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A view of the city of Seville from the River Guadalquivir. SUR
Seville: A Phoenician seafarer's gift
THE STORY BEHIND A PLACE NAME

Seville: A Phoenician seafarer's gift

The city was founded by the Phoenicians, who named it Spal, which historians believe comes from the Phoenician first name, Hisbaal

Tony Bryant

Seville

Friday, 12 January 2024, 13:26

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The mythological founder of Seville, the capital of, and the largest city in, Andalucía, is Hercules, the divine hero commonly identified with the Phoenician god Melgart.

However, its origins can be found in the Phoenician settlement of Spal, which historians believe most probably comes from the first name Hisbaal. In Phoenician, Baal referred to divinity, along with other interpretations such as 'gift of', or 'man of', leading some theorists to claim the name meant 'gift of Baal'.

Another theory is that Hisbaal was the name of a Phoenician seafarer who gave his name to the port in the area where Seville is located today.

The arrival of the Romans saw the name changed to Hispal, which was later changed to Hispalis, at a time when the city developed into one of the great market and industrial centres of Hispania.

After the Arab invasion in the early eighth century, the name Hispalis remained in use among the Mozarabs - Andalusi Christians living under Muslim rule. The Umayyads adapted the name to Ishbīliya, although the city's official name was ḤHims al-Andalus, a reference to the Western Syrian city of Hims (today Homs). The name of ḤHimsṣal-Andalus was recorded in the encyclopaedia of Yaqut al Hamawi, and it remained a customary and affectionate name throughout the Arab Muslim world.

The conquest of the city by Ferdinand III in the 13th century saw the name Latinised to Sevilla (Seville), sometimes referred to today as the 'pearl of Andalucía'.

The inhabitants of the city are known as sevillano/as, although some still use the term, hispalenses, in reference to Seville's Roman name.

Local Gypsies refer to the city as 'Serva la Bari' (Seville the great), or simply Serva, the city's name in caló, the Andalusian Gypsy language.

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