time to organise and Zaragoza quickly fell under Nationalist control. The country’s main military academy was established here under General Franco in 1928 (still in use, it’s north of town). Zaragoza’s more recent story has been one of sometimes uncontrolled development and modernisation.