The city of Italica in the Andalusia region of southern Spain marks an important development in Roman history. The settlement was established during the Republic era in 206 BC. Its founder was the legendary Roman general Scipio Africanus, who distinguished himself during the Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC).
As the first Roman city founded outside of Italy, Italica was a turning point in Rome's territorial ambitions in the Mediterranean. The settlement, created by Scipio as a reward for some of his veteran soldiers, became the foothold for Roman expansion across the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal).
Although other colonies in Spain quickly became larger than Italica, this city has other claims to fame. Two of Rome's most celebrated emperors, Trajan (r. AD 98 to AD 117) and Hadrian (r. AD 117 to AD 138), were born in Italica.
For about 300 years since its founding, Italica was a major port along the Guadalquivir River and grew steadily, becoming the residence of a few patrician noble families. But during Hadrian's rule, Italica was heavily expanded.
The older part of the city, known as the vetus urbs, was joined by a swathe of newly built temples, public buildings, and houses. This area became known as the nova urbs, or “new city”, and makes up most of the ruins that survive today.
But in the 3rd Century AD, Italica's fortunes faded as its stretch of the Guadalquivir silted up. When the Empire collapsed in AD 476, Italica gradually became abandoned. Following restorations and excavations in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Italica became a National Monument of Spain in 1912.