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One of the bell towers that gave rise to its affectionate name. SUR
Écija: From olive and cotton growing to a town full of towers
THE STORY BEHIND A PLACE NAME

Écija: From olive and cotton growing to a town full of towers

Under Roman rule, Astigi was an important communications hub on the Via Augusta, celebrated for the production of olive oil

Tony Bryant

Écija

Friday, 24 November 2023, 16:26

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The first settlement in the area that is now occupied by Écija (Seville) is thought to go back to 900BC. The settlement was said to have been called Astigi, but some academics claim it did not receive this toponym until the arrival of the Romans in 100BC.

As a reward for its allegiance during the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar ordered the town's fortification and re-founded it as a colony.

Under the reign of emperor Augustus, the town's name was changed to Colonia Iulia Augusta Firma Astigitana.

The town's residents were (and sometimes still are) known as 'Astigitano/as', which relates to the old name of Astigi.

In addition to being an important communications hub on the Via Augusta, the town became known for the production and distribution of olive oil, a trade that it still enjoys today.

The Islamic occupation in the eighth century saw the name changed to Istichcha (other spellings include Istiyya and Istigga), which was later changed to Medina Alcotón in reference to the area's large-scale cultivation of cotton.

The current name of Écija appears to be a Latinisation of the Arabic name (Istichcha), although some academics disagree with this. None, however, has yet put forward any other theories as to how the name became Écija.

Strategically located in between Seville and Cordoba, Écija remained one of the most important Andalusian towns, economically thriving in the 17th and 18th centuries. Along with its grand palatial homes and ornate religious edifices, one of the town's most outstanding assets are the Gothic, Mudéjar, Renaissance and Baroque bell towers, giving rise to its affectionate name, the "ciudad de las torres".

Another name by which Écija has become known is "the frying pan of Andalucía", due to the extreme temperatures the town experiences during summer.

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