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The Origin of Málaga

The most impactful and influential civilisations in Málaga have been the Phoenician, Roman, and Muslim

Founded by the Phoenicians upon a Bastetani settlement, Mlk or Malaka, as it's pronounced, has a name whose interpretation still fuels debates today. One theory suggests its beginnings as a fish factory since the Phoenician term "melach" translates to "fish salting site" or "salting place". Other theories propose a divine root, given that the supreme Phoenician god was named Melkart, which could have evolved into Malaka. Regardless, the Romans retained the name Malaca and later, the Muslims adapted it to Mālaqa. After being translated into Spanish, it finally became Málaga.

The first of the three most notable civilisations was the Phoenician-Punic one. As the city's founders, they established Málaga as a significant trading hub due to its maritime port status. One of the key industries was purple dye manufacturing for clothing. This dye was so famous that during the Battle of Cannae, Romans could distinguish Hannibal's Punic soldiers – clothed in purple capes – from the near-naked Iberians and Gauls. Vestiges of the Phoenician era can still be seen in the archaeological remains at the mouth of the Guadalhorce River, at the Cerro del Villar, and in the Palacio de la Aduana Museum.

Once Rome defeated Carthage, Mlk became Roman Malaca. Under Roman rule, Málaga grew significantly, receiving municipal status under Emperor Titus and the Lex Flavia Malacitana was promulgated. The Roman Theatre was built during this period and the city was famed for its Garum – a type of sauce made from fermented fish remains and dried in salting areas. These Garum salting areas can still be seen today under a glass pyramid on Alcazabilla Street.

After the fall of Rome, Málaga went through a turbulent period until Muslims crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula. Under Muslim rule, Málaga flourished for eight centuries, becoming an important city due to its strategic location between the Iberian interior and North Africa. The Muslim legacy is most visible in the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle. However, its subtler influences can be seen in the city's street layout, cuisine, and even the disposition of its inhabitants.

In the late 15th century, Málaga fell into the hands of the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs), ending nearly 800 years of Muslim rule. In commemoration of this event, feria de Málaga (Málaga Fair) is held during the week of August 19th. This provides a brief overview of the greatest and most influential civilisations that have left their mark on Málaga.

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