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Marchena: An unknown beauty in the olive groves
THE STORY BEHIND A PLACE NAME

Marchena: An unknown beauty in the olive groves

The first recorded evidence of a town was of the Tartessian settlement, Montemolín, located in the vicinity of the current town

Tony Bryant

Marchena

Friday, 23 February 2024

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The location of Marchena (Seville), at a communications point between Seville, Antequera and Écija, has attracted a human presence since prehistory. Archaeologists have discovered numerous bell-shaped ceramics from the Bronze Age in this area, although the first recorded evidence of a town was of the Tartessian settlement, Montemolín, which was located in the vicinity of the current town.

Some historians claim there was a Roman colony called Martia in this area, although no data to support the theory has been discovered. Archaeologists have unearthed some relics that attest to a Roman presence in the countryside surrounding Marchena, although there is no evidence of a complex urban structure. One theory is that it was an agricultural settlement with a small population owned by Marcius, who named it Marciana, from which the toponym of Marchena derives.

Although some academics believe there was a settlement in the area during the Visigoth period, it was not until the Islamic era that it became a walled urban development. The Moors named the town Marshēnah (sometimes spelt Marsenʿah) meaning 'of the olive trees', due to the vast expanse of olive groves that surrounded the town.

The urban centre of the Muslim town consisted of a citadel, located to the north and a hamlet perched on the hill to the south.

The current name of the town is a Latinisation of the Muslim one and comes from a decree issued by the Catholic Monarchs. During the Medieval Christian era, the Arabic town within the walls was renovated and the walls enforced, while the Alcazaba fortress was transformed into a stately castle.

Today, the so-called 'Bella desconocida' (unknown beauty) is an attractive town that has retained much of its Moorish layout and charm.

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