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Lebrija, one of the southernmost towns in Seville province. SUR
Lebrija: From mythical origin to Roman town
THE STORY BEHIND A PLACE NAME

Lebrija: From mythical origin to Roman town

One of the most fanciful theories is attributed to a legend that claims Lebrija was founded by the ancient Greek god of wine, Bacchus

Friday, 25 August 2023

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There are various theories about the foundation of Lebrija, one of the southernmost towns in Seville that borders the province of Cadiz, although archaeologists suggest it may have first been settled during prehistoric times.

The Greek historian, Strabo, believed it was the Turdetani city of Nebrusa, while others have claimed it began as the Phoenician settlement of Lepriptza. Several gold artifacts found in the area, like the Candelabras of Lebrija, seem to endorse its Phoenician origins.

One of the most fanciful theories attributes it to mythical origins. Legend claims that Lebrija was founded by the Greek god of wine, Bacchus, who gave the town the name of Nebrissa Veneria. According to local historian José Bellido, the word 'veneria', Latin for 'that which venerates', makes reference to the mythical foundation by Bacchus.

Another misguided theory suggested that the modern name of Lebrija is an incorrect spelling of one of the town's most famous inhabitants, Elio Antonio de Nebrija, a 15th century grammarian and chronicler of the Catholic Monarchs. However, he was baptised Antonio Martínez de Cala, but, as was the tradition at that time, he Romanised his name as Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis (Elio Antonio de Nebrija in Spanish). He took the name from Roman inscriptions found in Lebrija, which seem to clarify that it was the Romans who named the town Nebrissa Veneria.

It was during the Roman era that Lebrija flourished, seeing as it minted its own currency.

Almost nothing is known of the town during the Visigoth period, which gave way to the invasion of the Iberian Peninsular by the Moors, who conquered the town during the battle of Gaudalete. They completely rebuilt the town and named it Lebri-sah, a name that was Latinised to Lebrija after the Christian reconquest in 1249.

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