Alicante (Spanish: [aliˈkante]), or Alacant (Valencian: [alaˈkant]), both official names, is a city and port in Spain on the Costa Blanca, the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 334,329, estimated as of 2011, ranking as the second-largest Valencian city. Including nearby municipalities, the Alicante conurbation had 462,281 residents. The population of the metropolitan area (including Elche and satellite towns) was 771,061 as of 2011 estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years. The first tribes of hunter gatherers moved down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel. By the 3rd century BC, the rival armies of Carthage and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka (Greek: Ἄκρα Λευκή, meaning “White Mountain” or “White Point”), where Alicante stands today.

Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, the Romans would eventually rule Hispania Tarraconensis for over 700 years. By the 5th century AD, Rome was in decline and the Roman predecessor town of Alicante, known as Lucentum (Latin), was more or less under the control of the Visigothic warlord Theudimer. However neither the Romans nor the Goths put up much resistance to the Arab conquest of Medina Laqant in the 8th century. The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 13th century Reconquista (Reconquest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castilian king Alfonso X, but it passed soon and definitively to the Kingdom of Valencia in 1298 with King James II of Aragon. It gained the status of Royal Village (Vila Reial) with representation in the medieval Valencian Parliament (Corts Valencianes).

After several decades of being the battlefield where the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon clashed, Alicante became a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool. But between 1609 and 1614 King Felipe III expelled thousands of Moriscos who had remained in Valencia after the Reconquista, due to their cooperation with Barbary pirates who continually attacked coastal cities and caused much harm to trade. This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse in the early 18th century; after the War of Spanish Succession, Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and growing agricultural produce such as oranges and almonds, and thanks to its fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade and the growth of the city harbour leading to increased exports of several products (particularly during World War I when Spain was a neutral country).



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