( Italica )

Italica (Spanish: Itálica) was an ancient Roman city in Hispania; its site is close to the town of Santiponce in the province of Seville, Spain. It was founded in 206 BC by Roman general Scipio as a colonia for his Italic veterans and named after them. Italica later grew attracting new migrants from the Italian peninsula and also with the children of Roman soldiers and native women. Among the Italic settlers were a branch of the gens Ulpia from the Umbrian city of Tuder and a branch of the gens Aelia from the city of Hadria, either co-founders of the town or later migrants who arrived at an unknown time; the Ulpi Traiani and the Aelii Hadriani were the respective stirpes of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian, both born in Italica.

According to some authors, Italica was also the birthplace of Theodosius.


From this time, which was a little before the 144th Olympiad [206 BC], the Romans began to send prætors to Spain yearly to the conquered nations as governors or superintendents to keep the peace. Scipio left them a small force suitable for a peace establishment, and settled his sick and wounded soldiers in a town which he named Italica after Italy: this was the native place of Trajan and Hadrian, who afterwards became emperors of Rome.

— Appian, Iberian Wars, Book VII, Chapter 38

Italica was the first Roman settlement in Spain. It was founded in 206 BC by Publius Cornelius Scipio during the Second Carthaginian War close to a native Iberian town of the Turdetani (dating back at least to the 4th c. BC) as a settlement for his Italic veterans, a mixture of socii and Roman citizens, and therefore named Italica after its inhabitants.[1] The nearby native and Roman city of Hispalis (Seville) was and would remain a larger city, but Italica's importance derived from its illustrious origin and from the fact that it was close enough to the Guadalquivir to control the area.[2][3]

 Statue of Trajan

The vetus urbs (original or "old" city) developed into a prosperous city and was built on a Hippodamian street plan[4][5] with public buildings and a forum at the centre, linked to a busy river port. Italica thrived especially under the patronage of Hadrian, like many other cities in the empire under his influence at this time, but it was especially favoured as his birthplace. He expanded the city northwards as the nova urbs (new city) and, upon its request, elevated it to the status of colonia as Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica even though Hadrian expressed his surprise as it already enjoyed the rights of "Municipium".[6] He also added temples, including the enormous and unique Traianeum in the centre of the city to venerate his predecessor and adopted father, and rebuilt public buildings.

The city started to dwindle as early as the 3rd century when a shift of the Guadalquivir River bed, probably due to siltation, a widespread problem in antiquity that followed removal of the forest cover, left Italica's river port high and dry while Hispalis continued to grow nearby.

Late Antiquity

The city may have been the birthplace of the emperor Theodosius I[7] and of his eldest son Arcadius (born in Spain in 377 A.D., during his father's exile).[8]

Italica was important enough in late Antiquity to have a bishop of its own, and had a garrison during the Visigothic age. The walls were restored by Leovigildo in 583 AD during his struggles against Hermenegildo.[9]

^ Roman-Italic migration in Spain, in The origins of the Social War, Emilio Gabba ^ Appian, Iberian Wars 38 ^ Livy (25 June 2009). Hannibal's War: Books 21-30. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955597-0. ^ Alicia M. Canto, "Die 'vetus urbs' von Italica: Probleme ihrer Gründung und ihrer Anlage", Madrider Mitteilungen 26, 1985, 137-148 (spec. fig. 1). ^ "City of Italica | Roman architecture". Archived from the original on September 26, 2020. Retrieved Nov 26, 2022. ^ Aulus Gellius (Noct. Attic. XVI, 13, 4) ^ Marcellinus: Chronicon Marcellini comitis, ad ann.. 379 A.D.: Theodosius Hispanus Italicae divi Traiani civitatis a Gratiano Augusto apud Sirmium... imperator creatus est..." ^ Cf. A.M. Canto, op.cit 2006, 413, nr. 6 and pp. 398, 405, 409 and 415. ^ John of Biclaro, Chronicles
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