Pensioned-off Roman legionaries founded ‘Valentia’ on the banks of Río Turia in 138 BC, but the first city was destroyed by Pompey in 75 BC during the Sertorian War.
The Moors made Valencia an agricultural and industrial centre, establishing ceramics, paper, silk and leather industries and extending the network of irrigation canals in the rich agricultural hinterland.
Muslim rule was briefly interrupted in AD 1094 by the triumphant rampage of the legendary Castilian knight El Cid. Much later the Christian forces of Jaime I definitively retook the city in 1238 after a siege. The city finally surrendered and tens of thousands of Muslims were displaced.
Valencia’s golden age was the 15th and early 16th centuries, when the city was one of the Mediterranean’s strongest trading centres. New World discoveries led to a Spanish pivot towards the Atlantic and began the pre-eminence of Seville as a trading city and the decline of Valencia. Economic hardship led to the Germanías revolt of 1519–22 of the guilds against the crown and aristocracy. The lean centuries were relieved in the 19th century by industrialisation and the development of a lucrative citrus trade to northern Europe.
Valencia was the capital of republican Spain during part of the Spanish Civil War after the government abandoned Madrid, fearing it was about to fall to the Nationalists. In the traumatic final days of the war, the city surrendered and a period of repression ensued.
Severe floods in 1949 and 1957 led to the Río Turia being diverted away from the centre of the city.