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History of Martos

History of Martos

by Saskia Mier

The origins of Martos date back to prehistory. The development of a town in this location is undoubtedly due to the existence of the much earlier population nucleus of La Peña. Its strategic location, offering natural defenses, and abundant springs offering natural water sources were the determining factors that led to human settlement on its slopes. Despite the defense that La Peña offered, different civilizations that have passed through this human settlement have reinforced it with new defensive constructions.

The first vestiges of human occupation correspond to the Paleolithic era, however, the information available from this period is very scarce, due to the minimal pieces of lithic material that have been discovered. The Neolithic period offers plenty more documented manifestations.

From the fifth century AC, there was a concentration of the population in fortified nuclei, the “oppida”, and it was in the Iberian period that it was configured as a complex city known by the name of Tucci. Important necropolises have been found around La Peña, such as“Sapillo” and “Santa Isabel”, of which numerous archaeological samples are preserved, most of them exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of the San Antonio de Padua School.

During the Roman domination of the Iberian Peninsula, the ancient Iberian city of Tucci was converted into a colony; its organization was carried out in the same way as in Rome. The colonization of Tucci was under the mandate of the Emperor César Augustus, granting it the name of the Augusta Gemella Tuccitana Colony. Numerous remains from this era, found both within the city and in its environs, are preserved.

During the low Roman Empire, Martos was the episcopal seat, and it continued to be so during the Visigothic period, until the Muslim occupation.It was at this time thatChristianity reached its highest levels of power, as well as its introduction into the administrative structures of the city. The development of the city continued inside the walled enclosure. From this period, the most important remains found in the city are those of an early Christian sarcophagus, dating from 330 to 340, which is now in the Museum of Jaén.

In 711, the Visigothic Monarchy in the Iberian Peninsula ended, and itsIslamic conquest took place. Martos, or Tuš as the Arabs called it, was configured fromthe ninth century as one of the most disputed border squares, for its fertile lands, strategic position and defensive advantage.In the eleventh century, when the caliphate disappeared, and al-Andalus was divided into more than 30 Kingdoms, Martos was part of the Taifa of Granada which, in 1078, was given by the Emir Abd Allah to the Taifa of Seville.

Ferdnando III el Santo signed a pact with al-Bayyasi (Emir of Baeza), through which, in exchange for Christian help against his enemies, the Arab would hand over various locations to him. This is how the fortresses of Martos and Andújar were incorporated at the end of August 1225 to the Kingdom of Castile. In December 1228, Fernando III donated it to the Lordship of the Order of Calatrava, with the aim of defending the strip between Jaén and the south of the province of Córdoba. Martos then became the most important city that the Order possessed in the upper Guadalquivir and one of the greatest defenses against the Kingdom of Granada, being the object of conquest on several occasions. Because of this, in the fourteenth century its defenses were reinforced, in both the high and urban fortresses, to form an impregnable bastion.

From the thirteenth century, Martos and its predominantly Christian population were reorganized into neighborhoods or parishes, and gained great splendor. In 1489, the stage of the town of Martos as head of the Order of Calatrava ended. When the last master of the order, Alonso de Cárdenas, died, the administration passed to King Fernando el Católico, thus beginning a period of stability and economic expansion that led to a notable increase in population from the Castilian settlers attracted by the agricultural possibilities of the area, and by the arrival of the defeated and expelled Moorish population in the Alpujarras.

Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was great demographic, urban and architectural development in Martos. The development of the olive grove contributed to a large extent to this development, as well as the arrival of the railroad to the city in the 1890s. The railroad and N-321 road from Úbeda to Málaga were the two main export routes for olive oil. Thus arose the new bourgeoisie, and the new layout of the city, with large avenues, straight lines, and regular layout, but without abandoning its dependence on the unevenness caused by La Peña. The confiscation of Mendizábal also led to the distribution of gardens and propertiespreviously belonging to the Catholic Church.

This urban development continued into the twentieth century, and in 1924 an “expansion plan” was drawn up, helping the population to increase continually until the middle of the century. After the Spanish Civil War, which affected the city greatly, the General Directorate of Devastated Regions was created.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a strong population decline, caused by emigration, so the expansion of the city slowed down. In 1986, a mob of locals set fire to thirty homes belonging to local Roma families, in what has been interpreted as an episode of collective racist violence. Currently, the urban, social and demographic development of the city, caused by the cultivation of olive groves, has been increased with the great industrialization to which the city is subjected. Indeed, Martos is recognised as one of the main industrial centres of Andalusia.

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