An aerial view of Almuñecár SUR
Almuñécar: a question of interpreting coins

Almuñécar: a question of interpreting coins

The word 'Seks' has Phoenician origins and was later changed to the Latin version 'Sexi', but the modern name comes from the Islamic period

Jennie Rhodes

Friday, 5 May 2023


The coastal town of Almuñécar, of which neighbouring La Herradura also forms a part, is on the Costa Tropical in Granada province and is home to 26,514 people (2019). Of this number, 4,729 are foreign residents from 80 different countries.

Here, festivals and traditions are important; for example, the patron saint of the Virgen de la Antigua has been celebrated since 1569.

The town’s modern name comes from the Muslim period; al-Munakkar, which means "the one protected by hills". However, its history and previous names go back to Phoencian times. The town hall’s archaeologist, Elena Navas, explains, "Some 3,000 years ago, ships arrived at the coast of Almuñécar from Tyre, a Phoenician city located at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea, where Lebanon is today.

They established a colony and minted coins on which they wrote the name of the city in the Phoenician alphabet, which is why we know that Almuñécar in Phoenician times was called Sks. The Phoenician alphabet has no vowels and the writing starts from right to left."

Another important activity in the town was the salting of fish and producing the famous ‘garum’ fish paste, which was used to flavour foods and was so important that the coins that they minted feature two fish placed horizontally, one on top of the other, leaving a free space between them in the centre, where the name of the city is placed.

On the other side they placed the image of the god Melkar, who was king of Tyre. Therefore, Sks was the name of Almuñecar in Phoenician times.

Later, during the Roman empire, the coins were minted using the Latin alphabet and Sks became Sexi. The coins now bore the image of the Roman god Hercules on the other side. This is why even now it is sometimes referred to as ‘Sexi’ and there are a number of places named Sexi, like the Loro Sexi bird park or the Antigua Sexi secondary school.

The inhabitants called themselves Sexitans, which is still in use today; Sexitano for men and Sexitana for women.


The Romans called the town Sexi Firmum Iulium, which means that Sexi was loyal to the Julio- Claudio dynasty to which the first Roman emperors belonged and whose lineage they linked to Aeneas, hero of Troy and ancestor of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome.

According to Antonio Ruiz Fernández, a professor of Ancient History and Latin from Almuñécar, "The Sks coins explain the Phoenician name for Almuñécar. In his thesis on the Sks coins, "the interpretation of the name has given rise to some controversy between linguists and epigraphers".

He argues that until now, "the most widely accepted works on the Sks legend are those of J. M. Solá-Solé who interprets the graphics as S K S, proposing the semantic meaning ‘enclosure, limited extension’."

In his work he goes on to explain that the interpretation of the phonetics of Sks is "controversial". "It is a question of interpretation of alphabetic terminology".

Fortress on a hill

It wasn’t until the Islamic period of Al-Andalus that the name changed to a much closer version of Almuñécar. The town was known as Hizn Al-Munekhab, believed to mean "Fortress on the hill", which later became "al-Munekkab".

When the Christians returned to the town at the end of the fifteenth century, the name became Almuñécar, pronounced: almonhékar.

In the case of neighbouring La Herradura, the explanation is much simpler; herradura means horseshoe in Spanish and anyone who looks at the town’s bay will see that it is indeed shaped like a horseshoe.

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