Estepona - History

The old and new coexist perfectly in Estepona. © Michelle Chaplow
The old and new coexist perfectly in Estepona.

The precise location of the roman fishing and agriculture settlements of Salduba and Silniana is uncertain. Silniana has been linked to Estepona but more likely occupied the spot close to what is now San Pedro Alcántara. It was destroyed by a seaquake in the fourth century AD. As for Silniana some commentators put it firmly on the sight of modern Marbella.



The town's modern name is probably derived from the Moorish Astabbuna. Because of the massive redevelopment , there are no substantive roman remains to be seen in the town today although a few foundations and ceramics have been found.

If Estepona was not Salduba or Silniana, we have no record of its name before the arrival of the Moors. In spite of its undoubted antiquity, it is totally absent from written historical records until the Califate era. Towards its end the town had already seen better days, since Aben al Jhatib, writing in the 14th century, tells us that it was in a state of decadence, that its monuments had largely disappeared, and that it was living on its reputation as a source of delicacies - presumably fishy ones. Since monuments need to be erected before they can enjoy the sophisticated luxury of falling down. Estepona must have been a place of some importance before the Arabs came, or during the earlier part of the moorish era. The fact that previous writers chose to ignore its existence is something of an historical mystery.

© Michelle Chaplow Estepona Port
Estepona Port depicted in a mosaic on the wall of the market.

Estepona like so many villages in Southern Spain was fought over by the moors and the Christians until it was finally captured by the Enrique IV of Castile in 1457. He ordered the building of a church on the site of the old Mosque.

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It was around this church that the community began to grow, On this site today is the Simón Fernandez school and all that survives of the church is the clock tower. Work on building the castle of San Luis began at the turn of the century. It was intended as a defence against the North African Berber pirates.

Finally, under a charter of 1502, when the infant town housed no more than 25 families, the land was divided among the victorious new colonists from northern Spain, and as a result many of the side streets around the castle and the church we built between 1507 and 1600.

Until 1729 Estepona had only been an administrative district of Marbella, in that year it was granted its own charter by King Filipe V.

Estepona entered the twentieth century as a village of 9000 farmers and fishermen. A census of 1940 records other professions as well. Namely eight weavers, five rice manufacturers, two tailors, two blacksmiths, a gunman, a printer, a lawyer, two vets, a couple of cabinet makers, three dressmakers, two customs agents, two midwives, and no less than five doctors. There was a hardware store, shoe shop, pharmacy, a bank, a college, a sawmill, and a cinema. There were two cake shops, three inns, seven taverns, one restaurant, one refreshment stall, a bodega, and a single hotel.

The constant redevelopment of the town throughout the centuries is indicative not only on its strategic significance but on the continuing importance of its agriculture and fishing. The towns present renaissance as a leisure centre appears to ensure Estepona a prosperous future.

The above text was reproduced from the the book "In Search of Andalucia" by kind permission of the authors David Wood and Chris Wawn. Click here to order your copy from our online book store.